BY ANDREA EVERHART
As you try to determine whether or not camp is the right activity for your child, it helps to know the benefits as well. Not only can the knowledge aid you in your decision, prioritizing what your child or children will get from their experience can help you choose a camp that best suits them.
Children who attend camp:
The first and most obvious benefit is the sense of independence that a child gains by being on their own at camp. Although they are still in a supervised and safe environment, they are given greater responsibility in taking care of their own needs. This especially rings true in an overnight camp vs. day camp. Determining how much independence your child wishes to take on will help you choose which type of stay they are ready to enjoy.
Expand Their Palette (Literally and Figuratively!)
It’s nothing to take personally, but for a parent, it’s simply a fact: kids are more likely to try new things when you aren’t around. On a very basic level, palette expansion begins at serving time. The food offered isn’t optional, which inspires your hungry camper to try new things without the bucking and whining sometimes seen at your home dinner table. The result is that they often return home with an expanded list of what they are willing to add to their plate. On a less literal level, kids are gently pushed outside their comfort zone. As they see everyone else jumping into a lake that they would normally not venture a toe near, or planning a skit for the talent show, the positive pressure of peer groups enjoying new things draws them to dive into new adventures.
Find Their Voice
Most camps are tailored to provide multiple opportunities for decision-making, from choosing knitting over archery to trying a little stand-up on “open mic” night. Children get similar choices in school, but it is often harder for them to find their real voice under the authoritative relationship necessary for that environment. At camp, the camaraderie between a camper and his or her counselor encourages a more open and free mind. While camps still have high levels of supervision, the setting is more conducive to kids’ finding their voice—hence, finding themselves.
Pursue a Passion
With options no longer just about day camps or overnight camps and tents versus cabins, kids now have a plethora of themed camps to choose from. This is a fantastic opportunity to sharpen skills, foster curiosity and see if a ‘like’ is truly a passion. Just a few of the camp activities available include drama, sailing, marine biology (Sea World), sports, space, academics (Ferrum College provides an on-campus experience), magic, modeling, gaming, and cooking.
Gain a Sense of Pride
As your kids are trying all these new things, they are bound to develop a sense of accomplishment and pride in their achievements. Tackling a new task and realizing that you are capable is one of the most valuable takeaways from a camp experience. It encourages a sense of bravery and willing attitude.
Create a Summer Job
Campers who truly love their experience often return year after year and eventually become camp counselors. Not only is that a great environment to have your young person involved in every summer, it also provides an excellent income, can be an asset on college applications, and garners the skills needed to be a responsible adult.
Form Forever Friendships
Last but not least, the friendships that campers build by accompanying others on this wonderful journey together often last a lifetime. The camp is the perfect backdrop to bond with kids who have similar interests. It is also a valuable opportunity to connect with a broader range of people, find common ground and make connections that remain through the years.
If a camp feels out of your budget, be sure to check with the director for scholarships. Some churches and service groups offer general funding, as well, for children interested in certain types of camps.
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