My younger daughter has attended an all girls’ overnight camp for the past five years. When we were first looking at overnight camps for her, we weren’t specifically interested in a single-gender camp experience. We chose the camp because she liked it—it has only been over the past several years that she has come to appreciate the benefits of spending a few weeks each summer with just girls.
Extra Comfort at Single-Gender Camp
Camp is a time to relax and unwind—an opportunity for kids to step out of their box, be adventurous, and a little goofy. While all sleepaway camps try to offer a nurturing and warm environment where kids can feel free to be themselves, for many, the single-gender atmosphere provides an extra level of comfort. Susie Lupert, Executive Director of the American Camp Association, NY and NJ, says, “When a child attends a single-sex camp, he or she may be more willing to try new things and can feel less self-conscious because the opposite sex isn’t around.
My daughter, like many who chose a single-gender camp, has always attended coed schools during the year. The all girls’ atmosphere is different from what she is used to and a welcome change in dynamic.
Refreshing Change With a Single-Gender Camp
Aside from weekly socials with their brother camp, my daughter and her friends do not see the boys and for the most part, they don’t seem to miss them. There is less emphasis on having a boyfriend or sexual distractions from boys in general.
Instead, without boys around, the girls focus on themselves and on having a good time together. They rarely put on makeup or do their hair. Lupert says, “Clothing and the way you look and act becomes less relevant at single-sex camps.” Anna Black Morin, Director of Camp Timber Tops, an all girls’ camp in PA adds, “It is liberating for girls to wear pajamas to breakfast if they feel like it and dance like no one is watching! They embrace the chance to do these things.”
Low-Pressure Atmosphere at a Single-Gender Camp
An all-boys camp can also offer a low-pressure environment similar to that found at an all-girls camp. Jared Shapiro, Director of Camp Winadu in MA, says, “Unlike at home, the social pressures of a co-ed school do not exist at an all-boys camp. Our boys are able to be themselves, show their camp spirit, and build their friendships without wondering how others might judge them. It’s very special.”
Some parents prefer a mixed-gender camp so that siblings of the opposite sex can attend the same camp. But many single-gender camps do have brother-sister camps and there are usually family days once or twice a week so that siblings can socialize with one another. While not on a daily basis, brother-sister camps also usually have joint events—socials, 4th of July celebrations, trips etc.—throughout the summer.
Another benefit of a single-gender camp can be the predominately single gender staff. Morin says, “Most parents want their kids to walk away from camp with lifelong friends, but they don't necessarily think about the lasting impact of good counselors—positive role models—in their child’s lives.”
The choice to work in an all -girls or all-boys camp is, for the most part, a mature and often serious-minded decision. Morin continues, “It's a choice to really focus on campers overall. Our counselors don’t worry about putting on mascara before heading to lunch, and they, like the campers, are an especially confident version of themselves without their own sexual distractions.”