When parents think about camp, images of camp fires, sports, swimming and arts & crafts come to mind. While these are certainly fun activities and important parts of the camp experience, the true benefit of camp for your child are the life skills gained at camp while participating in all the amazing activities the camp offers.
INDEPENDENCE: When children go to day or sleepaway camp, they are given the opportunity to grow more independent. They are able to make their own decisions, such as what food to take from the salad bar or what elective activity to participate in. These small decisions help children think independently which helps build self-esteem and confidence.
PLAY: Research by The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Clinical Report shows that play is important for developing a set of 21st century skills, including social, emotional, language and cognitive skills, all needed by the next generation in an economically competitive world that requires collaboration and innovation. While children are often overscheduled during the school year, camp give children plenty of time for unstructured play.
CONFIDENCE: American Camp Association research has found that 92 percent of campers said that camp helped them feel good about themselves and 70 percent of parents reported that their child gained self-confidence at camp. When children go down the zipline after being apprehensive or finally gets a target during archery after weeks of practicing, they gain confidence by accomplishing something they didn’t initially think they could do.
RESILIENCE: It is important for children to develop resilience for coping with the obstacles and stresses that inevitably will happen in their lives. At camp, children are often solving problems, adapting to change and overcoming hurdles such as homesickness.
LEADERSHIP: From teaching a new camper the camp songs to being a “big brother” or “big sister” to the youngest campers to being a captain for color war, there are many ways for children to gain leadership skills at camp. Learning to be leaders in their camp community is a skill that will help them succeed in life.
SENSE OF COMMUNITY: Children become part of a community at camp. They learn to share in camp traditions, work together, support each other, eat together and at overnight camp, live in bunks together. Campers and staff become like family. For the majority of campers, being at summer camp is the first time they have lived with or eaten every meal with a group of people other than their family. Campers must learn to adapt, make decisions as a group and respect other people’s needs.
CREATIVITY: Often cited as a soft skill 21st century employers are looking for in their employees, camp offers numerous opportunities for children to explore their creative side from jewelry making to wood shop to creating new songs for color war.
COLLABORATION: Another soft skill employers are looking for in future employees. Camp is all about collaborating and being part of a community. Children learn to work together to clean up their bunk after breakfast, on the athletic field during field sports or getting each person over the climbing wall in trust exercises.
BREAK FROM TECHNOLOGY: According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children ages 8-18 spend an average of 7 hours and 30 minutes a day using technology, more than 53 hours a week. Now more than ever, children need camp to disconnect from media and engage in interpersonal connections. Summer camp is one of the last unplugged environments, where campers leave their smartphones and tablets at home and talk, not text, with their friends.
NEW EXPERIENCES: Each day, children are trying something new at camp. Whether it’s learning how to dive into the pool, play a new sport or plant vegetables in an organic garden, children are learning new skills and experiencing something different. Research by the American Camp Association shows that 63 percent of campers continue to participate in some of the new activities learned at camp when they get home.