One of the great luxuries of my teaching career was spending summers with my children. My kids took field trips as part of their everyday life, spending the lazy days of summer in museums as often as swimming pools. But as my children grew, I always forfeited some of this special season to overnight camp. The benefits of camp go far beyond a simple vacation for parents. While it might be nice to have some time off parenting duty, your children’s time at camp is well spent. Here are seven ways camp can help your children grow.
1. Exploration. At camp, kids get a smorgasbord of activities that would be near impossible to explore at home. Although there are some camps that specialize in certain areas, most offer kids the chance to participate in a wide variety of activities. As a kid, I loved riflery but hated archery and I would never have known that had it not been for attending camp.
2. Leadership. As your campers grow older, they can focus on the activities they enjoy most and eventually help teach the younger camps. For example, when I first sent my kids to camp, I researched their hiring practices to ensure I was sending them somewhere safe. I was told the camp had to do very little by way of getting to know their hires because most of the counselors were former campers. Now that my older kids are on camp staff, I know what they mean. The people who hired my kids have known them since they were small, occasionally see my kids outside of camp, and definitely know my kids’ strengths and weaknesses.
3. Independence. When my daughter went off to university, I was certain she could operate without me at least for a time. She already had and so had my son. The transition to university will be a big one no matter what, but children who have been to camp have the advantage that they’ve been away from home successfully for extended periods of time. The best camps offer children increasing independence with enough supervision to maintain the children’s safety.
4. Values. The great thing about camp is it encourages independence while supporting a parent’s values. I was a single parent when my kids were in elementary school. I heavily relied on my extended family and community to help me. Camp was part of that community, reinforcing the lessons I tried to teach my children at home. And every time I hear someone say that my child is a good kid, I know that it is in part because camp helped me raise both my kids. Not only that, camp makes the learning painless - fun even. Finding a camp that reinforces your values may be as easy as choosing one that reflects your religious beliefs but it’s important to be diligent. Ensure you do your research before signing up for a particular camp.
5. The great outdoors. At camp, kids have the chance to explore the outdoors. Hiking, biking, swimming, or even boating/kayaking or horseback riding might be on the camp’s agenda. These activities will provide a new experience for children who spend a lot of time indoors or reinforce the love they already have for the great outdoors.
6. Community, bonding, and lifelong friends. As I delivered my daughter to camp last year, the arriving campers were treated to a great surprise as one camp alumni proposed to another. Romantic interests aside, when my daughter visits new places, it is often her camp friends she looks up.
7. Time unplugged. Time at camp allows kids relief from keeping up with their virtual world - be it friendly or dramatic. Camp fosters real-life relationships. For some children, especially those who have had difficult online relationships, camp can be a welcome respite.
Jill is a wife, a mother of four, and a teacher. She has 13 years of teaching experience and a Master’s Degree in Teaching Reading.
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