There must be some very compelling reasons why parents send kids away to resident summer camp because millions of families go through this ritual every year. Put simply, resident camp helps kids grow up to be well-rounded individuals. Camp instills some valuable healthy habits in young people and above all gives kids a sense of belonging and independence.
A well-organized, professional camp is structured to expose campers to a wide variety of experiences. Most importantly, campers are away from home and their normal support structure. As scary as this separation can be, it allows children to explore their social skills, make friends in an atmosphere of emotional safety, and encourages them to think for themselves. Add to that the fact that, at resident camp, chores are a standard part of a camper’s day, you can begin to see a whole list of positive benefits that can emerge from the camp experience. This doesn’t even address the tremendous role models that a camp provides and the skills that can be learned including swimming, riding a horse, building a fire, and speaking/singing/performing in front of a group. www.pbskids.org recently listed the following reasons that a child might choose to go to camp:
To meet new people
To try new things
To challenge yourself
To appreciate nature
To get a change of scenery
To learn new skills
To get healthy
To have fun.
The only addition to the list would be “All of the above!”
The word that best describes the kids that go to sleepaway camp is “resilient.” It can be hard for parents to acknowledge that there are tremendous growth opportunities that our children can only really take advantage of when we are willing to let them go. Resident Camp is one of the last things that children really do by themselves and without a cell phone lifeline to Mom and Dad. Along with the camp’s adult staff, kids figure out the available resources, work out how to overcome minor discomforts and inconveniences, live together in a rustic tent or cabin, share chores, and build skills in a variety of activities, all without parental input. This gives kids a huge sense of “I can do it” and there is no doubt this pays off at home and school. Resident camp directors hear stories of kids being more polite, more helpful, more independent, better able to stand up for themselves, and better able to advocate for their own needs. And the wonderful thing about resident camp is, most kids love it. They get all of these benefits, and never stop asking to go back. What more can a parent ask for?
Andrew Townsend is the Director of Kennolyn Camps in Santa Cruz, CA. Kennolyn offers a traditional Resident Camp as well as Day Camp and Family Camp. Kennolyn has been a Bay Area favorite since 1946. Kennolyn is accredited by the American Camp Association. www.kennolyncamps.com 831 479 6714.