With summer vacation starting TODAY(!), many parents are still wondering how to fill their children’s time. Insert summer camp! Summer camp is crucial to a child’s development and offers lifelong benefits. Brian Shelley, Vice President of Youth Engagement, Leadership Development and Camping Programs at the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka shares the top five reasons why you should send your child to camp this summer.
Children can meet their best friends at camp. It sounds trite and cliché…but clichés are cliché for a reason. Great friends can be made in high school and university, and even throughout adulthood, but for many, their closest friends are those they went to camp with.
Similarly, counsellors will make a lasting impression on a child. Counsellors are strong leaders that campers can look up to in a different way than they can their parents or teachers. They are often more relatable while possessing skills parents can admire. Many campers will often follow in their footsteps and become leaders themselves.
Of course, children may feel homesick at times. But this is healthy – it is a good lesson to learn (and better to learn as an 11, 12, 13 year old, as opposed to an 18 year old off to university). Through learning to overcome homesickness, children learn to be independent.
After a few years, children will have the opportunity to become a counsellor where they learn what real responsibility means. Eight children may be in their care. Counsellors have to make sure that campers eat well, have fun, stay safe and that they come home with at least half of the clothes their parents sent them with. This is an incredible leadership experience for a 17, 18 year old young person. Camp breeds responsibility.
Campers will also learn to make their own fun. “Free Time” is so undervalued today—everything needs to be structured. During “Free Time” campers can learn just as much as they would in structured sailing lessons and canoe trips. Learning to “make your own fun” is a wonderful concept.
The YMCA has been providing high quality camp experiences to children, youth and families for over 100 years. Last summer, over 100,000 children attended a Y Day Camp across Canada. Of those that attended a YMCA Day Camp, 87% of children reported having fun, 81% of children reported making new friends and 90% of children reported being more physically active than they are at home.
Kids need the chance to make different friends from the ones at school; they need the chance to develop relationships with role models other than parents and teachers; they need to learn independence and responsibility; probably, today more than ever, kids need to learn to make their own fun. This is why summer camp is as important today as it was 30 years ago or even more so.
Set your child up for a memorable summer and lasting life skills. Visit www.ymca.ca/camps to find a summer program near you.