Take Back Your Summer – Why Kids Need Camp By: Patti Nashman MSW, RSW
We no longer live in a world where children play with neighbourhood friends in parks, school yards, and backyards without the continual presence of parents or caregivers—a world where we wandered home at meal times or when the street lights came on. We were given a sense of freedom and independence, which were used as building blocks for life skills and resilience.
Parents of today are more educated about parenting. They are more diligent about ensuring their kids are doing well in school, involved in extracurricular activities and having play dates with friends. The difference is that parents are involved in planning and scheduling whereas in the “olden days” it was more spontaneous. Times have changed and those changes are for the benefit of our kids, but that doesn’t mean all is lost.
Camp is the perfect setting for kids to feel the same sense of freedom and independence in a protected and safe environment. Being away from mom and dad allows a child opportunities for personal growth by taking care of themselves. They will need to make their bed, help clean the cabin, and keep track of their belongings amongst other daily activities. Even more important is the development of deeper life skills like problem solving, cooperation, empathy, tolerance, patience and inclusiveness. Camp is also an environment for self-discovery. The shy child becomes the star of the play, the child fearful of water becomes a great water skier, the child who initially was homesick is crying when they get on the bus to go home.
Camp is an environment that provides daily routines which enable kids to thrive. There are endless options for activities incorporating creative arts, fine arts, cooking, gardening, hiking, land and water sports, and adventure programs which allows children to discover their passions.
The greatest benefit of camp is that children can decompress from technology. Most camps do not allow digital technology. Kids have real “facetime” with their peers. They are physically active at camp and not glued to a screen. This can be a challenge for parents who are used to having their children at their fingertips with the ability to communicate with them at all times. The beauty of camp is that children develop confidence and self-esteem knowing they can experience life on their own for a short period of time without their parents. The added bonus for parents is that they too get a much deserved break, while knowing they are giving their child a gift that will sustain them through the ups and downs of life.
All moments at camp, both the good and the bad are opportunities for self-discovery and learning. We all want our children to be happy but we also want them to be confident, resilient, patient, generous and kind. The camp experience is even more important today in a world that does not always feel safe because it allows for our children to enjoy that carefree sense of freedom and independence while making friendships and memories to last a lifetime.
PATTI NASHMAN is a registered social worker with her master’s degree from the University of Toronto, mother to three wonderful children, and one of the director’s at Camp Wahanowin, wahanowin.com