Parents send their children to summer camps to have fun, to experience new activities, and maybe to see a different part of the country, but there are also some incredibly important, and lasting, benefits that campers enjoy. What can parents expect their children to gain from their summer camp experience beyond the razzle-dazzle entertainment? What will stick with your kids after camp and when they’re back at home? Here are a few of the areas of self-development a summer camp experience can enhance.
Relating to others: Summer camps are highly social environments where everyone is a member of a close-knit community. At the same time, they are often quite diverse. Children will meet others from different families, from different parts of the country, even from abroad. They will also interact daily with children of different ages. These different backgrounds, values, habits and ways of living can be disconcerting at first, but with encouragement and guidance can really help a young person learn to get along with people. Another way to say this, is that by encountering kids who are “different” a child learns to see past those differences and become friends. Learning to relate like this makes it much easier to make friends later in life.
Developing Creativity: Most summer camps provide numerous opportunities to make things, to practice different crafts, and to explore the arts. From woodworking, to fiber arts, to ceramics, to knitting, to blacksmithing, and so on, there are fantastic ways to be creative. Plus, kids are encouraged to try new things, to not worry about how “good” they are, and to be excited about the process of participating. Everyone realizes that we can create some pretty cool stuff if we give it a try.
Self-Confidence: Summer camps are supportive places, communities where everyone will look out for each other, and usually encourage each other. This kind of positive peer relationship is the perfect recipe for trying new things and being proud of your accomplishments. Kids might think they won’t be able to do something (like climb a ropes course, for example), but when they try and succeed, it’s strong evidence that they can do it. Doubt is transformed into bravery, fear into confidence, and the result is an enhanced sense of self-worth.
Independence: It’s almost inevitable when a child goes to camp and sleeps away from home, away from the watchful eye of his or her parents- she will gain greater independence. Kids at camp make a lot of their own decisions, make choices about what to do, how to behave, and how to spend their free time. Of course, they also get to see the consequences of their choices too, and when it’s their choice and not their parents, those consequences are all the more meaningful.
Being suddenly responsible for their own choices, is a very formative experience in a growing habit of independence.
Social Etiquette: Being around so many people and interacting with them so closely day after day, summer camps also require kids to develop certain social skills. Sharing, recognizing others’ interests, dealing with arguments, showing empathy, being kind, offering to help, making honest suggestions- all of these are key ingredients. Every quality summer camp will create an environment where all of this is fostered and taught.
Of course most of these areas can develop at home and at school during the year, but summer camp provides an opportunity to practice these qualities, develop these aspects of a child’s personality, and further develop the mature skill that make them effective. It’s really remarkable how powerful the summer camp experience is in this regard. Sure it’s fun, but it can also be so crucially formative too.