What promise a summer holds? The promise of hot, sunny days. The promise of activities not possible during colder months. The promise of beaches, pools, lakes, and the like. The promise of time with family and friends, stretched out across long, lazy days…making memories.
As adults, many can look back with fondness and nostalgia to summers of their childhood. The carefree days of youth, which for some included time spent at summer camp…maybe for one week, maybe for the entire season. If you were lucky enough to spend time at camp, you know that the mark that experience leaves can last far beyond that summer and stay with you forever.
Camp offers days filled with structure, but also lots of choice in activities: time to play, close bonds with camp friends, singing around the campfire, and the chance to try and master new things that campers might never have had a chance to do, if not for the safety of the camp environment. Confidence is bolstered there; self-esteem is built up there. Camp becomes a part of who that person is.
There are many benefits to summer camp. Here are some of the most valuable:
Building Resilience and Confidence: At camp, children are positioned in an environment where it’s safe to leave their comfort zone and try new activities they might not otherwise have the opportunity to try. Things like sliding down a giant slide into a lake below, tackling a high ropes course, trying a new sport, learning to maneuver a canoe or kayak…or numerous other challenges. If they don’t get the hang of it the first time, they can try again until they feel confident in their ability. By taking risks and facing their fears, camp teaches children confidence and resilience in a safe and supportive environment.
Fostering Friendships: Meeting new people can be intimidating for some. In the relaxed atmosphere of camp, there is less pressure, and friendships develop naturally. Kids with similar interests are together, involved in activities they enjoy, and bonds can form quickly and last for many years to come. Children can meet friends from different backgrounds and learn how to work together in teams. They can face challenges together and conquer fears together…a bonding experience for sure!
Connecting with Nature & Encouraging a Healthy Lifestyle: Most camps don’t allow electronics (or permit only minimal use). The focus at camp is primarily on outdoor activities. Many camps provide a daily routine that involves waking up early, a day filled with lots of physical activity, eating regular meals, and spending most of the time outdoors. Where at home they might be playing video games, doing homework, or watching TV, at camp, those things are not even an option. Kids are immersed in the “natural world.” In addition, at camp, children have to rely on each other and the adults around them to teach them skills and keep them safe during their time outside. Things like hiking, outdoor camping, and boating can be exciting, but also scary for a first-timer. The hope is that being and exploring in nature will foster a lifelong love of the outdoors.
Promoting Physical Play: Real opportunities for physical play in daily life are not what they used to be. Recess has been drastically reduced or removed from school altogether, homework is more challenging, video games have taken over, and many children are just too busy. At camp, the environment is set up for play. There is enough free time, plenty of playmates, and countless things to do. Playtime allows a child to be creative and imaginative and express him- or herself in comfortable surroundings. They learn to negotiate with other children and make new friends.
Self-reliance and Independence: Leaving their home to attend summer camp encourages a child to become more independent. In the camp setting children learn to make some decisions on their own. They discover they are able to do things without their parents by their side all the time, and this builds their confidence. In the positive, nurturing environment of summer camp, children can discover who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. They learn new skills that can shape their identity and help them become more self-reliant. Every success reinforces their sense of independence.
Camp instills appreciation for family and home: Time away from home and family helps kids appreciate everything more: the parents who love them, the house that keeps them warm and safe, a meal cooked by mom or dad, and everything else they don’t have at camp.
Naturally, parents want the best opportunities for their children. They want them to be happy, well-adjusted, healthy, and successful throughout their childhood and as adults. Children need life skills to be their best selves. Skills such as self-reliance, socialization, independence, and physical well-being will benefit them long after their summer camp days are over. Not only will a child return from camp with greater self-confidence and a stronger sense of identity, he or she will also have developed valuable new skills, made new friends, and created memories to last a lifetime.