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'90s Family

Camping It Up : New Options for Those Picky Teens


After years of watching their children trot happily off during the summer to chase soccer balls or practice gymnastics, parents can suddenly face a radically different landscape as their tot turns teen.

"Soccer camp?" the newly blase 13-year-old may ask incredulously. Not cool, Dad. Don't ask me to make any more pine cone wreaths, either. And rest hour--forget it.

It's also from this older age group that parents most often hear those dreaded words: "I'm bored."

"If you start to go to camp at age 6, 7 or 8 and you've done swimming, hiking and canoeing, come age 12, 13 and 14, you're going to want and need a different experience," says Bob Schultz of the American Camping Assn.

Deciding what that will be can be tough. Sports camps on college and high school campuses are popular with both sexes. But other specialized camps shouldn't be ruled out, Schultz says.

Schultz notes that many camps offer more adventurous activities, such as white-water rafting, obstacle courses, ropes courses, rock climbing and rappelling.

"Many camps have a tracking program where you go to the same camp, but you will not be doing the same thing as a 9-year-old that you will as a 15-year-old," he says. "If you go as a 14-year-old, you may show up on opening day of camp and not see that property again until the last day of camp. You might be on a trip backpacking in the mountains of West Virginia or rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee."

Some young teens devote part of their vacation to helping others. Beau and Julian Bradley of Chattanooga, Tenn., dug garden plots and did other heavy chores last summer at a community garden outside an apartment complex for low-income senior citizens. Although their help was initially volunteered by their mom, they ended the summer feeling pleased that they had been able to lend a hand to neighbors in need.

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