CAMP IS KEY – Why Summer Camp Is Critical For Childhood Development

The American Camping Association slogan says
“camp gives kids a world of good” and it’s so true.  Good camps expose children to a safe, uplifting world of diversity, challenge, fun and success.

Nowadays, there are specialized camps for every interest.  But no matter the camp, it should include experiences rarely encountered in traditional schools which have moved away from holistic learning. The arts, for instance, are less available due to budget limitations.

Group of day campers doing the seaweed challenge on Lummi Island.
Group of day campers doing the edible seaweed challenge.

Camp should always be a holistic learning environment, where lessons of life, sports, technology, the arts and outdoor experience should be experienced through the head, heart and hands.  Even at technology camps, artistic thinking should be endemic – not just for fun, but because creative thinkers will be our future innovators.

Traditional camps have never lost their ritual, music, and outdoor activity that are the foundation of the original camp experience.  New camps should strive for the same, because camp could be the last place many children will find an environment that is balanced between the head, heart and hands.

Group of overnight campers on a hike where they found this “ancient” cave painting.

With this balance of “head, heart and hands” in place, camps will do children “a world of good” at a deep level, and parents should see a positive change when children return home.  They should have experienced healthy attachments, gained more appropriate boundaries, and felt the joy of creative expression.

Those three things that camps provide – attachment, boundaries, and expression – are key to social strength and loving relationships.  It’s amazing how living day-to-day outdoors, and night-by-night in close quarters with others, will help anyone grow up fast.  And with well-trained camp counselors, your child should receive the supervision and support needed to process these experiences into personal strength.

Day Camp Fire at Wolf Camp
Group of day campers doing the One Match Fire Challenge.

Just being away from home causes children to form relationships and attach fast.  Just having to focus on a tasks outdoors, with no walls to focus them, forces children to self-regulate and form boundaries.  And simply having myriad opportunities for expression – songs, skits, and other rituals – demonstrates to children how appropriate expression is the anecdote for oppression, depression, and other things that hold people back.

So find a way to give your child the experience camp, and you should see that it was exactly where they needed to be this summer when they return, often “a year more mature” than when they left, as many parents have expressed to me during my years as a camp director.  It’s a true joy to see children transform through this “world of good” that is the summer camp experience.

Article author Chris Chisholm is founder and co-owner of Wolf Camp and the Conservation College. Related articles include:

• Preventing Homesickness at Camp, School & College
How to Involve Kids in Herbal Education
• How to Get the Computer Generation Outdoors

Four happy campers during our Alpine Trek backpacking adventure
Four happy campers during our Alpine Trek backpacking adventure

To have your child experience the gift of camp, check out:

Kids Day Camps serving Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle’s east side.
Backpacking into Wolf Country expedition for teens and young adults.
Survivors Side of the Mountain overnight camp for youth.
Wilderness Chefs & Herbal Medics
The Animal Safari – Tracking & Photograhy
• Secrets of the Ancient Scout
Ancient Archers & Artisans
Wild Discovery Film Camp
Epic Fishing Camp

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