The benefits of summer camp

Parents want to see their children mature and thrive. There is an excellent, but often underutilized tool available to help kids do this: summer camp. With summer vacation almost here it seems an appropriate time to revisit a column from several years back about this topic…

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 results ever conducted in the USA. Five thousand families and 80 ACA camps participated in the survey. Anyone who has 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 and Training Skills: Adventure and Exploration, Environmental Awareness

Positive Values and Spirituality: Values and 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 is a great return for a one-week investment!

I hope that you will take some time to consider how the children in your life might benefit from this kind of experience this summer. There are so many good camping experiences available to young people 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. Speak with your child or teen today about what kind of camp most interests them.

Ian Eastman, M.A. promotes the wellbeing of our community at Family Services of Warren County. The Kwik Fill Kinzua Classic Bike Race is Aug. 10. Register at www.kinzuaclassic.com and benefit the work of Family Services.