You’ve heard it before from your friends, neighbors, and colleagues—their children went to camp and they came back with a new sense of confidence, gained new skills, and became more flexible in day-to-day life, among so many other things. Just what is it about camp that encourages such positive changes in children?
Camp helps children to become more flexible and get used to new ways of doing things. This past summer, Lana Masor sent her almost 4-year-old son on the bus out of the city to Woodmont Day Camp in Rockland County for the first time. “Camp really helped Ezra to be more flexible and to realize that not every day was going to be the same,” Masor says. “During the school year, school was a few blocks away and he had to be there at 8:45am. For camp, he had to be dressed and ready by 8am, which showed him that different situations required different planning. He also went to camp three days a week and the other days were a different schedule. He recognized that not every day was going to be exactly the same which was helpful for getting him out of his regular routine.” Masor also found that her son became more flexible regarding food. “Woodmont serves lunch each day, so I wasn’t packing his regular lunch. He got to make choices and try new things and realized that mommy can’t always make his usual favorite lunch.”
Many camp parents also speak about the new found confidence that their child exhibits after camp. “Ali was a tentative swimmer and wasn’t as self-assured in the water before camp,” says Katie Finkelstein, whose daughter attended Camp Hillard in Scarsdale for the first time this past summer. “She swam twice a day at camp which built up her confidence and I think being with peers in the water and watching them swim was also a good motivator for her. When she wasn’t at camp, she actually wanted to work on her strokes.” Shortly after camp ended, the Masor family moved out of the city. Masor credits camp with helping to prepare her son for all the changes of moving to a new town. “Sending Ezra to camp gave him the confidence to be in a new situation easily and to feel good about playing with children he had never met before.”
Children get to try so many different activities at camp. Often campers participate in activities that are unexpected to their parents. Pam Casimiro-Kirkbride, whose two daughters go to Camp Kenwood, an overnight camp in Kent, CT, says: “Both of our children love the theater, but our oldest daughter never had any interest in being on the stage. During her first summer at Kenwood, she was cast in “Peter Pan” playing Tinkerbell, which surprised us when we received her letter telling us about it. On the flip side, our younger daughter, who loves being on stage, decided to stay off the stage at camp and worked on her music production skills. She’s especially proud of the new beats she created.” Masor adds: “Camp exposed Ezra to different activities that I might not have thought of myself. I hadn’t heard of Teddy Tennis and would never have thought he was ready for tennis at his age but he loved it.”
Camp is such a unique environment and creates a true community among campers and staff. “Camp teaches camp spirit that you can’t get in school. There is a feeling of camaraderie, pride for something you belong to and group excitement about activities and camp songs,” Masor states. Casimiro-Kirkbride and her husband have enjoyed seeing how close the two girls are after being at camp together. “They have this experience that is truly theirs, without us, so they have their songs, rituals and stories just between them. So even though they aren’t in the same bunk or group, they have these shared experiences they normally don’t have during the other 11 months of the year because of different schools, sports, and interests.” Another amazing part of camp is children get to make new friends outside of the children they have been going to school with for years. Casimiro-Kirkbride comments: “Our daughters enjoy having a circle of camp friends outside of their school year friends and are protective of the time they have with them, both during the summer and the school year.”
It’s hard to describe all the new experiences and positive ways camp will affect your child, but after just one summer at camp, you will see for yourself all the benefits that camp has to offer.