Parents who enroll their kids in summer camps consider many factors that will enrich their children’s lives. Arts, sports and STEM subjects are a major draw. They want their children to thrive in scholastic, athletic and artistic endeavors. Certainly, these are a part of the experience. However, parents should also know the many social and emotional benefits of summer camp.
According to the American Camp Association, “the camp experience is recognized by child development professionals as valuable in helping children mature socially, emotionally, intellectually, morally, and physically.”
Here are 10 opportunities for social and emotional growth during camp
Summer camp is an opportunity for kids to take on more responsibility. They are outside their routine and roles aren’t as rigid as during the school year. There are many different ways to lead. For example, kids can exert authority by reinforcing rules and norms. Or lead by example. Campers can also gather consensus or mentor younger students. Campers meet different personality types and a host of interactions give them a chance to shine.
When campers encounter challenges and do well, they feel better about themselves. Summer camp is filled with these opportunities. Camp is also a safe environment for kids to try new experiences and fail. Positive camp instructors routinely help kids feel good about themselves in the midst of setbacks. Campers build resilience and their self-esteem grows no matter the result.
Whether involved in sports, performing arts or STEM challenges, campers work together. Group activities require coordinated effort for participants to successfully create robots, video games, win tournaments or stage a performance. Even children accustomed to working alone can appreciate group work. Some often come out of their shell. All learn the art of working together with peers toward a common goal.
Campers in STEM programs solve problems. In sports, they win games. Performing and visual arts campers create original works. All are involved in activities that require working well with others. Sometimes they learn to cooperate by giving and receiving praise or criticism. Such skills help children build healthy relationships in school and beyond.
Both verbal and non-verbal skills are social and emotional benefits of summer camp. For example, on a soccer field, players learn player dynamics and signals in order to score points. On stage, cues and facial expressions are vital in acting. Same with STEM subjects, whether building robots to complete commands or crafting structures like bridges or buildings. Activities require campers to communicate effectively in different ways.
At camp, children meet kids from different cultures, social circles or neighborhoods. They work in close contact with people who attend other schools and participate in traditions that won’t feel familiar. This helps them to appreciate differences but also understand common similarities that unite all of us.
Mastering challenges produces a tenacity in kids that camp can effectively provide. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages free and unstructured play. Through physical exertion, kids explore different thoughts that lead to solutions for problems off the field. Grit builds important cognitive developmental milestones that lead to healthier social and emotional awareness.
Spending long days and working hard toward shared goals can bond children together. They make memories. Summer camps are known for building strong friendships. Some last a lifetime.
Children in camp are allowed to explore on their own. They’re away from homes and schoolrooms with people other than parents and teachers. They must speak for themselves. Many learn to advocate for their peers. They function as autonomous human beings with their own unique voices.
Time off for parents
One of the most important social and emotional benefits of summer camp is some time off for parents. During the school year, balancing child care, work and extra-curricular activities can be challenging. The summer is rightfully seen as a break for kids but it’s also a break for adults. Moms, dads and all caretakers are entitled to some downtime, too.