For some people, summer camp was just something they did for a couple of weeks as a kid but for many, overnight summer camp was much more than that. As someone who has experienced summer camp as both a camper and a counsellor, I can tell you that overnight camp will not only give you a rest but can also change your kid’s life for the better. Summer camp gave me the confidence to be a stay-at-home dad and self-publish a book based on the games and activities that filled my summers as a child. A website was created to promote the book but What To Do With The Kids, whattodowiththekids.com, is now a big part of my professional life and reaches people from around the world. As a kid growing up in a government town, summer camp was a great experience for me and has created some lifelong friends and memories.
Here are my top 10 reasons why you should send your kid to overnight summer camp:
1. It gets them out of town. Overnight 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 city kids whose only exposure to wildlife is typically squirrels and pigeons.
2. It gets them away from the family. Yes, you love your child, and your child loves you, too, and it may sound cruel, but everyone can use a break at least once during the year. Being away from home can also give your child a greater appreciation for what they have at home.
3. 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 very exciting for them. At camp, 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 counsellors are not that much older than them since they are most likely high school or university-age, so for your child, it won’t feel like they’re at home with you. For many kids, it’s like being paroled from the routine of home and school.
4. It exposes them to different people. Most summer camps attract kids of different races, religions, and economic backgrounds from different parts of your city and even from different cities, too. Summer camp provides your child the opportunity to meet and interact with other kids, regardless of what their background is, what school they go to, and where they’re from.
5. 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!
6. They learn new skills. The most important thing I learned at summer camp was how to swim and that’s a skill that every kid should learn. Learning how to swim allowed me to learn other skills such as canoeing, a bit of sailing, and how to keep safe near water.
As a camp counsellor, the field sports program that I ran introduced kids to sports they may not have had a chance to learn at home, such as volleyball, basketball, badminton, and softball - just to name a few sports. For many kids at the camp, it was the first time they had the chance to learn about and play a different sport.
One of the more popular areas of a summer camp program is the making of crafts. Some camps still make the traditional key chains and bracelets, but a lot of camp programs now teach the kids drawing, painting, and sculpting which, again, they may not get to try at home or would want to admit to their friends that they are interested in. For a lot of these kids, it’s a chance to discover their artistic abilities.
7. They learn life skills. Life skills are something many kids learn without realizing it. Simple daily procedures at overnight camp, such as cleaning their cabin or tent, making their bed, setting the dining table for a meal and cleaning up afterward are habits that 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 your child become more confident and outgoing.
They may also pick up a few good habits at camp, as well. A number of parents have told me that after their child came home from camp, they started helping to clear the table after meals and make their bed - at least for a little while.
8. It gets them physically active. Overnight summer camp is filled with physical activities that involve running, swimming, hiking and, of course, playing. There are also times in the day where the 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.
9. Everything is low tech. The majority of overnight summer camps have a ‘no electronics’ policy that may be harsh for some kids but is a great way to help them realize they can live without their phone or tablet for a little while. If your child asks, 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 physically speaking to another person. The only hi-tech item your child should bring to camp is a flashlight.
10. It creates memories. As a camper and a camp counsellor, 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 at camp that have helped shaped me into who I am today. It’s great to meet up with old friends from summer camp, and it’s a real treat to be recognized by former campers who can recall fun moments from so many years ago. It’s also quite special when these campers, now adults, speak fondly of their time at summer camp, and it gives me a great feeling of knowing I was a part of that.
There are a lot of camps that can help you send your kid to summer camp, regardless of your financial situation. As a camper, my fees were subsidized so my parents could afford to send me to summer camp and when I was at camp, I was just one of the kids. In my opinion, getting out of town and going to a traditional summer camp is an experience that every kid should have. Your child may not come back with all of their socks and towels, but they will have great memories that last a lifetime.
Brian is a former camper, counsellor, 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. To read more articles about summer camp, visit whattodowiththekids.com.
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