Why We Do Camp
As Michael Unger, in Psychology Today writes, “…summer camps are places where children get the experiences they need to bolster their range of coping strategies. There are the simple challenges of learning how to build a fire, going on a hike, or conquering a high ropes course. There are the much more complex challenges of getting along with a new group of peers, learning how to ask for help from others, or taking manageable amount of risks without a parent following after you.”
“The best camping experience,” Unger goes on to say, “offers these opportunities for manageable amounts of risk and responsibility…the worst camps pander to children as if they are entitled little creatures whose parents are paying big sums of money. Children at camp can’t be treated like customers if they are going to get anything out of the experience. They need to be treated like students whose caregivers, the counselors, know what the kids need to grow.”
Mr. Unger then lists seven things all children need that are provided in the summer camp experience (as it should be). Here are the main points:
- New relationships, not just with peers but with trusted adults that are not their parents.
- A powerful identity that makes a child feel confident in front of others.
- Control! Camps help children feel in control of their lives — from choosing their own schedule of activities to figuring out what to wear if the laundry isn’t back yet.
- Camps make sure that all children are treated fairly. A camper might have a learning disability or be extremely shy, but they will still find a place where they feel valued for who and what they are.
- Campers get to be outside and living an active lifestyle: Hiking, swimming, canoeing, etc.
- Kids find a place to belong at camp. It can be done through team songs, bunk cheers, or talent shows.
- They develop their own culture at camp. Through traditions and leadership programs, the campers participate in the culture grown at camp and find their way to understanding themselves and others a little bit more.
Kids at Heart offers various camping experiences.