Summer camp vs. other opportunities — how do you choose?

Here’s what a camp experience can offer your child

Fewer kids are going to camp for the entire summer, mainly because of the large number of opportunities available to them.

Many camps that have one- or two-week sessions with the option to attend three weeks or more, are finding that a majority of campers opt for shorter stays, while camps that offer operate on a four-, six-, or eight-week session are having to work extra hard to fill sessions.

There is also a trend of campers arriving late or leaving camp early because of other commitments, as well as a growing number of cancellations. While the good news is that more kids are getting a camp experience, the struggle for parents and campers is all the choices they have between camps and other opportunities.

As a camp person, I believe in what camp has to offer, but it is important to pick what is best for you and your child. When making decisions about summer schedules, here are some things camps offer that you might not know about:

Camp is a unique educational opportunity

Camp encourages critical thinking, independence, and self-worth. Children who participate in enrichment activities such as camp, after-school programming, sports, and electives outside traditional school subjects get better grades and have better study habits. Camp teaches grit and determination and lays a solid framework for a growth mindset.

Camp keeps kids active

In a research project done by Merrimack College students, it showed that on average students participating in outdoor education at camp achieved their recommended step count in two hours, whereas on average they only reached half their recommended step count in a typical school day in the a building. Again, children who are more active do better in school, develop better eating and exercise habits, and have less of a chance of developing a chronic disease.

Camps are typically a break from screen time

Camp teaches children the importance of face-to-face interaction. While managing technology is an important skill, campers are learning how to excel in human connections. Core skills such as articulating and verbalizing issues and resolutions, while maintaining eye contact during conversation. These types of interactions don’t happen with phones, tablets and computers, and schools do not have the time to teach these skills.

Camp teaches life lessons

People often say, “Everything I know, I learned at camp.” Camp is a perfect balance of social interaction, skill development and confidence-building where children thrive and learn values that become engrained into their personalities. It is a place where children can be themselves with little peer pressure, it is a place where children can make mistakes and learn from them to be better, and it is a place where children can advocate for themselves.

Someone told me that if we could take a page from a typical day at camp and share it with the universe, the world would be a better place. As we raise the future leaders of our world, camp experiences can help children from every background thrive to be the best they can be. As your family works to pick the right opportunities for your child’s needs remember that camp has a positive everlasting impact.  

Claudia J. Soo Hoo is the district executive director of the Merrimack Valley YMCA.

More articles you might be interested in

How to deal with homesickness while at summer camp

If you prepare your camper to be out of their comfort zone, they can overcome and thrive

Getting Generation Z to disconnect so they can connect

Analog kids learn to relate face-to-face in the real world

Resilience, self-confidence and s’mores

Build a partnership with the camp to make sure your child gets the most out of their summer

The amazing ‘secret menu’ camps don’t advertise

The unexpected benefits of camp are some of the best reasons to attend
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