Today’s post is a guest post from Ariella Rogge from Sanborn Camps on the fun benefits of sending your kiddos to camp.
I am OVER parental anxiety. Especially my own. The only time I am safe from my self-imposed demons is in late May before—or even AT—the end-of-school party when I can confidently say, “Yep, this summer L is going to camp.” After, on average, 1.2 positive murmurs someone says, “I could NEVER send my Precious Athernon to summer camp! I couldn’t bear to lose that much time with him.” Apparently Athernon has achieved the rare distinction of being The Only 11 Year Old Boy Who Is Constantly Engaging, Exciting, and Perfectly Pleasant. Most children, mine included, are Holy Terrors from Whom Mommy Needs a Break.
Camp is great for kids. The camp environment provides a safe place to engage in and learn from personal choices. By allowing campers to choose their activities and their own experiences, a child is a) empowered to make her own decision; b) open himself up to the experience—good or bad; c) be able to grow in the knowledge that “I made a good choice on my own…” or “Next time, I’m going to try something different.” This process is an essential life skill because it engenders responsibility and perseverance in a child.
This increased personal responsibility helps campers both at camp and at home. Many parents tell camp professionals that the independence and confidence their children gain at camp allow them to “break out” of unhealthy peer groups, habits, and behavior patterns when they return home. Whining, apathy, and uncooperative attitudes in some children seem to vanish overnight after they live and play in an environment that “expects good” from them. The camp environment allows childre to see the benefit of healthy behaviors like patience, inclusion, empathy, joy, laughter, self-reflection, independent thinking, problem solving, and more.
The best part of learning these essential life skills at camp is that it is not a didactic experience—it is something the campers are DOING day in and day out. They learn to associate success and confidence with the physical movement of their bodies as they climb high mountain peaks. They enjoy the space and freedom of the outdoors while learning proper horsemanship techniques in the alpine valleys and Aspen groves. They walk, hike, run, and share as they go to meals, play games, explore the natural world, and connect with other people and the world around them. These experiences create a foundation of health and connection to nature that can quickly become a lifestyle.
But will I miss the constant “Mommy, will you play with me?” refrain of long summer days? Maybe…but they will get more out of playing at camp. Research suggests that free play–especially in nature—is essential to cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. Play is linked to growth in memory, self-regulation, oral language, and recognizing symbols. It is linked to higher levels of school adjustment and increased social development as well as to increased literacy skills.
Free play happens when children create their own agenda and play together undirected by adults. This kind of play is more likely to occur in the natural world because there are so many variables to stimulate creativity and discovery. Camp is an ideal setting for free play because, while many activities are organized and directed by counselors, there are multiple times each day when young people can explore together and create imaginative scenarios while the adults either watch over them or actively engage in the child-driven play.
I love that my son goes to camp. As soon as his brother is old enough, he will go too. On top of all of the personal growth and development I see in him, the time away from home reminds us both how much we love and appreciate each other. For those moments and that kind of growth, I will continue to ship him off to summer camp….plus I can finally clean out his closet while he is gone.
Do you allow your small people to head off to summer camp? What do you love about it?