Camp—that rite of passage that filled your summer days way back when and fills your memories today. And now you have your own camp-age kiddo at home. Yes, it’s a different world. Your child could spend their summer on the couch with their device in hand.
But camp is an experience not to be missed. It can shape your child’s lifelong interests and be a source of lifelong friendships. Overnight camps, day camps, outdoors, indoors, science camps, art camps, computer camps, nature camps, activity camps—while the options are as different as every child’s personality, the benefits remain constant.
1. Camps build independence and foster responsibility.
Does your child count on you for just about everything, even those tasks they should be handling on their own? Camp is a great way to make them more self-reliant. “Being away from home, becoming responsible for behavior, being accountable in shared living spaces, and discovering the ability to make meaningful decisions are all lasting skills,” shares Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association. No, your child won’t do everything right when they’re not under your watchful eye. But mistakes are a powerful learning experience.
2. Your camper will develop social skills and create new bonds.
We know, kids do this at school. Camp, though, comes with a completely different energy. Kids are bonding over shared interests in a unique way. And if they struggle to find their place in school, camp might give them a much-needed boost of confidence. That’s because children can reinvent themselves within a new circle of peers.
3. Your child will discover and enhance their interests.
Say you have a dedicated theater kid. They’ll love theater camp, no doubt, and grow their acting skills. Maybe they’ll also discover they love costuming just as much as acting. Or perhaps your child hasn’t fallen in love with a specific hobby or field of study. They just might come home from camp with a passion. “Camps provide children and youth with a safe space for taking risks, trying new activities and learning without fear of failure,” Rosenberg explains. It’s true experiential education.
4. Camp will get your child away from (mindless) technology.
Unless you’re sending your kiddo to a video game design or computer programming camp, they probably won’t have a lot of screen time. Camp is a place where kids can be kids, in the old-fashioned sense. (Did we just call ourselves old?) “Campers spend more time in nature, participate in arts, enjoy physical activity and develop critical social-emotional skills,” says Rosenberg. “They build respect for the planet and the people around them, cultivate creativity and imagination, and understand the value of service and leadership.”
Even schools have a healthy dose of screen time, so camp will be a perfect opportunity for your child to learn to converse and play without technological distractions. And any screen time they do have is likely to be purposeful and directly related to the skills they are learning.
5. Your camper will connect with positive role models.
If your child is a cheer fanatic, why not send them to camp with real-life cheerleaders? Do they love to draw and paint? Camp can introduce them to individuals who have made a career out of visual arts. And if they just need to be surrounded by happy, motivated people, camp can provide that too. “Trained, caring adult role models help children feel loved, capable and included,” Rosenberg notes. “Camp professionals have enormous power in simple, teachable moments.”
Explore a wide range of camps for your child in the pages ahead; the time to research and enroll in summer camp is already here. Fingers crossed that COVID-19 disappears soon, but check with camps about their health and safety measures.
Whatever camp you choose, you can be sure your child will come back different. Some benefits are immediately visible. Others may take time to appear or are experienced by your camper alone. Either way, the value is lasting.