Every summer, nearly 6 million children attend summer camp. They look forward to spending time with old friends, making new ones, and having lots of fun. On the other side, parents recognize that camp also serves as a unique opportunity to broaden their child’s horizons, encourage independence and foster personal growth. A good summer camp will meet the expectations of both parent and child.
Summer camp can be an invaluable experience for children, sometimes even life changing. The American Camp Association has recently launched a new advertising campaign, ‘Because of camp…’, aimed to emphasis the value of summer camps. Recognizing their inherent value, the question becomes how do camps do it? What makes the camp experience so unique and so valuable for children? The answer, I believe, rests in the basic camp design.
To quote Michael Eisner, former chairman and CEO of Walt Disney Company, “Camp transports kids with everything to a place where they have close to nothing. In so doing, it takes kids away from things they value to teach them the things of real value.” Removing the tradition comforts of home and family forces children re-evaluate what it is that truly makes them happy. Kids are anxious to spread their wings, and camp provides a safe environment to do just that – away from home. It’s a place to try new things and learn along the way. The sense of accomplishment from mastering a new skill is a boost to self-esteem.
This experience is enhanced by camp staff and camp counselors, who offer much more than fun and supervision. Campers tend to connect well with those who teach and inspire them. Counselors offer variety in the leadership styles that campers will be exposed to throughout their lives. Counselors become important role models and mentors supporting and expanding the foundation of parental guidance already in place.
Working together as part of a team and taking on a leadership role can increase a child’s self-confidence dramatically. Respect for ourselves and one another, communicating in a positive and constructive manner, making good decisions, and facing new challenges with enthusiasm are all important to healthy social and emotional growth. Camp is an ideal setting to learn and practice the life skills necessary to become a successful adult. Camp is a unique opportunity to present plenty of learning and personal growth opportunities to a child. It’s a testing ground where you can try new things, meet new people, visit different places and hear new ideas. Camp is tons of fun, and it’s the start of long-lasting memories and life-long friendships. When all is said and done, the value of everything that camp has to offer is absolutely priceless.