summer camp guide
what makes camp so special?
f you speak with anyone who has a child at day or overnight camp, there is no doubt they will tell you what an amazing experience it is for their child. If you didn’t go to camp yourself or have a child at camp, you might not “get” camp. What is it about summer camp that makes it so special? “Camp is a ‘step back in time’ to a more care-free environment where children are away from their overloving and ever-hovering parents and are able to take a break from technology,” says Andy Pritikin, owner and director of Liberty Lake Day Camp in Bordentown, NJ and President of the American Camp Association, NY and NJ. “Children also communicate face to face and spend time in an outdoor environment that fosters the development of skills that young people need in the 21st Century.” American Camp Association research has found that 92% of campers said that camp helped them feel good about themselves and 70% of parents reported that their child gained self-confidence at camp. Building self-esteem happens easily at camp. When a camper puts her head under water for the first time or gets to the top of the climbing wall she was scared to try, she builds confidence by accomplishing something new and challenging. “There are many activities at camp that you just don’t find in day to day life. When a child learns and masters a skill, we celebrate that at camp,” comments Danielle Wiest, Executive Director of Child and Camp for YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties. “Having those moments to celebrate throughout the summer help children to know what they are capable of and how to set and achieve goals independently.” Camp fosters independence and allows children to feel good about things they do on their own. “One of the best examples is the process of getting ready for swim. Young camp-
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ers learn how to change in and out of their own clothing after swim where at home, a parent would typically help their child on a one-to- one basis,” says Andrew Yankowitz, owner and director of Tall Pines Day Camp in Williamstown, NJ. “At the end of the summer, I get phone calls from the parents of our youngest campers telling me that their child now says ‘I can do it!’ Whether this applies to changing for swim or cleaning up their eating, they signal to their parents that they no longer need help in certain areas.”
“Camp fosters independence and allows children to feel good about things they do on their own” Each day of camp brings a new opportunity for children. Research by the American Camp Association found that 74% of campers said they did things at camp that they were afraid to do at first. One day your child might be waterskiing around the lake and another day he may be going down the zip line. Wiest comments, “Children are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone. There isn’t the safety net of a parent or guardian when they try something new. Kids get to feel all of the emotions of learning new skills: healthy fears, anticipation, teamwork, accomplishment and celebrating success. They gain the confidence in themselves to stand proud and know that they have the ability to accomplish great things if they set their minds to it.” Children learn to become part of a community at camp. They learn to share in camp traditions, work together and at overnight camp, live together in bunks. Becoming part of a strong camp community can help children learn to live
with others and help better prepare them for the college experience. Yankowitz says, “Each summer, campers and staff become part of a large camp family. They gain a true sense of community and look forward to returning each summer to see their camp friends that they may not have seen during the school year.” In a report by Common Sense Media, it states that tweens spend 6 hours a day and teens 9 hours a day consuming media. This includes watching videos, TV, video games and social media. Instead of engaging in human interactions, children are staring at screens throughout the year. Summer camp has become one of the last unplugged environments for children and a place where children can take a break from smart phones, ipads and social media and take time to communicate in person. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that free and unstructured play is healthy and essential for helping children to reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress. Traditional summer camps give children plenty of opportunities to play which leads to healthy emotional and social development. Camp allows children to play in a safe and nurturing environment with a caring and supportive staff. “Structured, adult directed play, like playing on a sports team or in gym at school is great for exercise and teamwork, but this is not real play. Play is when kids naturally play with each other, usually outside, without electronics and without adult direction. This is where creativity blooms, collaboration is essential, and leadership shines,” comments Pritikin. To find out how truly extraordinary camp is for a child, send your child to camp After just one summer, you will totally get it. For assistance in finding a summer camp, contact Renee Flax at the American Camp Association, NY and NJ for free, one-on-one advice at 212.391.5208.