Camp provides opportunities for kids to build their confidence. Day camps and over-night camps are structured to provide tasks and games that can challenge your child. They are set up to stretch your child’s physical and mental abilities within a secure environment. “Building self confidence for most kids is the opportunity to have successes and take healthy risks in a safe and supportive environment," says Riel Peerbooms, executive director of Trail Blazers.org, a long-running summer camp program for kids. As a parent, you might not challenge your child to try something you think might be too hard or scary for her. Yet at camp, the environment is alive with possibilities and opportunities. Your child can explore with teammates new activities and become more confident in herself.
Challenge World Views
Your child will meet new kids who may be from a different economic or family background. Kids from different states will be cabin mates. This will broaden your kid’s view of the world. They will learn other kids' pet peeves and family jokes. “This is what camp does best, create nurturing environments, with much personal attention, where kids can explore new external and internal worlds,” says Peerbooms. Your child will be exposed to new foods that she would have never touched at home. Yet if it’s at camp and she sees all the other campers munching on it, she’ll try it. Maybe when she comes home, she’ll try your newest dish without that scrunched up face. Camp also provides a variety of different challenges that can allow a child to investigate new areas of interest. Depending on the type of camp your child attends, he may try archery, canoeing, survival skills, clay creations, and fitness — and find that he loves it. Camp activities are also designed to allow kids to take risks in trying new activities and possibly failing at them the first time. Kids learn that they can keep trying at some event to get better at it and maybe even master it. With such a competitive outside world, kids can have their own goals and see their own progress while at camp. And if a child has been to camp before, they can come to an event or a game with gained confidence because they are a little more experienced than the other campers. They “know the ropes.”
Discover a New Identity
Camp also can level the playing field when it comes to being “the geek or jock or shy child.” Campers may be seen as one of the gang rather than retaining the label they wear at home. Most activities are traditionally not academic so your child may shine in different games. Kids who are good musically or are creative will have more opportunities to do well with other campers. “Camp offers a largely judgment-free environment where, for the most part, everyone dresses the same, engages in the same activities and shares common goals and values,” says Stephen Wallace, director of counseling and counselor training at Cape Cod Sea Camps. Cabin members are a team and all members are required to be responsible to their team. This is a great opportunity if you have a child who doesn’t remember to pick up her dirty clothes every day yet her cabin needs her to be tidy for a clean cabin award. Peer pressure can be a positive influence, thus kick-starting some positive habits.
Find a Mentor
Camp counselors have amazing amounts of energy and are a force of fun for your child. They are excited for your kid to be at camp and will provide support for him. Kids look up to counselors because typically they are the cool people of camp. Counselors seem to have a knack for having fun and can be silly in appropriate ways. Yet, they mentor kids and have a blast while doing it. “Camp counselors help young people become self-confident by helping them to establish realistic goals for achievement and to feel accepted, successful, and influential,” says Wallace. Camp is an exciting experience for kids because it’s where they can try new things and be challenged in a safe environment. They’ll make great friends while stretching themselves a bit more.—Jan Udlock is a freelance writer and mom of five. She can be contacted at janudlock.com.