Attending camp is a cultural rite of passage, instrumental in developing skills like achieving independence, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, the ability to compromise, and leadership. Day and sleepaway camp experiences are crucial for creating strong, diverse social experiences outside of school. They can help kids hone a passion for particular sports or hobbies, too. But of all the reasons to enroll a child in a summer program, the real value of a camp may be found in the sense of belonging and community it fosters.
American Camp Association studies highlight all the skills and benefits that campers get. And for every anecdote out there about how a summer camp experience changed a life, there are thousands of kids that simply feel “cool” being campers. Well, what’s so great about kids feeling “cool?”
There is a power in “cool” that the rest of world doesn’t take seriously. At summer camp, we know what it really means. We don’t think of being “cool” in terms of popularity or having the right style, but rather in a sense of belonging, excitement, uniqueness, and acceptance.
Counselors and directors are directly in charge of creating a nurturing culture at camp. They control the schedule, programs, living situations (at sleepaway camps), and meals, as well as the legends, myths, and routines. This all adds up to control over the values of a community and the cultural expression of those values. Camp counselors and directors actively create a space where campers thrive and are, in short, encouraged to feel “cool.”
How do they do it? Summer camp is all about fun. Creating a community is pretty easy when it is wrapped in excitement. Most parents of campers will tell you that their kids tried something new (probably exciting), met new people (probably different from themselves in an important way), and are more responsible now thanks to their summer programs. The exposure to new activities, people, and responsibilities can lead to kids discovering hidden talents in sports, the arts, academics, or even socializing, which ensures they’ll feel great about the camp experience.
Most camp staff members go above and beyond their assignments, turning regular activities into spectacular adventures. They dress up for no apparent reason, sing songs at the top of their lungs, and are ready with games and fun ideas at a moment’s notice. But if you were to ask them what they hope their campers experience, they would talk about the value of camp and its affect on the character of their kids. They understand that the activities are just the vehicle for the real experience.
I want you to send your kids to camp. I think it’ll be one of the best experiences you could give them because when kids go to camp, they feel connected. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
When you are considering a sleepaway camp, day camp, summer program, or even a combination of these options, there are a few inquiries you may want to keep in mind.
What are the mission and values of the camp or program?
How are its activities related to the overall summer experience and camp mission?
What is the return rate among the staff? Staff members not only deliver the experience, but
they also create the culture. If the majority of them return, there will be some consistency.
What’s the schedule, and does it allow for downtime?
Can kids choose activities?
Where do kids hang out? The more opportunities kids have to be together during structured
activities and when just hanging out, the better connections they will have.
Peruse these tips if your child will be going to camp for the first time.
Speak confidently and positively about the upcoming experience.
Practice overnight sleepovers for sleepaway camp.
Avoid making “pick-up deals.”
Investigate the possible worries on your future camper’s mind.
Contact the camp to talk with the staff.
Talk to other parents and campers.
Go to open houses.
If your child has a friend already attending camp, that’s even better.