Summer may seem far away, but it’s never too early to start planning, especially when it comes to figuring out just what your bored kids are going to do all day once school’s out.
Hint: summer camp is probably their top pick. And you, for once, can agree with them. Whether a daytime-only or a sleepaway program, the American Camp Association reports camp is a unique educational institution and a positive force in youth development.
Here are just a few of the many benefits summer camp could bring:
1. Fills the Education Gap
We all want to combat the dreaded “summer slide” — the tendency for students to forget knowledge gained during the school year. At camp, they exercise their brains and learn new skills every day, says Rachel Felber, director at Camp Wise. “Activities like horseback riding, pottery, sports, dance and fire building promote skill development ranging from analytical thinking, public speaking, creative expression, teamwork and conflict management.”
Leah Owens, education specialist at Akron Zoo, adds, “Informal learning experiences, like those you have at ZooCamps, often have a deeper impact than formal learning settings like school.”
2. Promotes an Active Lifestyle
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 60 minutes of daily physical activity for youth, but 76 percent fall short, according to a 2018 report card.
A camp schedule can get kids off the couch with naturally active pursuits that don’t feel like monotonous exercise.
“Quests to save the kingdom, team events like color wars and Olympics are common themes that keep campers moving,” says Dan Reynolds, director of camp services at Akron Area YMCA.
Add bonus points for fitness or sports camps.
3. Reduces Screen Time
It’s no secret that kids (well, all of us) spend too much time staring at screens. Although technology is a positive enhancement in our lives, an excess can lead to eye strain, disturbed sleep patterns, obesity and inadequate social contact.
“Camps offer children time to disconnect from technology and connect to others,” says Reynolds. With a full menu of engaging activities, a much-needed digital detox is easy in the summer camp setting.
4. Develops Social-Emotional Skills
Along with decreased distracting device time comes a boost in social life and psychosocial development.
Campers often admit there’s a weight off their shoulders, Felber says. “Rather than worrying about their next Instagram story or keeping up a Snapchat streak, they’re focused on the meaningful interactions they’re having each day.”
A sense of belonging is built while singing silly camp songs, going on hikes and completing team challenges. Many forge friendships that last far beyond summer. Through group dynamics and navigating new relationships, kids also learn to solve relational issues and cope with conflict.
5. Fosters Independence
Kids and teens need a chance to reinvent themselves in a new environment without a parent helicoptering over them. Any homesickness is quickly replaced by a strong sense of self as they discover new passions and conquer manageable challenges like getting through a ropes course, creating art, performing in a skit and participating in competitions.
“The positive impact summer camp experiences have on a child can influence their future and help them make decisions about what they want to do when they get older,” Owens says.
In the group environment, they also learn to negotiate, collaborate and accept guidance. These are all important skills to carry into adult life.
6. Gives Parents a Break
Let’s not forget the very real relief of not having to hear “Mom, I’m bored!” all season long. Everybody wins!
LJ is a mom of three who’s hoping for a relatively quiet summer while her boys have a blast at camp.