How different can a summer camp really be from other ones?

In Which we Answer the Million Dollar Questions

There are thousands of camps to choose from. Heck, there may be a thousand summer camps in New Jersey alone.

How is the Stomping Ground similar to other sleep-away camps? How is it different from other camps?

We're so glad you asked. Let's dive in.

How campers spend their time


In all camp settings, children are afforded the chance to meet new friends, be outdoors, and try new things. The Stomping Ground is no different. We value offering campers these opportunities, and do our best to put them in a position where they will do these things on their terms.

caymanburkeDifferences: Unlike most camps, campers at the Stomping Ground will get to do whatever they want to do, with whomever they want to do it. While we value the idea of making new friends, we don't force campers to interact with other people. While we enjoy being outdoors, and offer hikes, boating, and biking, we also offer plenty of options for kids who would prefer to sit around and chat with their friends.

The fundamental difference is choice. Many camps offer some amount of choice, but have many times throughout the day where campers must do one certain thing or pick from a very limited number of options.

We offer a radical amount of choice, where campers can do whatever they want as long as we can meet our supervision ratios, and it does not break one of our three community guidelines.

Programming & Activities

Similarities: At all camps, staff work as hard as they can to create fun, meaningful, and safe activities.

Differences: At Stomping Ground, we actually turn to the campers to help us schedule the week.

While we come up with dozens of engaging ideas to present to the campers long in advance of the summer even beginning, much of our camp schedule is determined by the campers themselves.

On the first day of each session, we hold our "Dream World" discussion with campers, where campers write down their "dreams" for the week. These can be as basic as going swimming, or as outlandish as visiting Narnia. We specifically budget and staff ourselves to make sure each of these dreams come true in some capacity.

Additionally, we have "camper led activity sheets," where campers can come up with their own camp program in its entirety. As long as they can find 5 friends to do it with them (so we can meet our supervision ratios), the program will run.

Rules and Guidelines

Similarities: All camps work their best to keep children physically and emotionally safe, and have rules in place to do so. We share three rules wit every camp that meet these goals:

1) Do not physically endanger anyone. 2) Do not pick on or tease anyone. 3) Do not do anything illegal, or that would clearly be against the express wishes of your parents.

alexsmilesDifferences: Most camps have a long list of other expectations on campers. They may limit the use of technology, or have rules about certain kinds of footwear, or bed times.

We do not. We do whatever we can to help campers make their own choices, so they can become in the habit of making choices. It is our belief that campers will become better prepared for the outside world if they do not become dependent on others for strict boundaries on how they spend their time, and that they will ultimately learn what's best for them by trying what they want to (and occasionally failing).

The role of staff members

Similarities: Most camps have well trained staff members who care very passionately about the campers who go there. They ensure campers are having fun and staying safe.

Differences: Stomping Ground staff are trained to partner with campers rather than be in charge of them. Where many camps teach their staff to start off with firm disciplinary attitudes, we instruct our staff specifically to befriend their campers authentically.

We believe that establishing credibility with campers as trustworthy and kind will stop most of the problems that can happen at camp before they start. We are not worried that campers will "walk all over us."

In trying and honing this technique over the years, we've seen the opposite. When befriended authentically, campers actually care about the adults in our community, and are more likely to respond to feedback when things aren't going well.

Working with families

Similarities: Every camp will want to keep families in the loop if there are any major issues, like injury, extreme homesickness, fights, et cetera.

Differences: We reach out to parents at the first hint that things might not be going well - so they know that "No News" is TRULY "Good News." We also leave it up to families to decide if they want to speak to their children during the week in the event of homesickness, and support whatever decisions families make for themselves as it pertains to how the child wants to experience the week.

We allow families to send their children for partial sessions, or to bring them just during the day, or to have siblings ages 7 and 14 sleep in the same cabin, or to leave for baseball games in the evening and come back.

We believe in partnering with families because we believe that, just like the campers, families know best as far as what arrangement will work best for them.

Is our summer camp right for you?

Well, honestly, we're not sure. With 100+ years of cumulative camping experience between our director team, we believe this is the right kind of camp for basically any kind of kid. But some parents prefer other models. That's cool with us. It's why we want to be so honest about exactly who we are, and what we do.

Listen, there are hundreds of great camps out there. But we can say definitively that there are none like ours. If you're liking what you've heard, you can go ahead and grab your space by registering today.

Still not sure? Give Laura a call any time at (585) 489-8880. We'd love to hear from you soon.