Five (MORE) Reasons Great Parents Send Their Kids to Camp

5 (more) reasons great parents send their kids to campThere are so many reasons great parents choose to send their kids to summer camp. Two years ago, I shared five of them on the most popular post I’ve ever published. But now I have more to share. Consider this the second installment in a series with others to follow, because the list of ways kids benefit from summer camp is seemingly endless.

Since I last wrote about reasons great parents send their kids to camp, I conducted research and found that camp experiences positively impact campers’ happiness and social skills. I’ll begin, then, with happiness.Aloha Dance

The first reason great parents send their kids to camp is that it helps them BE HAPPIER.

“Camp makes me happy and nothing can prepare me for life as well as this environment.”

“Come on,” you’re thinking, “How can two weeks in the mountains change my child’s overall happiness level?” Good question. One of my research findings was that both parents and kids agree that children feel happier after being at camp. The combination of positive emotions, deep friendships, being disconnected Fun in the Lakefrom technology, and just plain fun makes kids feel happier at and after camp. I’ve previously written about how the science of positive psychology may explain why kids flourish at camp and demonstrate increased happiness levels before and after their camp experience. In this era, when we’re seeing our kids suffer from rising rates of depression and anxiety, isn’t it nice to know that there’s a place where kids can go that actually serves as a positive intervention for overall happiness?

Next, great parents send their kids to camp because it helps them DISCOVER THEIR BEST SELF.

“Being at camp gives me this sense of belonging that I’ve never felt anywhere else.”

In many different ways, but all with the same underlying meaning, campers describe camp Friendsas a place where they can be themselves. They feel open to saying and being who they really are, not stuck conforming to what’s considered “cool” and “acceptable” in the outside world. Surrounded by a diverse group of friends of different ages and backgrounds, kids develop the ability to explore their own interests and express their own thoughts better. As a parent, I hate to admit that I sometimes push my own interests on my kids, even when I don’t mean to. For example, I might say, “You’re so good at softball! Don’t you want to keep playing?” when my child says she doesn’t want to play anymore. Stepping away from their regular activities and normal life schedules (as well as their well-meaning but often overly directive parents), kids have the opportunity to think through what’s really important to them as individuals.

Third, great parents send their kids to camp because it helps them GROW THEIR GRIT.

“The counselors challenged me to do things I wouldn’t normally do at home.”

Learning self-reliance, experiencing mistakes and failures, and reaching for goals are all Backpackingcamp experiences that help campers develop their grit, an important character trait that we’ve learned is critical to success in life. Camp offers a unique experience to children – the chance to be away from their parents for a short period of time and learn to handle more things on their own. Without parents to step in and assist, or rescue from mistakes, kids develop confidence in their own ability to make decisions and solve problems. Just being “on their own” is a huge confidence builder for kids, and they feel more self-reliant after being responsible for themselves and their belongings for a few weeks.

Fourth, great parents send their kids to camp because it helps them MEET POSITIVE ROLE MODELS.

“Camp has made me into a leader, having the best role models as my counselors to look up to.”

One of the best things that happens at camp is that kids get exposed to a different kind of Camp Counselorsadult role model than what they see in the media. No reality TV stars will be gracing the waterfront or backpacking trips at summer camp. No perfectly coiffed and stick-thin model will be standing next to them brushing teeth in the bathroom. No macho guy who speaks disrespectfully about women will be leading the campfire discussion. In fact, the college students who choose to spend their summer working at camp are an outstanding bunch of young adults. Most are stellar students with outstanding leadership skills. They love the outdoors and working with kids, and they are the kind of people we want our kids to emulate. They love leading discussions on topics that are important to their campers and helping them build confidence. There’s no focus on appearance at summer camp, and so designer clothes, make up, and trendy hair-styles don’t hold the same importance that they do at junior high or high school. In fact, the predominant style at camp is pajama pants paired with dirt and sweat-stained t-shirts. And we hardly ever spend time in front of a mirror.

Finally, great parents send their kids to camp because it helps them DEVELOP BETTER COMMUNICATION SKILLS.

“The other part of camp that has influenced me the most is the simple idea of trying to always smile.”

In post-camp surveys, campers consistently write about how ditching their electronics was Campfire Timeone of the best things about their camp experience. In fact, it’s a practice they take home with them, setting aside phones during meals with friends so they can connect more genuinely, face-to-face. In the absence of technological tethers, campers have many hours each day to practice these face-to-face communication skills. They learn the importance of things like eye contact, smiles, and body language as they positively interact with their peers. Counselors help facilitate lively discussions, and campers learn to ask each other questions, listen more carefully, and figure out common interests. Kids learn and practice valuable communication skills at camp, which they can use throughout their lives.

There you have it! Five (more) reasons that great parents send their kids to camp!

Thank you for reading my post! If you like Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post (use box in right column of my blog). Follow me on FacebookPinterest, or Twitter for links to articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Have a happy day!

Resources/Related:
Five Reasons Great Parents Send Their Kids to Camp (original Sunshine Parenting post)
Study Finds Campers Really are Happy, Sunshine Parenting
Research finds Children Learn Social Skills at Camp, Sunshine Parenting
Why Kids Flourish at Camp, Sunshine Parenting
Five Ways Camp Grows Grit, Sunshine Parenting
10 Social Skills Kids Learn at Camp, Sunshine Parenting
Making Friends, 3 Communication Skills Your Child Needs, Sunshine Parenting
Increased Levels of Anxiety and Depression as Teenage Experience Changes over Time (Nuffield Foundation)
10 Surprising Things Kids Learn at Camp, Sunshine Parenting

Sunshine

I'm blessed to have five great kids (ages 13-23) call me “Mom.” As a summer camp director for the past 30 years, I've also had the privilege of working with thousands of kids, college-age counselors, and parents. I follow the latest research and trends on parenting, education, and children’s development and love to share what I learn!

5 Comments
  1. For those parents who can afford the cost, that’s great. For those of us who couldn’t go to camp, there were paper routes, bottle deposits, babysitting, scavenging and dumpster-diving, tree-fort-building and escaping down back alleys from bullies in hot pursuit, and lazy afternoons wading in the creek looking for crawdads — all without adult supervision.
    In the end I grew up independent, resourceful and curious.
    And if I wasn’t always secure and happy, I learned earlier than most of my peers that life is sometimes very hard and even scary; and the thing was to deal with it and come out the other side. I guess that counts as a sort of grit, even if I couldn’t appreciate it till I grew up.
    Camp is great, but it’s not the only option out there.

    1. As a kid I, too, enjoyed a paper route, babysitting, and a lot of unsupervised outdoor time playing and exploring. Today’s kids, unfortunately, seem to be having a different experience of childhood. I agree there are definitely other options besides camp that get kids outdoors and gaining character, especially for kids who live in more rural settings, but camp is one good option. There are scholarship programs through the American Camp Association and many other organizations that help fund kids to go to camp.

  2. I am a bit concerned why the need to add “Great” Parents to this article. Is a parent not great if they don’t send their child to summer camp? You lost me with the title of your article. Five (more) reasons parents send their kids to camp would be more appropriate.

    1. Hi Howard, Thanks for the feedback. I didn’t intend to infer by the title that if you don’t send your kids to camp, you’re not a great parent. In fact, I think there are many fantastic parents who choose not to send their kids to camp. I wrote this to help people who DO choose to send their kids to camp articulate why they make that decision, because parents sometimes receive negative comments from others for sending their kids (especially younger ones) to overnight camp. I wanted to let parents know some of the reasons why camp is a good decision despite criticism they may receive (and not feel bad about sending their child to camp). I think (and write) more from the positive perspective. I appreciate you reading my post.

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