The weather is warming, and we parents are starting to consider our plans for the summer. I have fond memories from my own childhood of going to summer camp, so it seemed like a good time to remind folks that attending camp can have a number of potential benefits to our kids. Here are some of them:
- Campers obtain life skills needed to become successful adults. Experts in the professional world note that some of the skills necessary to maximize our potential for success in life are communication, creativity, collaboration, socialization, and problem solving. Many of these skills are lacking in young adults just out of school nowadays. All of these can be fostered in a summer camp environment. Children at camp are always communicating with each other, whether during their daily activities, sports, or just in their bunks, learning to work together as a team and part of the camp community. They may also get a chance to take leadership roles, either guiding younger campers or managing a sports team. Many camps offer a variety of activities that kids might not otherwise have a chance to do, and that can foster a more well-rounded person as they approach adulthood.
- Camp can teach a child things they won’t learn in school. Camps can offer a powerful learning environment and can be a place where a child’s social education takes place. The close interaction with peers offers a great opportunity to learn social skills and problem-solving. By taking part in and trying new activities, they can find success in new things and build self-esteem. Sharing new experiences with others is a great way for our children to develop friendships and interpersonal connections.
- Camp allows kids to “unplug” from technology. On average, today’s children can spend more than 7 hours a day engaged with technology, which often becomes a substitute for hands-on activities and direct communication with peers. It’s not unusual for me to see kids sitting right next to each other, texting back and forth instead of talking to one another! Most summer camps do not utilize (and many do not allow) TV, smartphones, tablets, or personal computers. Taking a break from the tech allows kids a chance to socialize and interact directly and in person, which is an increasingly valuable thing for them to have a chance to do since electronics are becoming so pervasive in their daily lives otherwise.
- Plenty of time for play, which helps with social and emotional development. Play time is important for children. At camp there is ample play time with other kids, in a safe environment where they can be free to have unstructured play time. They have a chance to use their imaginations and enjoy themselves, and unstructured play time according to experts is essential for important social, emotional, and cognitive development.
- Camp promotes independence, and offers kids a chance to “reinvent” themselves. The chance to be away from parents and learn to function on their own means children have the opportunity to grow more independent. They must learn to rely on themselves and their peers or other trusted adults, and encourages them to think independently, which often can build self-confidence. Furthermore, they have freedom to be themselves in a new peer group. As children grow, their sense of identity often changes over time, but they may feel like their peers still see them as the same person they always were. At summer camp, they have the freedom to be themselves, who they really want to be. This can lead to greater self-expression and confidence-building.