While you might be planning visits to museums and outings to the park with your children this summer, I’ll be sending my two girls to camp.
I love my children and enjoy spending time with them, but I know I can’t give them what a summer spent at camp can. I’m aware that just by being with them and helping them with their daily routines, I’m inadvertently taking away some of the important life skills I know they need to become successful adults.
Here’s why giving your child the gift of camp, whether it’s day or overnight, is one of the best experiences you could provide for your children’s social-emotional well-being.
While it’s hard for parents to accept, when we are around, children rely on us for things they can be doing for themselves. Camp encourages children to be independent.
When I went to visiting day at the day camp my 3 ½ year old goes to, I started to help her with her swim shoes for the swim demonstration until her counselor said, “She can do it on her own.” Sure enough, she put on her own shoes and I was told she put on her own bathing suit as well.
From picking out their own outfits and making their own beds at overnight camp to choosing what they want to eat for lunch at day camp, campers are learning to do things on their own.
Try New Things
Children are exposed to so many new activities at camp that they wouldn’t otherwise try. Last summer, when scrolling through the online photos that my daughter’s camp posts each week, I saw her with a harness on, suspended in the air, comfortable as could be. I later learned she was on the “Flying Squirrel,” part of the high ropes course.
All I could think was, “WOW!” My quiet, shy, five year old was taking herself out of her comfort zone and loving it. Research by the American Camp Association shows that 74% of campers said they did things at camp that at first they were afraid to do.
When children try new things and then succeed, they build confidence and feel good about themselves.
There won’t be any sitting on the couch with an iPad for my girls this summer. They will be unplugging at camp since the majority of camps have a no technology policy. Camp is truly one of the last environments where children can take a break from screens and the pressures of social media.
No phones. No social media. No Fortnite. Just campers communicating face to face on the sports field, in the pool or at arts and crafts. Campers actually just jump in the lake ONE TIME without asking a friend to take multiple photos to get that perfect Instagram shot.
Unfortunately, we are living in an age of “Snow Plow Parents” where parents are so worried about their children failing that they pave the way for their success. But as parents, we aren’t doing our children any favors. I know I struggle with holding back sending an email to the teacher about a child bothering my daughter, but I know I’m taking away the chance for my daughter to figure things out on her own, which is a skill she will need to master in her lifetime.
Camp offers children the opportunity to build resilience. Whether a camper is homesick for a few days in the beginning of camp or isn’t at first getting along with bunkmates, campers work through situations on their own, without the assistance of mom and dad to “make it all better.”
If your child is anything like my youngest daughter, her meals look something like this: pasta, grilled cheese and yogurt. I can’t get her to budge on anything green. But guess who can? Her young and cool twenty-year– old camp counselor!
There is something about a camp counselor that can encourage your child to try new foods, a new activity or to challenge your child in a way that a parent can’t. Broccoli anyone?
Children become part of a caring community at camp where children get to know people different than themselves and learn to share their living space and meals with people other than family.
My children’s counselors are from England, Scotland, Israel, Ireland and other places around the world. Campers come from different communities with families from different socio-economic backgrounds, religions and ethnicities. 93% of campers reported that camp helped them to get to know people who are different then themselves, according to a study by the American Camp Association.
There is no better environment than camp to allow your child to take those first steps towards becoming a successful, resilience and independent adult.
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