Summer camps are a fun way to encourage your kids to be active and socialize while learning important life skills.
When summer is coming, parents start to wonder about summer camp. Sending a child away for a week or two is a big step in a family’s life, and the rewards can last a lifetime.
The American Camp Association tells us why summer camp is good for kids. Kids who go to summer camp learn teamwork, gain leadership skills, connect with nature, make friends, discover new interests and build self-confidence. All of these skills stay with them long after the summer has ended.
The Benefits of Summer Camps for Kids
A quality summer camp offers much more than fun and games. Summertime offers a priceless opportunity to expand your child’s horizons, as they exercise their bodies and sharpen their minds. After an enriching summer camp experience, children return to school refreshed and ready to learn.
Parents wondering why summer camp is important can consider these benefits:
1. Children Build Friendships and Develop Social Skills
What makes a child thrive? Recent breakthroughs in research point to strong social skills and positive relationships as key players. But just like playing the piano or kicking a soccer ball, it takes time, practice and focus to build social skills.
Summer camp offers that level of concentration. Staffers teach, model and practice good social skills, imparting lessons that the kids incorporate into their days.
The impact is measurable. In one recent, comprehensive study, summer campers reported that they were much happier because of camp. Parents, too, saw significant improvement in their children’s social skills. As children met and got to know their fellow campers, they were more likely to make friends, find friends who shared their interests, improve their listening skills and understand their friends’ emotions.
In fact, the study showed that the term “happy campers” is no exaggeration. Summer camps surround children with security, routines and trusted adults who give them the room to flourish and make new friends.
2. Outdoor Camps Prevent Nature-Deficit Disorder
You won’t find the term “nature-deficit disorder” in a medical manual, but it is a genuine phenomenon with distressing consequences. Children deprived of time in the outdoors are likelier to endure attention difficulties, physical and emotional illnesses, nearsightedness, obesity and deficiencies in Vitamin D, a vital nutrient for healthy bones and muscles.
Flip the equation by putting children in nature, and they get what author Richard Louv calls “Vitamin N.” Kids exposed to the great outdoors learn to build confidence, calm themselves and focus. Exposure to nature can relieve the symptoms of attention-deficit disorders. That personal immersion can even teach an appreciation for the natural world that helps children grow into good stewards of the environment.
Even the quality of the experience can make a difference. Children who get their feet wet and their hands muddy are building confidence in themselves and their ability to make independent decisions. They are engaging in the independent play that builds the cognitive functioning that regulates emotion and behavior. Well-run cognitive functioning is more important to a child’s success than IQ.
That’s where summer camp comes in. Summer camp puts kids in the heart of the outdoors, with enthusiastic, trained counselors who, in the words of pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson, share with children in “rediscovering the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
3. Kids Can Engage in a Variety of Activities
Think of an activity or interest that intrigues your child, and you will find it at a summer camp. Just look at the choices available:
- Play sports. Maybe your child plays the classics during the school year – baseball, basketball, soccer, track. The child who lives for those sports is sure to find a fun summer camp where they can hone their skills and make friends. But through summer camps, children can also learn new sports and give their growing bodies new forms of exercise. There are camps offering ATV sports, lacrosse, martial arts, paintball, ultimate Frisbee, weightlifting, yoga, rowing, fishing and much more.
- Creative arts. Whether in the woods or on college campuses, summer camps help children build their talents for self-expression through acting, animation, cooking, photography, drawing and painting, music, sewing and woodworking.
- Environmental sciences. The child who tends to a wounded bird or delights in bringing frogs into the house can find the ideal summer camp. Future foresters, marine biologists, veterinarians and herpetologists (experts in snakes and frogs and such) can explore the earth and its wonders to their hearts’ delight.
- Disabilities and other special needs. The best thing about summer camps is they let kids be kids – a crucial matter for children with disabilities, emotional/behavioral issues or illnesses. Whether children are on the autism spectrum, have had organ transplants, struggle with obesity or have mobility limitations, the right summer camp can put them in a circle of kids just like them, in a place where they are free to be themselves.
4. Children Learn Independence and Leadership Skills
Children with a full toolbox of social-emotional skills grow into independent adults and leaders. That toolbox should hold self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
That’s a lot to pile into daily life. Who has time to teach kids community building, goal setting or problem-solving when there are class assignments to finish and dance class or sports practice to attend?
This is how summer camp helps. Summer camps make social-emotional learning a centerpiece of every day. Summer camp is good for kids because it:
- Expands your child’s social circle. For some kids, camp might be the first time they encounter children from backgrounds different from theirs.
- Allows children to find their own friends. Through icebreakers, cabin groups and activities, children learn to seek out and make friends.
- Accepts silliness and rejects bullying. Camp counselors have the time to set and enforce norms. Bullying and teasing, they make clear, are unacceptable. But goofy games and songs? Bring it on.
- Breaks away from technology. At many camps, phones and computers are restricted. Without social media, children learn to send and receive social cues in real life.
- Builds teamwork and sportsmanship. Camp counselors are trained to project the same qualities, such as cooperation and friendship, they expect from the campers.
At summer camp, kids learn to solve problems on their own. With so many daily activities to choose from, they find new passions and discover that they can overcome their fears, maybe by climbing a rock or singing in front of a group. Suddenly, they’re succeeding at things and finding skills they never knew they had. And days often start or end with reflection – a rare opportunity to think about what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown.
How to Start Preparing Your Student for Camp
Once parents know why summer camp is good for kids, they can begin searching for the right fit. If you’re interested in signing your kids up for summer camp, here are tips to get started.
Involve Your Kids in the Decision
If you believe your kids are ready for camp, sit them down and talk about what sort of camp is right for them. Because your kids are the ones who will be spending time at the camp, it’s important to include them in the decision. Asking them where they want to go helps ensure they enjoy their summer.
Decide What Kind of Camp to Attend
There are plenty of camps to discover. Ask other parents, or visit the American Camp Association for a detailed guide to selecting camps by location, activities, religious and cultural affiliation, age, gender, special needs and cost. No matter what your child is looking for, there’s an option for everyone.
Some special needs camps modify activities to the campers’ needs to challenge kids without overwhelming them. Other parents seek traditional, inclusive settings where programs are designed to accommodate children with special needs.
No matter which type of camp you choose, your child will leave feeling more confident and independent.
Camp is Fun for Teenagers, Too
Summer camps are just as fun for teenagers as they are for younger children. If you have teenagers, ask them if they would like to go to camp. As they zero in on the passions they want to pursue after graduation, they can find camps tailored to their unique interests. They can learn new techniques in the creative arts, hone their academics in a particular field or take competitive sports to the next level. It’s also a chance to make friends who share their interests.
Visit the Camp
Maybe the kids are interested in camp but seem nervous. Then it might be time for a family road trip to visit the camp before summer starts. If you aren’t close enough to drive there, take a virtual tour on the camp’s website, and schedule calls so you can ask officials lots of questions. This will allow you and your child to get a feel for the preferred camp and what it has to offer.
Of course, maybe you’re the nervous one. Maybe you think your child isn’t ready for days and nights away from home. Don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal. Once you hear your kids gushing about all the friends they made and the fun they had, you’ll know you made the right choice.
Why Summer Camp Is Good for Kids of All Ages
In case you’re wondering about the benefits of summer camp for cyber school students, Commonwealth Charter Academy has you covered. With more than 500 educational and social field trips a year across Pennsylvania, students experience the joy of socialization and hands-on, real-world learning. Plus, more than two dozen school clubs give kids the chance to dive into their passions with like-minded friends.
Of course, school and summer camp are two different things, but Commonwealth Charter Academy has something very important in common with summer camps. We believe that learning is about more than academics. It’s about teaching independence, socialization, resilience, responsibility and leadership. After all, this is how school should work. Learn how CCA supports socialization and personalized learning for all our students.