Monday, July 29, 2013

Parental "No" Files: WTF is a "Cabin Party" for 8 Year Olds?

My oldest girl is spending a week at sleepaway camp this summer.

We received an email last week from the camp that included packing lists and various logistical information. This note was included,
"Campers are encouraged to bring a snack with them to share during their cabin party on the first night."
We called the camp to double check on what we were supposed to send snack wise for this "cabin party" and we were told generally campers bring chips, candies, and chocolates.

It's a junk food fest, and no doubt it's easier than ice breaker games to make kids happy, but is it really necessary, or in our children's best interests, to tie junk food to summer camp with their first experience literally being a candy crush?

And what if we wanted to opt out?

Well I suppose we could not send our daughter to camp in the first place. Or we could encourage our shy 8 year old to say, "No" and in so doing put herself in the spotlight of, "that kid's weird", or we could send her with "healthful" snacks and again risk her peers' childlike judgement.

Or we could sigh, buy her a family sized bag of chips, send her on her way, and further resent the fact that the world doesn't even try anymore to entertain or reward children with anything other than candy and that we feel, as parents, that to resist in this circumstance is not in the best interest of our child.

And 4 hours after this post goes live, that last option is exactly what we'll be doing.

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  1. Anonymous7:21 am

    Sorry, but I disagree completely. It is the "easy" way out. Parenting like this is why we are raising a generation of sheep, who are not even aware of that fact.

    1. Dennis Anderson6:40 pm

      ...when what we should be doing is commenting anonymously on the internet so that our kids learn to avoid taking personal responsibility for the comments they make.

  2. Hilary MacKenzie7:25 am

    How difficult would it be for the camp staff to make a fruit salad?? Have every child bring fruit (they could even specify which fruit, or give a couple of options, so that they got a variety). It would be a fun activity to cut up the fruit (with supervision) & combine it in a big bowl. The staff could provide ice cream or frozen yogurt to top it off. So much healthier, an exercise in team cooperation, & lots of fun!!

    1. If I were a kid I would think that is super lame. If I were a counselor I would not want to be handing out knives.

      Ice cream?

  3. I'm not very surprised that people look for the easy way out, and I'm not blaming you at all for choosing the last option. We want our children to be accepted by their peers and not labelled weird, and it seems as though children who have healthful parents and habits are considered weird to the rest of the population.

    As a nutritionist, I planned on doing 3 weeks of day camps in the area where I live. When discussing it with colleagues and friends they all thought my idea of a Children's Fun with Food nutrition camp was an excellent idea - it would be a week of interactive games teaching children how to prepare healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks well as lots of team building games, activities and crafts among other things. It would satisfy all allergies - gluten, dairy, nut.

    I advertised EVERYWHERE! It was a reasonable price point, and it included all the meals for the children. I had 3 people contact me. Just 3. - each was interested in a different week. That was it. 3 people - one per week of camp. Needless to say I couldn't run it.

    It's hard to say why it didn't create interest, but there is a part of me that thinks it was because it didn't include things like "Cabin Parties" and junk food.

    I hope your daughter has a great week at camp, and knows that this is just a 'treat' of sorts, and not a way of life.

    Patricia Eales, RHN

  4. Anonymous8:05 am

    Can't your daughter hand out non-food treats like stickers, temp tattoos, pencils, erasers, friendship bracelets, super balls, etc.? That's what my daughter and her classmates do at school for their birthdays. The school no longer allows cupcakes or other party food to be brought in for anything other than the Halloween party and end-of-school picnic.

  5. Anonymous8:13 am

    Don't beat yourself up over this. I totally agree that it's sad that they do this type of thing...never did that when I went to summer camp....but lets be honest here, you don't give in to those pressures & junk food the majority of the time, so as long as you teach her about healthy eating at home & expose her to healthy eating at home, which we all know you do...letter her go along with the 'sheep' once in a while is not going to hurt her nor does it make you a bad parent. Lets be honest, no matter how much we ALL try to eat healthy & have our kids do likewise, it's not reasonable to expect them to never encounter this because I don't believe any person can say they have NEVER had something don't judge other & don't judge the good doctor here...even he is human. It's not lazy parenting unless you do this the majority of the time.

  6. Cut Yoni some slack - he is perfect the other 364 days of the year - kudos for knowing when not to make a scene around your daughter's first day of camp. The more important lesson here is what was alluded to in the last comment - you have taught your daughter how to make good choices over the last 9 years and now it is her chance to practice what she has learned - I'm sure that SOMETHING you've taught her will have been internalized by now and she will make good choices.

  7. I really feel for you. It is a sucky position as a parent to be put in. Nothing like the camp teaching the girls to fill the possible emotion of homesickness with food. I have been thinking this morning about how I would have handled it. I think I would have made something like chocolate chip cookies, but also sent something like a bag of apples. My girls are 7 and 9 and I have been at enough classroom parties to see that kids will take fruit if offered and sometimes turn down a sweet treat.

  8. Anonymous8:57 am

    I've been stressing about the upcoming camp for my children where they get 2 items of candy/chips/pop every. single. day. for "tuck". It seems the only way out is to not send them or to make them feel left out every. single. day. at camp.

  9. Ugh! Stuff like this is why I haven't sent my kids to a sleepaway camp yet.

  10. My teenagers quickly needed a snack to bring to a party, and all I had in the house was baby carrots. They took them, even though they thought they were lame. They ended up being the hit of the party. Everyone else brought junk, and it was nice to clear their "palate" with the carrots. I think we sometimes underestimate our kids.

  11. This camp is capitalizing on most kids' (and adults') weakness for sugar, and attempting to make friends with a whole bunch of lonely, scared kids using the old reliable technique that so many grandmothers are know to use--the gift of candy and chocolate. Kind of pathetic, really, but that is what we have come to, but many recent authors have described this (Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Moss for one).
    Some 50 years ago, I still vaguely remember being sent to camp, where the same need to bond with kids out of their comfort zone was in evidence, but where the process did not include candies. We were put into small groups, taught fun games and tricks, encouraged to participate in story telling and games, and then taught lots of crafts, a few sports, and were lead on explorations on tidal pools and forests, where we connected with the natural diversity of rocks, plants and creatures large and small. Food was probably pretty basic, although I remember my mother packing me a box of a muesli mix from home as a food I could fall back on as a "comfort" food. Ahh, the old days, where creativity was the essential tool to bond with kids....sounds like they are gone forever.

  12. If you do something healthy at sleep away camp effort and creativity has to go into it for it to be made fun. My first year as a camp counselour I got my parents to bring me a big watermelon on visitors day with the idea I would turn it into a cabin activity of sorts.

    A couple days later I woke up my campers in the middle of the night, and enthusiastically told them we were going to devour a watermelon together. I held it up over my head for everyone to admire, told them it was going to be the most delicious thing they ate all summer, brought out a comically small knife to cut it, and then we ate was thankfully a delicious watermelon.

  13. Time and energy are limited. We have to choose our battles wisely. Sitting this one out is understandable.


  14. Rewarding with junk food is just to easy, and is made easier with the government subsidizing sugar and corn. It's cheap, and doesn't require any effort or thought. One simple solution is for the government to stop subsidizing those two crops. Prices would naturally go up, making it more costly to use candy and chips for reward or even just an easy go to snack. Then, let the government use the money it gives toward subsidizing sugar and corn, and subsidize organic vegetable and fruit crops, making them more affordable. Thus encouraging people to buy those and discouraging the buying of candy and other junk foods. The plus side is it would not cost the government one red cent it is not already spending and encourage healthy nutrition, all in one move.

  15. Aha yes. This would be considered a rare treat for your daughter, would it not?

    I wouldn't sweat it. One bag of chips does not an unhealthy child make, nor will it permanently alter her perception of healthy eating when she shares in the others offerings. Look at her day to day eating habits, and be proud of that!

    I do wonder how they will get around peanut/nut allergies? Or is that mentioned?

    I understand that the principle of the party is frustrating, when there are so many better alternatives. Boo to the camp for lack of innovative thinking. Could you send stickers, or fun dollar store gifts like those weird bracelets or sunglasses or what have you instead?

    I remember camp days where I was allowed to get something from the "tuck" shop every day. All they had was chocolate bars, chips... and as a kid who NEVER got those things, I went to TOWN. It was crazy to have a chocolate bar every day, when normally I never saw the things outside of Christmas or Easter.

    It is murky water, but sometimes I think we need to allow the occasional splurge of candy to be normalized, so it becomes just that, occasional and enjoyed, instead of forbidden, and therefore gorged on when no one is looking, or guilty complexes built out of having it. Ech... I dig too deep now, you get my point.

    1. Anonymous7:50 pm

      I agree. Sometimes forbidden items can lead to hoarding and gorging. As a kid 1 was allowed 2 cookies, so sometimes I would sneak more, and keep them hidden. As an adult, I'm still struggling, and very overweight. With my daughter, I didn't restrict, and let her take what she wanted, and observed that she had just enough to satisfy her. Now that she's an adult, she's normal weight and eats a healthy and varied diet which occasionally includes 'treats'.

  16. Anonymous12:46 pm

    Man...when I went to overnight camp, we weren't even allowed to have food in the cabins! Too many critters would come in looking for it. When someone did bring in food, it had to be eaten covertly, or else a critter WOULD come in, at which point the counselors would go on a rampage trying to find out who broke the rules. We ate "real food" in the mess hall, too--all cooked from scratch (and delicious). Of course, there was always an industrial sized jug of kool aid around (had to stay hydrated, and I guess they thought kids wouldn't drink water), but otherwise, my food memories of camp are good (and obviously, as a kid, unlimited kool aid was awesome).

  17. I've always gone the expensive route and swam upstream. I either do cute bunches of grapes in contrasting colors, or I buy string cheese. My kid has sometimes found the grapes embarrassing (okay for church only), but has been mostly cool with the string cheese. It's as popular as carbs.

    When my kid's orchestra teacher sent out a flyer saying we were to bring "24 baked items," I emailed her and asked whether she didn't want to make sure that all the diabetic kids and kids with celiac disease and other issues felt welcome at the party. She changed her flyer.

  18. Wow! What about some more unusual dried fruits like mango, papaya, pineapple ect? I loved that stuff as a kid, and really weird fruits was always more of a treat.

  19. Anonymous8:41 pm

    I did a summer camp last year that focused on healthy eating (we're a zoo, so we focused on "eat like the animals." They all eat whole foods). The funny thing about kids is, as we passed out the "gorilla Popsicles" (mostly frozen fruit) they licked them tentatively until one kid said, "this is gross." Then they all decided it was gross and kept begging for our typical camp snacks (animal crackers, goldfish crackers, etc). After the one kid "broke," they would barely try anything else we offered them. We even did have a few pieces of dark chocolate. I don't want kids to think that eating chocolate is always bad.

    The second camp session went a lot better, but that's because nobody said it was gross.

    I do think there's junk food that is a little higher quality than chips, but sometimes it's not worth it. If everyone else has crap food, there going to eat it anyway. Even if they brought something healthy like baby carrots, if they're the only ones, then they're still going to get the other shared crap so why even bother.

  20. Roasted peanuts, dried fruit unsalted popcorn in a giant bag. The kids will love it