Perhaps like no other activity, summer camp gives young people the opportunity to be social in an environment not solely centered around behaving according to rules and restrictions that come with the classroom environment.
Through summer camp, they become more comfortable with challenges they might not have sought out when surrounded by the familiar. Camp allows young people to shine and manage situations and people outside their comfort zone.
According to the American Camp Association (acacamps.org), which offers a wealth of information on all things camping-related, “Whether children are playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, or becoming part of a camp family, they are creating memories that will last a lifetime.”
Inevitably, along with those memories comes a greater sense of self. The timid, shy, introverted student blossoms upon being exposed to new surroundings and new friends oblivious to their social status or circumstances at home.
Children gain a positive sense of who they are when they have a feeling of accomplishment or produce something through their efforts. Kids can achieve this type of feeling through school work, community service, sports and at camp, experts say.
Summer camps also allow children to unplug from technology and plug into the world around them, according to Parent Guide News (parentguidenews.com).
“Today’s children spend more than 7.5 hours a day engaged with technology, which often takes the place of vital hands-on activities and socialization opportunities,” writes PGN. “The majority of summer camps ban most technology, including TV, smartphones, tablets and personal computers. Taking a break from technology over the summer allows children to communicate face to face.”
Connecting with friends and interacting with nature is also beneficial to developing healthy behaviors. Camp is also important for developing life skills needed to become successful adults.
“The skills necessary to become successful adults are communication, collaboration, creativity, leadership, socialization and problem solving,” writes Parents Guide. “All of these areas are fostered in the camp environment.”
In fact, according to the online magazine, “Camp offers one of the most powerful learning environments and can be a place where a child’s social education takes place. It provides children with the opportunity to try new activities.”
Along with building self-esteem, “Children also build social skills and problem-solving skills by being part of a supportive community and partaking in activities together.”
In addition, camp can bring out another side to a child, allowing him or her to reinvent themselves, or their images, to others. Camps also promote independence.
Quoting the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Free and unstructured play is healthy and essential for helping children to reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones,” PGN reports. “It also helps kids manage stress. Traditional summer camps give children plenty of play time, which leads to healthy emotional and social development.”
Today, there are camps that accommodate students with cognitive or developmental issues, in addition to those designed for young people managing physical challenges, past traumas, abuse and serious or terminal illnesses.
Theme or specialized camps are valuable options for gifted children or those with special interests because they combine a child’s affinity for a particular subject or skill with an additional physical component, thus promoting more balance between educational and recreational interests.
For the child with special needs, camping provides a chance for safe participation in activities normally unavailable to them.
The perfect summer camp is mostly about presenting options, allowing children to experiment in a nurturing, accepting environment, achieve, connect with others and enjoy outdoor recreation in an empowering way.