Our 7-year-old, Kati Ann, was at Winshape camp last week. I’ve been involved with camp for close to 25 years as a camper, counselor, or director and now for the first time as the parent of a camper. I saw camp from a whole new perspective as the parent and this new vantage point only further validated to me that camp is important for everyone involved and here is why:
1. Learn Independence–life skills, memories made apart from parents.
Parent, your job is to help your child get ready to leave & that starts from birth. Teach your child how to navigate situations apart from you and then give them an opportunity to try it out. Camp is a great place to do that.
What kind of camp would it be if you were there by yourself? Shared experiences and similar goals promote teamwork. Learning to overcome difficulties together is a great life skill. It also instills a healthy confidence.
3. Focused Time on a Particular Skill or Theme
Camp creates an environment with a different routine that allows time to concentrate on a particular skill or theme or both. I have attended both Christian and secular camps as a camper and that focused time served me well.
4. Exposure to Positive Teenage Role Models
I’m sure there are exceptions but most camps won’t hire counselors that are losers. So, what better place for your child to be exposed to some healthy, positive role models? It is good for your child to be encouraged by and look up to someone older that is a leader.
5. Exploring new interests.
Seriously, think about it, don’t you do things at camp that you don’t necessarily get to do elsewhere? It is exposure to new stuff. They may not have known they had an affinity for horses, basketball, or knitting but camp gives them an opportunity to try new things and discover new interests.
6. Part of shared experiences and lasting memories that involve something bigger than themselves.
I’d love to say self-centeredness is just a kid-thing but I know too many adults for that to be true. However, don’t you want your child to have an experience that is bigger than just their little egocentric world? Don’t you want to them to make memories that involved other people in a positive way?
7. Structured environment
Summer is laid back. That’s what I love about it. However, having the structured environment of camp helps children to learn to function in a societal system. It helps them appreciate order. Being relaxed is great but so is structure.
Breathing fresh air is important and lots of kids don’t do it enough. Shoot, most adults don’t do it enough. It is good to sweat, it is good to absorb nature and the world around you. Being outdoors promotes emotional, mental and physical health.
Oh man, are we ever in a digital culture? I’m not knocking it because there are lots of benefits to technology. Yet, being disconnected from social media, video games and television allows kids to learn lifelong skills they might miss with a screen in their face.
10. Rite of Passage
Camp is a rite of passage. It is a trial-period for doing life independently. Experiencing homesickness, resolving conflict, and eating camp food are all part of an experience that readies children for that time when they will be accountable for all their decisions.
A new environment, a different routine and so many new people. For some people all that new sounds exciting but for most, it makes them anxious. However, I know from experience that the more exposure we get to new situations, the better we learn to adapt to them. Camp offers children the opportunity to learn to adapt to new situations, environments and people. Adaptability is a life-skill they can and will benefit from acquiring.
Question: What has your camp experience been? What would you add to this list?
Disclaimer: Every camper’s experience is unique, but as a seasoned camper that has worked and camped at more camp sites than I can count, I can sincerely say–camp is where it’s at!