If you’ve been to camp, you’re not surprised to hear about the benefits of summer camp. Experiencing life at camp yourself as a child, you know the profound positive effects that still matter to you as an adult, and you also know that you want something just as great for your own kids.
But if you didn’t go to camp as a child, you may not realize just how good the experience is for children. You may not know why so many parents are committed to sending their kids to camp. So while we have talked about most of these before, here is a list of the most important reasons to send your kids to camp.
At camp, children:
10.Spend their day being physically active – As children spend so much time these days inside and mostly sitting down, camp provides a wonderful opportunity to move. Running, swimming, jumping, hiking, climbing! Camp is action!
9.Experience success and become more confident – Camp helps children build self-confidence and self-esteem by removing the kind of academic, athletic and social competition that shapes their lives at school. With its non-competitive activities and diverse opportunities to succeed, camp life is a real boost for young people. There’s accomplishment every day. Camp teaches kids that they can.
8.Gain resiliency – The kind of encouragement and nurture kids receive at camp makes it a great environment to endure setbacks, try new (and thereby maybe a little frightening) things, and see that improvement comes when you give something another try. Camp helps conquer fears.
7.Unplug from technology – When kids take a break from TV, cell phones, and the Internet, they rediscover their creative powers and engage the real world— real people, real activities, and real emotions. They realize, there’s always plenty to do. Camp is real!
6.Develop life-long skills – Camps provide the right instruction, equipment and facilities for kids to enhance their sports abilities, their artistic talents, and their adventure skills. The sheer variety of activities offered at camp makes it easy for kids to discover and develop what they like to do. Camp expands every child’s abilities.
5.Grow more independent – Camp is the perfect place for kids to practice making decisions for themselves without parents and teachers guiding every move. Managing their daily choices in the safe, caring environment of camp, children welcome this as a freedom to blossom in new directions. Camp helps kids develop who they are.
4.Have free time for unstructured play – Free from the overly-structured, overly-scheduled routines of home and school, life at camp gives children much needed free time to just play. Camp is a slice of carefree living where kids can relax, laugh, and be silly all day long. At camp we play!
3.Learn social skills – Coming to camp means joining a close-knit community where everyone must agree to cooperate and respect each other. When they live in a cabin with others, kids share chores, resolve disagreements, and see firsthand the importance of sincere communication. Camp builds teamwork.
2.Reconnect with nature – Camp is a wonderful antidote to “nature deficit disorder,” to the narrow experience of modern indoor life. Outdoor experience enriches kid’s perception of the world and supports healthy child development. Camp gets kids back outside.
1.Make true friends – Camp is the place where kids make their very best friends. Free from the social expectations pressuring them at school, camp encourages kids to relax and make friends easily. All the fun at camp draws everyone together— singing, laughing, talking, playing, doing almost everything together. Everyday, camp creates friendships.
See? Camp is great.
I stepped out of my dad's '67 Buick Electra and shut the door with a crunch. Looking at my peers in soccer attire scurrying around, my eyes widened and I thought, I'm at soccer camp.
I entered the large brick edifice with optimism. When I got to my room, I threw my bag onto the dormitory floor, pulled open the squeaky dresser drawers and filled them with my clothing. I was in a can't-stop-moving mood; I had been driving all day.
After I unpacked, my parents and I went to orientation where a bored counselor delivered a speech. Then my mother hugged me. She smiled but her eyes frowned with sadness. "Good luck, David. I hope you have a good time."
I would be alone for the next week and I planned to make new friends and improve my soccer skills. Soccer camp would bring me many different emotions, including defeat and victory. I laid down on the hard bed. Stretching out my hand, touching the cold, round bedpost, I smiled, anticipating the next week. I hadn't a clue what was in store.
The first time I looked into his murky pupils I knew the ridicule this menace would readily render. David is here, I thought, and now so is Goliath. His sword of negativity cut deep into my heart and left lacerations that would heal slowly. My small slingshot of comebacks never penetrated his skin. I was a snail, and he was salt. Each day was an expedition. Waking up in the morning and facing the six-foot, 180 pound, 14-year-old was hell. Watching his dark eyes smile every time he saw my pain made my wounds deeper.
But it was my love for soccer that kept me going. Every time I made him look bad I felt good. Being better than him was the real award, at least in my eyes. I pushed myself to outdo him in every drill, to beat his team in every scrimmage, to achieve victory whenever there was a chance.
"Great job, David" and "Good work" were the counselors' responses. They meant nothing. Outdoing my opponent meant everything. My endurance was phenomenal, my ability to control the ball was improving greatly, and I now had the most important thing in any sport: heart.
When the week was concluding, we had our final scrimmages, the ones parents come to see. As I played, I owned the field, the ball, and most importantly, the other team. I played intelligently. I passed when it was right to pass, and dribbled and shot when it was time to dribble or shoot. The delicious taste of victory was in my mouth. My parents were amazed at my improvement. Although I first saw John, the menacing 14-year-old, as an attempt by God to destroy me, later I realized he was a gift who motivated me to take my abilities to the next level. Without him I probably wouldn't be where I am today. Throughout the labyrinth of our lives dead ends may appear, but as the old saying goes: "What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger."
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.