Social Skills

Benefits of Summer Camps for Kids

When school gets out for the summer, you may find yourself needing to find something for your kids to do. Summer camp does much more than simply entertaining your children, though--it gives them a chance to learn, explore the outdoors, develop their hobbies, and even make new friends. Here are some of the many benefits of summer camps for kids.

#1. It Helps Them Develop Social Skills

If your child is shy or reserved, they may be more anxious than excited about going to camp. However, summer camp helps your child develop their social skills. While summer camps have trained counselors, most of the socializing happens between camp goers. Kids will learn to socialize during camp activities, and they also will learn how to manage living alongside other children.

Social Skills

Even if your child has ADHD, high-functioning autism, or another diagnosis that makes it hard to socialize, they can benefit from summer camp.

ADHD - other social skills

This video features an expert talking to kids about what's expected (socially speaking) when they attend summer camp.

#2. It Helps Develop Teamwork Skills

Whether it's collaborating on writing a skit, playing kickball, or working together to cook breakfast, camps help children learn teamwork. Depending on your child's personality, they may already be able to work easily with others.

Teamwork-among-Kids

However, summer camps bring together kids from diverse backgrounds, and one of the skills essential to anyone's success is being able to harmoniously work with many different types of people. And while many children learn teamwork through sports, children who aren't as interested in sports may find that camp activities are more effective for developing their ability to work as part of a team.

 Teamwork through Sports

Some children are naturally very independent, which isn't a bad thing. However, some very independent children prefer to solve every problem alone. Learning to work with others will help them develop skills that they will need as adults. Plus, the wide variety of activities offered at summer camp means that there's a greater chance that a child learns to accept working in a team.

If your child struggles with group projects, they might find that rowing or performing with a group helps them understand the value of working together. This video illustrates some of the many ways your kids can learn to work together while at summer camp.

#3. It Teaches Resilience

As any adult knows, resilience is a key quality that helps us all overcome hard times. While at summer camp, your child can learn resilience in a number of ways.

  • They discover things they like about themselves--A strong sense of self is vital to have. And when children have a sense of who they are, it emboldens them and helps them to stay confident even in the face of adversity.
  • They start to feel more in control of their lives--Summer camp is often fun, but it isn't without challenges. Whether a child is working with other campers to clean up a messy campsite or working with counselors to plan out the day's activities, summer camp helps kids see challenges as manageable and not overwhelming.
  • They are treated fairly--Camp counselors and organizers make an effort to help kids feel included. Even shy children often start to come out of their shells and feel seen. This can build self-confidence, which in turn gives them the sense of self-efficacy they need to face problems head-on.
  • They develop new connections--As they move on in life, children will find that they can rely on others to help them navigate difficult times. Whether it's a supportive camp counselor or a newfound set of friends, the people kids meet at camp can help them deal with challenges they face along the way.
Resilience-among-kids

Resilience is essential to a healthy, happier life, and summer camp is one of the many ways children can develop it. This video details some of the ways that camp can help your child be more resilient.

#4. It Helps Kids Have Fun Without Screens

On average, kids spend about seven and a half hours in front of a screen each day. The internet has plenty of advantages when it comes to education, but many children today find that most of their extracurricular activities--video games, watching movies, and general internet surfing--center around screens.

At home, many parents try to encourage their kids to minimize screen time--this video from NPR details some of the rules parents can use to keep kids from staying on screens all the time. However, parents who work or otherwise can't be available all the time might have trouble enforcing rules. At camp, kids participate in group activities that don't involve screen time. This helps them find new, exciting activities and make new friends, providing fun alternatives that they can't replicate with a screen.

5. It Helps Kids Discover New Interests

Most parents would prefer not to invest in lessons for several activities just to find that their children aren't interested. Summer camp is effectively a sampler platter of activities your children may not have tried before. Whether it's swimming, music, acting, or arts, your child will likely discover something they love.

Plus, if your child attends a general summer camp and then discovers a new special interest, chances are good that you can then find a institute that specializes in that interest. For instance, your child may find that they love playing guitar or chess, you can enroll them for regular courses or a camp specialized in these activities.

These specialized courses or camps also help your children learn skills they will need later. An interest-focused camp lets children connect with others who share that interest--something that gives them practice for the type of networking they will need down the line. This video offers a glimpse into what it's like to attend a camp geared towards kids who want to learn about film production, one of the many special interests you can find a camp for.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with your child choosing to stick to a general camp. General-purpose camps let kids try different things, which translates into them becoming well-rounded adults.

#6. It Lets Kids Connect With Nature

Maybe you live in a rural area but have children who would prefer to stay indoors watching Netflix. Or maybe you live in a dense city with little access to natural, outdoor spaces. Either way, one of the many ways summer camp benefits children is by helping them develop a connection to nature. There's plenty of research showing that being in nature helps children and even adults reduces stress, fear, and anger. Being in nature also has beneficial physical effects--it lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and increases energy.

Plus, summer camp does more than simply place kids in nature--it also gives them fun activities they can continue to do in nature with their friends at home:

  • Hiking
  • Water balloon dodgeball
  • Obstacle courses
  • Gardening
  • Swimming

Cultivating a love of the outdoors is a valuable and important thing to do for young children--this video shows how outdoor activities can be used to help elementary school children. By developing a love of the outdoors early on through summer camp, your children will be more likely to grow into healthier, more active adults.

#7. It Lets Kids Develop Independence

Summer camp isn't a free-for-all (or it shouldn't be), but summer camp is where many children first learn to feel comfortably independent. In many cases, even well-meaning parents hover over their children. At camp, kids have a balance of structured activities and less-structured downtime.

For the most part, kids at camp can make their own decisions, whether it's what new activity to try or what to eat for lunch. And sending your child to camp also has benefits for you as a parent. If you find yourself frequently worrying about your child, sending them to camp inspires a sense of independence in you, too. As you learn to trusts your child and let them make their own decisions in summer camp, you will learn to let your child be independent, which helps create a healthier parent-child relationship.

Even if your child has a disability that makes it harder for them to become independent, the right summer camp can help them cultivate life skills and develop their independence. This video shows how a camp for blind children helps its campers feel more independent despite facing significant challenges. These specialized camps may be harder to find, but they are well worth it. Children with disabilities benefit from a healthy level of independence, and the trained counselors at special camps know how to help kids develop independence without compromising their safety or well-being.

#8. It Helps Kids Stay Physically Fit

If you already have very active children, it might not be much of a challenge to make sure they get enough exercise. However, less active children--especially those who don't enjoy sports--may need a bit of a push. Exercise has a range of physical and mental benefits for children of all fitness levels--it helps them build strong bones and muscles, improves focus, and promotes better sleep.

While some kids might jump at the chance to run around outside, the many outdoor activities offered by most summer camps may entice any child. For instance, some children prefer to exercise in a team activity like dodgeball. Others might appreciate the opportunity to talk to their friends on a group hike. Even if they are hesitant at first, most kids will find that they enjoy exercise in some form--this video shows a group of children having fun playing dodgeball.

If your child was somewhat inactive before camp, they might find that they like how they feel with regular exercise. Regular exercise, even through camp activities, helps get kids into healthy habits. After all, it's a lot harder to start exercising as an adult if it's something you haven't done before.

#9. It Helps Kids Stay on Track With Learning

Kids need a break from school in the summers. However, research has indicated that kids who spend all summer with no enrichment may end up losing up to two grade levels of proficiency in math. Of course, summer camp isn't as rigorous as a regular class, but many camps incorporate math in fun ways--kids might solve puzzles together, work on efficiency by competing in math races, or hone measurement skills by building new things.

In STEM or science-focused camps and activities, kids can go a step further by applying what they've learned in school to complete fun and challenging activities. If your child is the type to complain about math class because they don't see the point, camps or activities that let them apply what they've learned can be especially helpful.

Of course, math isn't the only academic skill that can be sharpened by summer camp. Summer camp can help children develop reading skills and writing skills, too. Even if your child isn't especially interested in reading, attending a camp that takes them out of their school routine may help them see reading in a new light. This video shows how one organizer created a summer camp that helps children find a love of reading.

If your child is a gifted writer, they may also want to choose a camp with a creative writing focus. Creative writing helps kids sharpen their reading skills and improves the quality of their writing, which is especially helpful is writing is something they want to seriously pursue. For kids who love creative writing, a special camp also lets them connect with other students who like to write fiction, poetry, or plays. Many schools don't offer classes in creative writing or have very limited course offerings, and a specialized camp is something that student writers will love.

#10. It Lets Kids Take Risks

Risk-taking comes more easily to some children than to others. However, most of us realize that good things in life often require taking a risk of some sort. Summer camp is the perfect place for children to learn to take risks--they have plenty of new activities to try, and they are surrounded by supportive and caring staff and by other campers. Plus, if your child is in a camp that focuses on writing or STEM, they don't have to worry about their grades being impacted if they take a risk and fail.

While parenting culture often emphasizes total safety at all costs, it's taking risks that enables kids to find their limits, develop on-the-spot thinking and problem-solving skills, and ultimately become more confident.

For some children, even going away to camp itself can feel like a risk. Luckily, most children find that it's a worthwhile risk. Camp counselors are trained to be able to help your child if they start to feel very homesick, and there are also ways that you can help your child if they're feeling homesick--this video outlines some strategies for helping a kid who has trouble adjusting to camp.

In many ways, sending a kid to camp also feels like a risk for parents. And just as healthy risk-taking is important for kids, it is also important for parents who want to avoid becoming over-involved with their children and who want to see their children develop a healthy level of independence.

#11. It Teaches Kids to Respect Differences

Summer camp is designed to take kids out of their comfort zone in many ways. One of the most important ways it does this is by bringing together kids from a variety of backgrounds. If you live in an area that's relatively homogeneous, this kind of exposure can be especially crucial.

While at summer camp, kids will meet others from different religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They will see that each child is treated equally, and they will need to work and play alongside kids who are often different from them in some way. This is often much more effective than simply having your child read about other cultures. Summer camp is a place where respect for all is expected, and by living alongside kids from different backgrounds, they're likely to discover that they have more in common with other kids than they might have expected.

Each camp is a little different, but each will have its own way of helping kids learn to appreciate and respect differences--this video shows how one camp run by a police academy teaches its campers respect for others.

Spending time at summer camp is a great way to let your kids develop independence and find themselves as people. Did you enjoy our list? Let us know what you think (and tell us any benefits of summer camps for kids that we missed) in the comments, and don't forget to share if you found it helpful!