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.
The first wedding that I planned was in no way a traditional wedding. Ten eager little girls decorated the printed invitations with sequins, buttons, and markers. The same energetic hands prepared the wedding feast, consisting of bagged lunches, blintz souffle, and of course a layer cake. On the big day I looked around with excitement. Again, I noticed something odd about this wedding. All the participants and guests appeared about four feet high. The "groom" had long hair pinned up with brown lines on her face (was that supposed to be a beard?) The wedding location, a back yard with a swing set and a wading pool, seemed far from romantic. This wedding however was not supposed to be one of those types of weddings. As I pressed the "PLAY" button on the tape recorder I knew that ten 4-6-year-old girls cared deeply about this wedding. Despite the absence of a reason for celebration, I pulled all the girls into the circle and we started dancing and clapping to the music. The energy that went into the preparation on previous days could finally be appreciated. My campers and I not only celebrated the accomplishment of the mock wedding, we celebrated the fun and excitement we experienced for the first three weeks in Camp Glitter Girls. I had begun preparing for Camp Glitter Girls over four months before by budgeting, sending out fliers, confirming registration and finally making sure that every camper would have the time of her life. As I danced, I celebrated the times I almost lost my patience but didn't, the times that I planned activities late into the night because I knew that only an organized schedule would ensure the success of my camp.
The lessons I had learned from previous summer camps contributed greatly to this camp's success. At the age of thirteen, I first ran a camp for eight children. The next year a friend and I co-managed a camp for twenty children at a small school campus. Finally at the age of fifteen I created my most challenging summer camp with thirty-five children. In just three years the size of my camp tripled and so did the life lessons. I not only carried the responsibility for my own "bunk," but with my co-manager I hired other counselors, arranged busing to and from field trips, managed a $15,000 budget, and ensured that thirty-five children had a fun summer. The overnight to San Diego, water fun, cheers, a carnival to end the summer and many other events definitely ensured that my campers had a great summer. However, at the end of those six weeks, new ideas floated in my mind about how I would manage a camp next time.
The camp's increased size added new dimensions to management. On one occasion I firmly reminded a mother of her financial obligations to the camp when she started bargaining. When counselors failed to perform as expected I was required to separate friendships and business. With a much wider variety of campers, I dealt with behavioral problems among the campers. This even included involving the parents in the case of two unusually unruly boys. While a troubled girl with attention deficit disorder in my "bunk" needed special attention, I had to make sure that none of my other campers felt slighted in any way. As the summer progressed I learned how sometimes I just have to put my foot down and say "no." Sometimes extra attention is not always best for a difficult child. Most importantly, I had an experience in the real world of business that taught me how to stand up for myself and address interpersonal and administrative problems.
This past summer as I looked around the yard at the beaming faces flushed from dancing, I realized that Camp Glitter Girls was the culmination of all the experiences and lessons in which I partook since my first camp four years earlier. I learned how to make a camp with ten campers far more fun and even more profitable than a camp for thirty-five children. Instead of marketing to a broad range of ages, I marketed Camp Glitter Girls to a specific age group of girls. The smaller group facilitated a close and familiar atmosphere, not to mention a decrease in problems. Instead of focusing on the quantity of campers, I focused on the quality of my campers' experience, and we all reaped the benefits. The mock wedding at my previous camps never exuded the energy and spirit of the one at Camp Glitter Girls. As the dancing subsided and I heard oohs and aahs over the cake, I looked at every single girl in the room. I did not just see cute adorable faces; rather I saw how each girl challenged me in her own way and unconsciously taught me her own special lesson.
As I turn towards my future and make life-defining decisions, I look back upon my experiences with my campers for inspiration and direction. I view my upcoming years at university as an opportunity to further use the skills I acquired in running summer camps. The diversity, academic excellence, and broad array of classes and extracurricular activities at UCLA will provide an environment that will challenge me to use the leadership, initiative, creativity and interpersonal abilities that I used at Camp Glitter Girls.
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