Summer camp is about more than splashing in a lake, tie-dying T-shirts and singing songs.
It’s a time to make friends. To build self-confidence and to learn new skills.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that splashing and singing are not of utmost importance when you’re a kid.
“There’s a lot being said lately for the need for our children to be outdoors,” says Ann Sheets, president of the American Camp Association. “There’s also the need for creative free play … Camp is a safe environment where children can get that exposure to nature. They can be outdoors. They can engage in play.”
Plus, spending a few days or a week or two at summer camp is a way to step out of the bounds of school, meet new people and try new things, Sheets says.
“One of the great things about being at camp is that everyone is kind of at the same level,” she says. “You’re not known by what school you went to or whether you’re the smart kid or the jock. You all start out the same. You’re just campers, which is pretty exciting.”
And with that level playing field, kids have more freedom to try a new activity – basketweaving, anyone?
“This is a wonderful opportunity for taking risks that are safe,” she says. “Children can certainly become more independent at camp.”
In a survey conducted by ACA a few years ago, 70 percent of parents said their children gained self-confidence while away at camp. And nearly all of the kids polled said they met new friends at summer camp.
Says Sheets: “There’s so much growth that can take place.”