It's Off to Camp We Go!
Someone rings a bell, and the day begins. Breakfast is at 8 a.m., served at a self-serve indoor/outdoor mess hall. The food at Kingsley Pines was far tastier and healthier than any camp chow I've ever had. There's a salad bar and grown-up cuisine as well as standard kid fare and the PB&J fallback at every meal. There's something for the most finicky of kids too -- Vivian, who only eats white foods, actually tried the more colorful stir-fries and omelets because the other kids were eating them.
After breakfast, children 4 and older are divided into age groups for supervised activities such as arts and crafts or water sports. You can join them or opt for adult recreation like mountain biking or yoga -- or sneaking off to the woods with a book and a Diet Coke. If your kids are younger than 4, they can still go with a group, but parents have to hover, helping little ones with activities like painting, mask-making, and kickball. Or you can hang out at the lakefront beach with other families while the kids wade, dig, and play. The bell again, and it's time for lunch. Rest time is followed by another activity at 3.
Note to grown-ups: There's a BYOB happy hour before dinner while the kids are off playing massive all-age tag.
I was worried that camp would feel overly scheduled but was relieved that there was no pressure to participate in programs if you didn't feel like it. Still, the atmosphere encourages an enthusiastic spirit. One couple's 5-year-old son, who they said usually prefers playing quietly with his dinosaurs, was inspired to try some outdoor games.
After dinner one evening, because the weather was chilly, the counselors organized a "snowball fight" (it was talcum powder poured into nylon knee-highs and tied up in balls) so the kids could gang up on the grown-ups. There was always something fun to do at that time of night when children are tired and parents are snappish. We spent our evenings making s'mores, doing improv theater, and enjoying a last-night-of-camp carnival.
Boy, Did We Have Fun!
By the end of the week there, I had become friendly enough with several other families that we kept an eye on one another's children. It's the little things (like getting to pee without bringing a kid into your stall) that can make the difference between a relaxing vacation and a continuation of the usual grind. But my favorite part of family camp was watching Sasha and Vivian independently click with a girl from Massachusetts named Hayley -- no scheduled playdates -- and run off with her to roll down the big hill without so much as a "Bye, Mom!"
Although my girls are only 3, I discovered that they didn't always need my help having fun. It's a rare vacation spot where you feel safe enough letting your kids dart off without you for a few minutes, and they feel confident enough to do so.
We're already talking about going back next year. Some families return to Kingsley Pines year after year, and I can see why. Our girls still talk about their camp friends. And Paul and I, for once, didn't feel like we needed a vacation from our vacation when we returned home.
Camp Kingsley Pines; Raymond, Maine, 800-480-1533, kingsleypines.com. One- or two-week sessions from August 19 to 25 and/or August 26 to September 1. Price per week: $760 per adult, $375 per child over 3 (kids 3 and under free), plus $300 per cabin. Price includes three meals a day and all activities.