For most people, summer camp is just something they did for a couple of weeks as a kid but for many it was much more than that. As someone who has experienced summer camp as both a camper and a counselor, I can tell you that it will not only give the parents a rest but can also change a kid’s life for the better.
Summer camp gave me the confidence to be a stay-at-home dad and to self-publish a book based on the games and activities that filled my summers. A website was created to promote the book but What To Do With The Kids is now a big part of my professional life and reaches people from around the world.
Summer camp was a great experience for me as a kid growing up in a government town and has created some life-long friends and memories. With that in mind, here are my top 10 reasons why you should send your kid to summer camp:
- It gets them out of town
For kids living in a city, there aren’t many parks and the parks that are there are not very big and are usually crowded. If you’re lucky there’s a swimming pool or splash pad nearby and for those living in a house, the backyard can get boring and if you live in a new house, chances are your backyard is the size of a postage stamp. Kids in smaller towns can also get bored with the limited amount of activities available.
Most summer camps are located outside cities and surrounded by trees near lakes or rivers. The air is cleaner and the noise is all natural. It’s a nice change for kids whose only exposure to wildlife is squirrels, pigeons and maybe the odd rat.
- It gets them away from their family
Yes you love them, and the kids love you too and it may sound cruel but everyone can use a break at least once. Being away from home can also give kids an appreciation of what they have.
- It gives them a sense of independence
For most kids, this will be the first time they travel anywhere without their parents and that can be exciting for them. There will be rules to follow but it’s different when mom and dad aren’t around. They’ll be with other kids and chances are the counselors are not that much older since they are most likely high school or college age, so it won’t feel like they’re at home with their parents. For many kids it’s like being paroled from the routine of home and school.
- It exposes them to different people
Most summer camps attract kids of different races, religions and economic standing from different parts of your city and even from different cities all together. It provides an opportunity to meet and discover other kids regardless of what their background is, what school they go to and where they’re from.
- They can be themselves
At school and with their friends, a lot of kids can feel the pressure of acting like everyone else but a good camp program lets kids be themselves. They can be who they are and the only acting they’ll have to worry about is during the campfire skit!
- They can learn new skills
The most important thing I ever learned at summer camp was to swim and that’s a skill that every kid should learn. Learning to swim allowed me to learn other skills such as canoeing, a bit of sailing and how to keep safe near water.
The field sports program that I ran as a counselor introduced kids to sports that they may not have had a chance to learn at home such as volleyball, basketball, badminton and softball just to name a few. For many, it was the first time they ever got to play and learn about a different sport.
One of the more popular areas of a summer camp program is the crafts. Some camps still make the traditional key chain and bracelet but a lot of programs teach drawing, painting and sculpting that they may not get to try at home or would want to admit to be interested in to their friends. For a lot of kids, it’s a chance to discover their artistic abilities.
- Learn life skills
Life skills are something that many kids learn without realizing it. Simple daily procedures such as cleaning their cabin or tent, making their bed, setting the dining table for a meal and cleaning up afterwards are habits that can carry on after they leave camp.
The kids will learn teamwork and cooperation since they’ll be participating in a group or as “a cabin.” The “all for one and one for all” philosophy works wonders at summer camp and can help make your kids become more confident and out-going.
They may also pick up a few good habits as well. A number of parents have told me that their kids would start helping to clear the table after meals and make their beds, at least for a little while.
- It gets them active
Summer camp is filled with activities that involve running, swimming, hiking and of course playing. There are also times in the day where kids can just relax but the sign of a good camp experience is when the kids are tired but happy at the end of the day.
- Everything is low tech
The majority of summer camps have a “no electronics” policy that may be harsh for some kids but is a great way to help them realize that they can live without it for a little while. If the kids ask, tell them that all camp activities are in “real-time” and are “interactive.” There is no “delete” or “return” button so they may have to try doing something again and again.
Announcements are made in the dining hall live and in person. There are no texts, emails or Snapchats so messages are passed on to each other by actually speaking to another person.
The only hi-tech item they should have is a flashlight.
- It creates memories
As a camper and as a councillor, I learned a lot of new skills and a lot about myself and others at summer camp. There are people that I can picture exactly how they looked over 30 years ago and moments that have helped make me who I am today.
It’s great to meet up with old friends and a real treat to be recognized by a former camper who can recall a fun moment so many years ago. It’s also quite special when these campers are now adults, speak fondly of their time at camp and a gives me a great feeling of knowing that I was a part of it.
There are a lot of private camps and camps that are operated by churches or non-profit groups who can help you send your kids regardless of your financial situation. As a camper, my fees were subsidized so my parents could afford to send me but when I was up there, I was just one of the kids.
Specialty camps are very popular and day camps in the city are fun but getting out of town and going to a traditional summer camp is an experience that every kid should have once.
They may not come back with all their socks and towels but they will have memories that can last a lifetime.
Brian Presley is a former camper, counselor and program director at Camp Minwassin located near Eganville, Ontario. He is also a semi-retired stay-at-home dad and the owner of whattodowiththekids.com, the website that adults go to when they want to know what to do with the kids. Other articles about summer camps can be found at www.whattodowiththekids.com.