4 Reasons You Should Send Your Kids to Summer Camp
Summer is right around the corner, and it’s time to consider what your kiddos will be doing with all that free time, while you’re focusing on earning your degree and maintaining work responsibilities. Each year, more than 14 million children attend day and residential camps in the US according to the American Camping Association (ACA). And your child should be one of them. There are four key benefits of doing so (and it’s not just so they are kept busy while you tackle your course work). We explore the benefits here.
1. Your children will become more confident
I was one of those “city kids” who was taken to camp for the first time in elementary school by the YMCA. That experience lit a fire in my heart for the great outdoors that later led me into the Boy Scouts, where I ultimately advanced all the way to an eagle scout.
You may be concerned that your child isn't ready for summer camp or doesn't have the personality best suited to enjoy camp. The fact is, camp is good for all kids. Even troubled kids or those who struggle with school can do very well in outdoor situations (Thurber, Scanlin, Scheuler, & Henderson, 2007).
You need to stop thinking in terms of who can't or shouldn't go to camp and instead look for ways they can. With over 14,000 camps to choose from, a little research on your part should highlight several opportunities your child could enjoy.
However, going away to camp for the first time can be daunting for a child. As an adult leader in the Boy Scouts, I quickly learned that the most critical aspect of preparation is for mom and dad to actually believe their child will have a wonderful experience at camp. Any discussion about camp should be upbeat and positive, focusing on fun and learning. If possible, it also helps if they can go with a friend because it makes them feel safer as they branch out to new friends and experiences.
2. You will develop better trust with your children
While summer camps provide an atmosphere that fosters growth and an environment where children begin to develop self-esteem and social skills (Tapps, Symonds, Baghurst, & Cho, 2017), kids are not the only ones who benefit from summer camps. Parents benefit from sending their child to camp, too, because they are able to establish stronger relationships built on trust with their children.
In fact, a parent's natural inclination to remain in daily contact with their children often has the opposite effect on the child's and parent's development. According to the ACA, almost 75% of camps have a technology ban and many of the rest strongly encourage children to leave their cell phones and other electronic devices at home.
3. It encourages children to connect with nature
Encouraging your child to break the rules and sneak a phone into camp so they can talk or text with you is detrimental on a variety of levels. Sneaking in an electronic device opens the door for the child to disengage with other campers and robs them of the whole experience.
Summer camp provides children with a critical opportunity to disconnect from electronics and allows them to appreciate nature, physical activity, and the bonding time with peers. Considering how little 'electronic down time' kids actually have these days, this is critical (Harris, 2015).
4. You will develop a better relationship with your kids
I have seen the relationship between parents and their children also grow while the child is away. It's good for parents and kids to have some space from each other from time to time, and camp provides a good opportunity for emotional growth that may not occur at home.
As children continue to grow into becoming young adults, it is important for them to feel independent and have self-confidence, but even more important is having a strong and healthy relationship with their parents. While it may seem that the archery, swimming, theater, dance, acting, and art camps may just be for fun, your relationship with your child also grows in a positive direction. When your child comes home from day camp or a weeklong resident camp, they will be excited to see you and tell you about all of the friends they made, the fun activities they participated in, and what they learned. Your child will bring you into their life on a deeper emotional level, which will create stronger bonds as the child grows into young adulthood.
Research shows that after sending their kids to camp, parents report seeing growth in their kids in the areas of leadership, positive values and decision making, positive identity, making friends, spirituality, environmental awareness, social comfort, independence, peer relationships, and adventure/exploration (Henderson, Whitaker, Bialeschki, Scanlin, & Thurber, 2007). Summer camp experiences have the potential to create wonderful memories that will last a lifetime, but they also can improve your child’s self-esteem and enhance your overall relationship with your kids.
Written by Dr. Dallas Stout, PsyD., who has worked in the Southern California non-profit community for most of the last 25 years. Dr. Stout is also on the faculty of Ashford University, California State University Fullerton and Brigham Young University Idaho where he teaches a variety of undergrad and graduate courses.
American Camping Association. Retrieved from: www.acacamps.org
Harris, M. (2015). The end of absence: Reclaiming what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection. New York: Penguin.
Henderson, K.A., Whitaker, L.S., Bialeschki, M.D., Scanlin, M.M., & Thurber, C. (2007). Summer camp experiences: Parental perceptions of youth development outcomes. Journal of Family Issues, 28(8), 987-1007.
Tapps, T., Symonds, M., Baghurst, T., & Cho, D. (2017). Recreation camp attendance: A way to develop social skills?. Journal of the Oklahoma Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 54(2), 89-98.
Thurber, C.A., Scanlin, M.M., Scheuler, L., & Henderson, K.A. (2007). Youth development outcomes of the camp experience: Evidence for multidimensional growth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36, 241-254.