When school is not in session there are still ample opportunities for kids to continue learning and exploring their curiosity while having fun at summer day and overnight camps. From a teacher’s perspective, the benefits of sending a child to camp can be seen in all areas of social and cognitive development. According to Christopher Bergland, author of Eight Habits that Improve Cognitive Function, having new experiences, developing creativity, and becoming socially connected all improve brain activity.
While children do not readily see their own personal growth through camp experiences, to parents and teachers it can seem like an entirely new kid returns home. The benefits of the camp experience can improve your child’s achievement in school. This is because when children attend camps they further develop social skills with new peers, explore personal interests, and practice personal responsibility. These are the characteristics of successful students.
Camp Fosters Independence
Kids are very good at fitting into molds that either we have created for them or they have created for themselves. They develop an identity and sense of self, based on their school environment and classmates, especially students who have been in the same school for a number of years. It is easy for them to adapt to their assigned role: “the quiet kid,” “the class clown,” “the over-achiever.” But when kids are taken out of their school environment and away from familiar faces, they are given an opportunity to explore different sides of themselves through a different lens.
Not only are children able to break out of their school mold, camps introduce them to new peers, forcing them to make friends and interact with different groups of kids. Meeting new people and making friends can be hard even for adults. The more a kid becomes comfortable with new social experiences, the more comfortable and relaxed they will be with it during the school year. Having positive social interactions at school can increase academic success by creating a healthy environment for students to learn and take risks.
Camp Promotes Exploration
When I meet my students at the beginning of a school year, I always ask them about their hobbies and personal interests outside of school. Exploring those interests as a child can make it easier to find stress relief or a rewarding career path in the future. In the beginning, expose kids to all different types of camps from outdoorsy nature camps or fine arts (theater, music, painting, dancing, writing) camps to faith-based or sports camps.
See which camp your child gets most excited about attending or was their favorite experience and continue to invest in that interest to build skills and develop confidence in their area of interest. It is important for kids to find activities in their lives that they love to do just for the sake of it making them happy. Not every kid who takes an art class will receive academic scholarships to art school and make it their career. However, simply knowing what activities make them happy and developing those skills makes learning new things a positive experience. These positive experiences can lead to positive learning experiences at school, creating more engaged students.
Camp Teaches Responsibility
One final benefit to sending your kids to camp is that it allows them to practice personal responsibility. Sleep-away camps offer opportunities for your child to put to practice all the personal hygiene and self-care skills you have developed at home. At home, mom and dad are there to ensure baths are taken, clothes are put away, and overall peace is kept between siblings. Once the duffle bag is packed and the sleeping bag is rolled up, kids are on their own to manage these daily necessities. Away from their parents’ watchful eyes, campers must become considerate roommates for the sake of peaceful cabins and a positive experience. Bad habits such as a messy bunk or dirty towels everywhere will create disputes that kids must learn to handle on their own. During the school year, this can translate to better-organized, more independent students.
Parents and teachers have a common goal: to teach children the academic and life lessons they will need to ensure a successful future. Ironically, so many of these lessons can be learned away from parents and teachers at summer camps and afterschool programs. New skills learned at camp will support your student’s academic achievement throughout the school year.
Emily Garrone Jamerson is a freelance writer and CLUE teacher at Snowden School in Memphis.