Why Traditional Overnight Camp Should be in Every Tiger Mom’s Playbook

Tiger with cubs


Sleepaway Camp. Isn’t it just about having fun?

Actually, no. Traditional summer camp serves a much higher purpose than entertaining your child and forcing them to spend time outside.

Sure, from a kid’s perspective it’s the most fun they’ll have all year. But the skills they develop will give them a competitive advantage later in life.

Summer camp should be a key component of any Tiger Mom’s toolbox.


This toolbox may include team sports, academic clubs, STEM camps, music or dance, and community service. Summertime provides a nice long stretch for additional enrichment, but I’m not talking about camps like Duke TIP or Capitol Debate. I mean a sleep-in-cabins, swim-in-the-lake, get-bug-bites and sing-silly-songs camp.

Determined Tiger Moms often go to extreme lengths to ensure their children’s success. However, padding the college application with the standard list of achievements and activities won’t make your child stand out.

Thousands of practice test questions and private tutors may help you ace the SAT; to ace an ivy league admission interview you’ll need another skill set. And once you graduate, those same skills will help propel you to the executive level.


Social skills!


For most of us, the building blocks a great career are:

  • A great network – you will most likely get jobs through people you know, rather than the strength of your resume.

  • Teamwork – everyone wants to hire the quintessential “team player.”

  • Political savvy – in larger organizations those who can achieve consensus and get others to do what they want are seen as good managers.


At summer camp you are thrown into a cabin with a bunch of strangers. You have to figure out how to:

  • Make friends quickly

  • Communicate with different types of people

  • Share and compromise

  • Resolve conflicts

Sending your kids off to a series of day camps also is good for their career.


The career paths that most of us find ourselves in rely more on social skills than technical skills. No matter what kind of job you get, you’ll be sure to leverage your summer camp experience. Lessons from summer camp come in handy later. Examples:

1. A tech genius needs to be able to communicate with the marketing manager who will actually get her product sold.

                Learned at summer camp: how to make friends and join a group.

2. A hotshot Entrepreneur may deal with multiple failures until you find the fight formula for success.

                Learned at summer camp: how to try new things and persevere. You either figured out how to get over the climbing wall or found archery was more your style.

3. A Neurosurgeon needs to stay calm under pressure.

                Learned at summer camp: how not to panic when your kayak hits the rapids.


College Readiness

After all the effort spent ensuring your child gets into a top college, you are going to need time to yourself. You don’t want him coming back home every weekend because they are homesick. Summer camp is the perfect precursor to college dorm life, where he will have to live with a roommate and navigate new social groups.

If he adjusts easily to the new environment, he can focus on studying. Which is critical for getting into a top graduate school.



You’ve seen this word everywhere. It’s the ‘new black’ of desirable qualities. Merriam’s definition is “the ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.”

Pampered middle-class youth don’t have a lot of opportunities to build resilience, unless there’s been some unfortunate tragedy. Mastering a tricky violin passage or winning the state spelling bee aren’t great examples.

It’s more impressive to talk about overcoming a fear of heights on a week-long rock climbing adventure.

Campers try a lot of new things and are forced to break out of their comfort zone. Whether it’s riding a horse or taking part in a play, they learn that being brave and scared are not mutually exclusive. Making mistakes is part of the process, and dealing with setbacks in a positive manner is an important life skill.


Summer camp is not a fluffy, waste-of-time activity, but an important part of childhood development and preparation for greater challenges ahead.

Further reading: Overnight camps are better for your kids than SAT prep classes (Toronto Star)

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