For kids and parents, summer camp is often an afterthought to all the other plans they might have for summer. Here are five reasons why summer camp should be at the top of your summer plans.
Beat Nature Deficit Disorder Nature Deficit Disorder was a term invented by Richard Louv, who went into great depth on the subject in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv laments that parents on one hand overprotect today’s children while children, on the other hand, forego outdoor activity in favor of spending too much time “on screen.”
Louv asks, “How can we underestimate children’s need for respite from CNN, school stress or family tension?” He argues that children benefit greatly from the healing offered by the natural world. Kids need nature “for the healthy development of their senses, and therefore, for learning and creativity.”
Kids’ confidence improves Pulled out of his or her comfort zone, a child at camp discovers new abilities and new, improved ways of interacting with others. Stephen Fine, the co-director of Hollows Camp in Ontario says, “Co-operation and negotiation are inherent to the camp experience.” Kids at camp dramatically increase their “confidence levels and their ability to be in social situations.”
Troy Glover, a researcher at the University of Waterloo, says summer camp “develops emotional intelligence in children by making them more empathetic.” Glover says there is inherent value in participating in “day to day activities with a group of people that you have to learn to live with.”
Physical literacy Kelly Murumets, chief executive at ParticipAction Canada, advocates for the way kids at summer camp acquire healthy physical activity habits, acquiring what she calls “physical literacy.” Kids who go to summer camp gain “skills that allow them to adopt more physically active lives.” They are “more physically active throughout the year and as adults as well.”
Kids play! Unstructured playtime seems to be largely a thing of the past, sadly, but camp helps kids develop an appreciation for this. Michelle Brownrigg, chief executive of Active Healthy Kids Canada, says that play is critical to kids learning unique social skills “in an environment that ‘s not necessarily focused on a competitive end.” She laments that unstructured playtime is “one of the most decreased areas of discretionary time in the past decade.”
Unique summer learning While we should never forget that camp is a ton of fun for kids, it also entails a lot of learning. Tom Potter of Lakehead University says that camp learning goes beyond cognitive learning to emotional learning – which is deeper in many ways. He also notes that many outdoor activities provide a unique, immediate feedback loop. “If (kids) are sailing a sailboat and it’s going in the right direction, they’ll get feedback on that,” says Potter.
Also at camp, kids pick up skills in archery, canoeing, orienteering and geocaching, for example. Kids often don’t even notice that they are learning anything because they are simply having too much fun. Glover admits, “parents today – and I’m one of them – tend to bubble wrap kids. Camp is an opportunity to elude that bubble wrap and to let them explore who they are and what they can do.”