April 21, 2018

Give the gift of summer camp

Observer courtesy photo by Christine Paluf, American Camp Association of New England
A counselor spots a camper on the climbing wall at Fenn Day Camp in Massachusetts.

By Bette Bussel

American Camp Association

One of the common misconceptions about summer camp is that it’s a place – that you send your child off to summer camp. Summer camp is a community built by professional educators together with the children they supervise. Within that community, children learn to make decisions and take healthy risks in a safe environment. At camp, children feel a sense of belonging. Summer camp is not about where a child is; it’s about what happens when they’re there.

Experience is the best teacher, and summer camp is one of the best (and only) remaining hands-on learning opportunities available to children. At summer camp, children are developing social skills, playing both formal and informal games, living in a natural setting and learning more about themselves both physically and emotionally. At camp, there’s no teaching to a test, every minute doesn’t have to be scheduled, and there’s time for teachable moments and exploration.

That time, however fleeting, has a lasting impact. Many individuals find that the most important and beloved people in their lives were those they befriended at summer camp.

Summer camp has never been more necessary. Academic and afterschool commitments add so much pressure to a child’s life and often take choices out of their hands. Time spent at summer camp allows campers to decompress and be themselves and to make decisions and deal with the consequences of these decisions.

There’s a common misconception that children are sent away by their rejoicing parents to summer camp, where someone else will do the work of supervising them. That’s simply not the case. Many parents choose to let their children experience summer camp because they know of the value it gives and the genuine joy it can inspire. Today’s parents experience “kidsickness” and find being at home without the children to be difficult.

Day and overnight camp experiences contribute mightily to the development of a child’s independence, responsibility and skills. Camp supplements a child’s education, and for many kids who find school difficult, it can offer them a new venue where they might thrive and embrace learning. Camp allows them to try new things and enjoy favorite activities, all while creating lasting memories and lifetime friendships.

What better gift could you give your children than an experience that offers all that?

Bette Bussel is the executive director of the American Camp Association, New England. Visit acanewengland.org or call (781) 541-6080 for more information.

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