The relevance of summer camp in today’s world

Our world today could be described as fast-paced, troubled in part, technologically advanced, socially-challenged and competitive to name a few, so it may be difficult to find relevance in a traditional, outdoor, no technology allowed, happy-clappy summer camp for our growing children. How is it that these seemingly opposed environments are so much more relevant and valuable in a child’s life today, than ever before?

These generations will inevitably inherit the economic, social and environmental challenges that past and current generations have created. Therefore, the skills these children will need to master will be the art of critical thinking and problem solving as they tackle the challenges they face into adulthood. Developing these skills within the constraints of their everyday lives becomes increasingly hard as they work on dictated curriculums at school and have less opportunity for creative expression and spontaneity.

The true camp experience engages children in activities in which they are the planners, the implementers and the evaluators. The decisions they make as individuals and as part of a larger community have a direct impact upon themselves and others. These children are required to seek answers, try new things and experience new emotions. Children learn that it is ok to feel uncomfortable sometimes, working through excitement and anxiety, the result is an ‘I CAN’ attitude. These are the people we need our children to be to progress and have a positive impact in the wider world.

At camp, children are exposed to the best in human characteristics. Counselors are carefully selected to be the best role models for our children at a critical time in their growth and development. Children are highly influenced by these remarkable role models whose impact upon a child’s thinking, behaviour and attitude can be amazingly touching. The children see firsthand what it is to inspire, motivate, connect and relate. This is powerful and positive exposure outside the realms of school and parent, often viewed by the child as critical. The impact is long lasting success and achievement.

If we refer back to where we started, how is the camp experience at all relevant in the fast-paced lives of our future generations? The camp experience allows the freedom to be creative and explore that begins to shape and mold these critical thinking skills that will prepare the next generation to rise to the challenges that lie ahead and be heard!

Children need camp now more than ever!

They say the happiest place on earth is Disneyland. They’re wrong. It’s camp.” – Taken from Summer Camp Confessions.

All of us busy families feel that enormous competition for our children’s time throughout the school year and summer vacation as we juggle day trips, beach trips, play dates, swim meets, sports practice, work, household management; the list is endless and the schedule is manic! It would be a good idea to hop off that runaway train occasionally and re-evaluate some of those habitual decisions we make for our children’s time. The summer school vacation is one of the most treasured and precious moments in our children’s lives that they never get back. With this knowledge it would be good to consider the value of the camp experience.

Driving in to the camp road on the first day feels like you’re dreaming.” – Taken from Camp Life Confessions.

There is something truly magical about summer camps. Whilst at camp children are away from the social structures of home and school, enabling them to be who they really are. At camp children see a world of possibilities not open to them in everyday life. By investing in the summer camp experience we are investing in the growth of a young person and there can be no better opportunity.

So let’s cut to the chase: what can the summer camp experience give your child that they are not already getting in their busy lives? The camp environment is unique in that it creates a space where children learn to live together, they must respect and look after one another. During these developmental years where growth and change is profound, the children can make choices.

Children learn to take self control and make decisions within a controlled and safe environment. Whilst the decision may only be what to eat, what to wear, whether to play soccer or swim, these are the important first steps towards independence and active learning. Your child will feel empowered and responsible. Our children spend so much of their time being told what to do, how to behave, or where to be, and little if no time is allowed for them to just be themselves. We cannot always allow our children the freedom to flourish, even if we know we should. It is our job to help our children to thrive without us, and camp helps these skills to develop in the best possible environment.

There are endless opportunities for children to learn powerful lessons within a community. They interact face to face in meaningful situations around the camp fire, whilst sharing in collaboration on an activity, all powerful and profound opportunities.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Children have fun like never before and become masters of their own decisions. We must not disregard these experiences as frivolous. Play is a work, a context in which they can be creative and explore. A child who has truly experienced fun in their youth makes for a healthy adult and all the better for making the decisions without Mom and Dad.

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” – Fred Rogers

So stop and think again about your hectic schedule for the summer vacation, have you allowed time for your child to just take time out from prescriptive activities and continuous schedules inflicted upon them by external factors. Make that change and let your child to explore the wonderful world of camp and all it has to offer them. Give them the chance to embrace opportunities that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Let’s give our children fond memories lasting a lifetime and develop skills that will enable them to tackle the wider world into the future.