What’s So Great about Summer Camp?
Kids who are fortunate enough to go to summer camp are lucky indeed. Assuming that the program is safe and well run, summer camp can open a whole new world of friendship, interests, skills, and independence for your child. Whether camp is a day program offered by the local recreation department or of the “sleep away” variety, whether your child goes for one week or four, there are opportunities at camp that simply aren’t available in most schools.
If you were lucky enough to go to camp when you were young, you already know the many ways that camp lets a child step out of everyday life and try on something new. Take a moment to remember camp as a:
Time without pressure. For many children, school means pressure. Pressure to achieve. Pressure to do things “on time.” Pressure to learn at someone else’s pace. Some children seem to be wired to meet these challenges, while others are not. Children who absorb knowledge best through words and employ standard logic to solve problems shine in American schools. Kids who are focused and self-directed can extract a wonderful education from even a mediocre teaching environment. But, for many others — creative thinkers or those with artistic temperaments, for example — the pace and the demands of the school setting are overwhelming and, for some, ultimately defeating. For them, camp is a breathing space in which the pressure is off. At camp, they have a chance to feel good about who they are and what they can do.
Time that rewards less common learning styles. There are many kids who access the world through sight and sound or through use of their bodies. These are the kids who love to get messy, who prefer the language of movement and art to the language of words, kids who need to “take the time it takes” to do something rather than fit the activity into someone else’s schedule. Camp makes room for their nonlinear approach to learning and life.
Still other kids find it difficult to focus for long periods of time or are easily distracted. The variety of activities and the less restrictive policies of camps allow them to find success in their own way of organizing the day.
Time to experiment with new skills. Good camps encourage kids to try new things. Away from the expectations of school friends and in the freer atmosphere of summer, many kids will try out a ropes course, a wind surfboard, a new art form, or a new sport. No one from school is there to judge and, if it’s a complete bust, no one at home need ever know. More likely, summer camp gives the child the chance to develop a new skill so that he or she can come home and impress friends and family.
Time to try out a new personality. It’s really remarkable how quickly it happens. Kids often get slotted into roles within their peer group by the end of kindergarten. All the kids know who’s quiet, who’s a troublemaker, who gets teacher approval, who’s cool, and who just isn’t. Unless something truly cataclysmic happens, kids are stuck with their assigned roles in the school social order until graduation.
Sometimes the life-altering event is camp. At camp, no one knows where a child stands in the school hierarchy. Some kids figure out that this is an opportunity to take a different place, to perfect it, and to gather enough confidence in it to take it home. Or not. Sometimes these personality transplants turn out to be even less helpful or comfortable than what was left behind. When that happens, the child is free to leave it at camp and to try again next year.