Considering the mess on my desk, and the muddle in my head, you’d think we were applying to college. My checkbook cowers beneath too many glossy brochures. My brain stews in conflicting data: dates, deadlines, and deposits, reputations and recommendations …
But it’s not college-application time — it’s summer-camp scheduling season. When I was a kid, that meant two choices: cot-sleeping at overnight camp or handball-playing at day camp. The most I learned at either was how to treat sunburn and skeeter bites.
Times have changed. The summer-camp industry has exploded like a red ant hill under the trouncing cleats of World Cup Soccer Camp. Or like a failed soufflé at Kids Cook! Culinary Camp. Or like a rocket ship at Destination Science Camp.
These days you need a spreadsheet to sort out your kids’ endless options. Summer camps are a $12-billion-per-year industry, according to the American Camp Association (ACA), and there are more than 12,000 camps in the U.S. Unlike the offerings of my youth, today’s camps seem exceedingly specialized and impossibly — even unreasonably — fun.
Determined to cultivate kids’ hard-won confidence and spark their blossoming imaginations (or at least hell-bent on convincing the paying parents that’s what they’re doing), camps cover every conceivable interest under the searing summer sun. The ACA boasts camps for caving and clowning, fencing and farming, rafting and riflery. There’s rock rappelling, tap dancing, and “lamp working” (really?). There’s even a Secret Agent Camp, where mini wanna-Bonds learn stealth tactics, martial arts, and code-deciphering. All of which are invaluable in middle school.