How Camp Helps Kids

As parents, we look ahead to a new year with hopes for growth and happiness for ourselves and our families. For our children, we look to provide new experiences, learning, fun, and caring. The special moments of childhood that provide those experiences come from many sources. The unique experience that is camp gives children confidence, helps them learn new things and provides many other benefits

What is it about camp that makes it a special part of a child’s life experience?

Camp offers your child broader horizons. Not only does camp enhance campers’ skills at activities such as sports, language, art, or science, it provides the chance to learn more about the world through new friendships, activities that promote cooperation, and challenges that foster decision-making abilities and leadership. Children and teens have the opportunity to meet and interact with peers from outside their school environment.

Camp gives children an opportunity to be independent and learn resiliency. Many parents have understandable worries and concerns about their children growing up in today’s world. However, those worries become counterproductive when they interfere with children’s opportunities to take healthy risks. Camp offers children the chance to take those risks in a structured, nurturing community of professionals who can guide children on a journey of self-awareness and self-reliance.

At camp, children are exposed to new experiences that can create “aha!” moments. “I can do this!” “I’m good at this!” “I thought this would be hard, but it wasn’t so bad.” “I guess it’s OK to try something new.” Exploration and discovery are key elements of the camp experience. At camp, children experience successes that promote self-confidence and future academic growth.

With the many camp choices available, your child can gain new perspectives on his or her special interests. With organized and intentional programs, camp can supplement formal education with a balance of experiential learning programs that are physical, emotional, and social. Camps that specialize in a myriad of activities are on the rise. Whatever your child or teen’s interest, there’s a camp that can address his or her special career interest or hobby. The opportunity for self-expression in a noncompetitive environment allows for natural development of curiosity and talent — and maybe even starts your child on a new academic or career path.

Camp teaches healthy lifestyle choices. With concerns about children’s health and childhood obesity, there has never been a better time for a camp experience for kids. Camp programs have traditionally offered — and continue to offer — physical activities and sports that enhance health and teach self-confidence.

Camp offers your child valuable time spent in nature. Because of the special environment at camp, children have fun learning about themselves and the natural world. It also gives them a chance to be “unplugged.” More and more experts are demonstrating the value of time spent in nature for children — and camp is a perfect place to do that. Whether it’s a hike in the woods at day camp to identify trees or a wilderness trip bringing your child closer to nature than ever before, the immersion in the natural world not only teaches children how to appreciate the environment, but, studies have shown it can also be therapeutic in reducing the stress of everyday life and can even help improve academic performance.

What to Look For, What to Ask

Once you’ve made the decision to send your child or teen to camp this summer, you may have some important questions about the best way to choose a camp.

Involve your child in the selection process. Including your child in the search for camp information online makes the process fun and prepares him or her to look ahead to the camp experience. You can even choose to attend camp together as a family! Family camp programs, one of the fastest growing camp trends, allow two or three generations within a family to attend camp together.

During the selection process, speak to the camp director. Ask about the camp’s philosophy and program emphasis. Compare that philosophy to your goals and to your child’s needs and wants. Ask the director how the camp handles homesickness and other adjustment issues. Visit the camp if possible to see their practices first-hand.

It’s always good to ask about camper and staff return rates. An average camper return rate is 60 percent; an average staff return rate is between 40 and 60 percent. Inquiring about the counselor-to-camper ratio is also a useful question. According to ACA standards for overnight camps, look for a ratio of one counselor to every six campers for children six to eight; between the ages of nine and fourteen, a ratio of one to eight is good, and for teens fifteen and above, an appropriate ratio is one to ten.

Above all, be sure to ask for references and check them! Look for the ACA-accredited logo.

Exactly what is ACA accreditation and what does it mean to your family? Simply put, accreditation is a parent’s best evidence of a camp’s commitment to health and safety. ACA is the only organization that accredits camps. To be accredited, camps must meet up to 300 health and safety standards — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management.

As a leader in camp safety for over fifty years, ACA collaborates with youth development experts to assure that standards reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards and camp best practices. If the camp you’re considering for your child isn’t ACA-accredited, ask why not.

When it comes to selecting a camp, the good news is that there is a menu of opportunities, and there is a camp for every child. There are many resources to help you make the perfect choice — and ACA can help you find the answers.