There’s no denying the energy pulsing through Northeast Ohio these days. Everywhere you look there are cool things to do and see.This has only increased the competition for our children’s time and attention during the summer. Between sports practices, music lessons, family vacations, summer academics, and more, it’s harder than ever to determine the right fit for each child and for families to fit it all in.
Technology helps us organize increasingly busy lives, and can be a huge asset for parents scheduling a myriad of summer activities. Despite the benefits, there may be a downside to the prominent role technology now plays in most families’ lives. With 42% of children under 8 having their own tablet and 98% living in households with a smartphone, children spend more and more time in front of a screen, at the expense of time spent playing with peers and exploring the world around them.
Not to be forgotten amongst all this technology and change is the humble summer camp experience. Traditional camp provides children with unique opportunities. Directed by a community of carefully trained, caring role models who nurture connections between campers, children grow and play in our natural world. According the the American Camping Association (ACA), 90% of ACA accredited camps do not permit cell phones at camp. Camp is a place where children can be freed from the distractions of technology. Doing so enables them to develop important social and relational skills. The activities and experiences at camp are hands-on and happen face-to-face.
Children come to camp from different communities and backgrounds, exposing one another to new cultures and experiences. Campers can paddle a canoe, shoot an arrow, climb a tree, go for a hike, and explore much more. They experience success, frustration, teamwork, failure, excitement, and joy. Through shared experience at camp, children learn empathy and tolerance.
Camp develops a sense of autonomy in children. By choosing what activities they’ll do, who they become friends with, and even what they wear, children at camp are able to make their own decisions in a safe environment. Camp memories are forever, because, for campers, it is the first time they feel truly independent.
Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods has highlighted the disconnect between children and nature. He writes of the importance of contact with nature for healthy development. Camp is fundamentally an outdoor experience. Camps seek to inspire in their campers a deep connection to the splendor of the natural world, as well as a sense of stewardship of nature. Taking a hike and exploring a forest, stream, prairie, or field can make a lifelong impression.
The instinct to protect our children is rightfully a strong one and it can be hard to see kids grow up, but this is our hope and goal as parents: that our children become independent, caring, responsible adults. Camp offers a safe and intentional environment for children to grow and become all we hope for them — all while having fun!
— Submitted by Red Oak Camp, located in Kirtland. For more information, visit www.redoakcamp.org.
To learn more about adventures and opportunities for the kids at summer camp, please join us at Northeast Ohio Parent’s Camp Fair on January 27, 2018. Learn more and register here