The benefits of summer camp

The hot and hazy days of summer may seem far away, but would you believe that cyclists are already registering for this year’s Kwik Fill Kinzua Classic bike race on August 11? Drivers on the Market Street Extension may also notice the Hi-Ed billboard advertising summer camp. Evidently these people know that the summer fun of June, July, and August are just around the corner despite my thermometer’s pleading to the contrary!

An interesting report crossed my desk today from the American Camp Association. Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience is the largest research study of camper outcomes ever conducted in the USA. 5000 families and 80 ACA camps participated in the survey. Anyone who’s ever seen how children and youth “bloom” at summer camp is already convinced of the benefits of the experience. But it is interesting to read a document like this that validates popular opinion and, maybe more importantly, gives us a common language to describe what happens.

There were four broad areas of development that were measured. Kids and their parents were surveyed about these topics pre-camp, immediately at the end of the camping week, and finally at home six months later:

Positive Identity

Self Esteem

Independence

Social Skills

Leadership

Friendship Skills

Social Comfort

Peer Relationships

Physical & Training Skills

Adventure & Exploration

Environmental Awareness

Positive Values & Spirituality

Values & Decisions

Spirituality

The surveys related significant growth in all four areas. The follow up survey also related that young people retained much of the personal growth and development six months later. That’s a great outcome for one week in the summer!

I hope that you will take some time to consider how the children in your life might benefit from this kind of experience in the summer and begin to compare different options. There are so many good camping experiences available to youth these days. Be sure and check out as many of the youth-serving organizations around our community as you can, so you can compare options. There are camps that emphasize sports, careers, learning, outdoor activities, field trips, religious activities and more. There are also other things to consider such as day camp or sleepaway camp? It’s not too early to start speaking with your child about what kind of camp most interests them.

Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County. Go to www.fswc.org to subscribe to its Family Services Parenting E-news-a free, once-monthly dose of inspiration and tips to promote the health and well-being of your family.