The Summer holidays can be seemingly endless when you have young children and teenagers to entertain, so it’s no surprise Summer camp has become a popular choice for many families across the world. According to the American Camp Association, over 11 million children and adults attend camps over the summer in America alone!
So with so many people choosing to send their children to camp each Summer, are camps just a convenient form of summer entertainment, or is there something more behind what the camp experience can offer your child?
After running our own camp for over 10 years now, we’ve seen some of the great benefits that Summer camp has for children and young people. It has everything rolled into one, it is an opportunity for children to play and have fun out of school as they should, as well as for them to learn new skills or even a new subject, and keep them entertained in the process! Summer camp also has numerous health benefits, and the best part is that children want to go to camp because it’s fun, and the positive outcomes just happen along the way.
Here are our top 6 reasons to send your child to camp.
1. Improving social skills and building new friendships
On every camp we have run, the friendships and connections formed during camp between both campers and campers and staff have been some of the most impacting memories of those camps, and never is this so evident as on the last day of camp when children are often in tears saying goodbye to new friends.
Camp is its own unique environment away from school where children are able to take a ‘crash course’ in social skills with a new group of people. The Canadian Summer Camp Research project has shown that camp significantly develops children’s emotional intelligence, which includes recognising, understanding and managing emotions, and is a key component in future success.
2. Leading an active outdoor lifestyle
One of the most challenging aspects of childhood for today’s parents is keeping children active and healthy. It’s harder than ever for children to stay active and outdoors especially in urban areas, and this generation of children now spend less time outdoors than any other previous generation.
Enter Camp. Often in rural setting such as our own camp in Verbier, Switzerland, children are able to safely explore the great outdoors and the natural world with their peers, whilst under the guidance of camp leaders. Physical activity is often in the form of fun and games, teaching children an active lifestyle without them even realising it, which they are then more likely to take back to their home life. With numerous health benefits including increased physical fitness and a healthy body weight, active children are also better able to concentrate, do better in school and have fewer behavioural problems.
3. Unplugging from technology
Our children are more reliant on technology for entertainment and schoolwork than ever, and almost every child that comes to camp will have an iPad, iPhone, iPod or laptop, and many more will spend hours watching TV or playing video games in their free time back at home. Although technology can have huge benefits, spending some time without it is essential, but it can often be difficult to convince children of that!
At camp, children are only allowed limited access to their mobiles and other devices in free-time, meaning that they can be fully engaged in activities and truly ‘switch off’ from the digital world. Learning they can be away from their technology, have fun and engage with their peers helps kids to realise that there is a world beyond video games and they will be much more inclined to be active, continue their new hobbies and get off the sofa when back at home!
4. Improving confidence and self-esteem
Camp is an environment where children are introduced to new tasks and activities, that they may not be familiar with and may not believe they can succeed at. Campers are encouraged to go outside of their comfort zone and take part in activities such as talent performances, high ropes courses or fire building. In a supportive environment of their peers and camp leaders, they learn that it is OK to try and fail, and with every success, their confidence and self-belief grows.
This new found independence, resilience and self-esteem transfers not only into activities at camp, but in school and their home life children will be happier to take on new activities or challenges in areas or school subjects where they previously had little self-belief in their own ability.
5. Building leadership skills
Leadership at camp can be learned in many ways, as in the less-adult driven world of summer camp, children have to complete activities in their social groups whether that be with their bunk-mates, during activities or in free-time. Campers rely on each other to cooperate and complete an activity, and in that process they learn to have a voice in that group, and discover the skills and qualities that make them good leaders.
Children at camp are also given the opportunities learn to take initiative, whether that is helping a younger camper find their way or who is struggling with an activity, struggling with understanding instructions in a second language, or simply cleaning their rooms without being asked.
6. Improving their ‘World-view’
Especially at international camps such as our own, children will meet and form friendships with those outside their normal social circle at school or at home, who are often from different cities or countries and may even speak a different language. This helps widen their world-view and helps children to be open-minded, and also gain an interest and first-hand knowledge of other cultures they may otherwise never have been exposed to. Often children will return year after year to camp simply to reunite with their friends that may live on the other side of the world!