by: Kristina Scott, Ed. D.

The holidays have ended, our winter breaks from school are over, and some of us are wishing for the relaxing and memory-making days of summer! So let’s start day-dreaming and planning for this upcoming summer and how our children can make the most of it. As adults, we know someone (perhaps it’s ourselves) that looks back on summer camp with a longing nostalgia. Will the summer camps of today give our youth the same joyful reminiscence?

Yes, summer camps can bring back memories of the past, but they can also foster skills that help develop a well-rounded individual and foster continuous growth in the summer months (when school is not in session). Unlike the rigid school setting, most summer camps do so in a stress-free environment with the emphasis on play. This emphasis on play allows for experimentation and creativity to develop. It also allows for cognitive and language development to happen in the social context it will be used. Research, in fact, shows that play is important for healthy brain development. By providing this mental stimulation during these summer months, ensures brains are still firing and ready for school come fall. So bring on the play and learning that happens within it during summer camps!

Summer camps, in general, also focus on team building skills within a community environment. The jobs of today and the jobs of the future will require teamwork and interdependence. Summer camps often focus on activities that work on team building. Team building in summer camps lay the foundation for our youth to work collaboratively and effectively with others. It does this through developing communication skills, focusing on emotional intelligence and through fostering leadership skills within this community environment. Recent research on emotional intelligence notes that it is a better predictor of success, overall happiness, and quality of life than academic intelligence (IQ) is—so let’s bring on the team-building skills that summer camps focus on!

Being away from parental figures, whether it’s solely in the day camp setting or in an overnight camp environment, also helps promote independence. Having independence helps one become self-sufficient and in turn build one’s self-esteem by giving ownership over one’s life; this is done through providing choice-making opportunities! Every time a child independently chooses and accomplishes a task, they gain confidence; this confidence can carry over to trying new tasks and expanding one’s horizons.

Summer camps and the community that is naturally embedded in the camp experience also helps foster a sense-of-belonging. When our youth feel like they belong and have others that they are connected with, it gives them a sense of purpose. It connects them to the world around them, and has them socially interacting with peers in the real-world setting. This is the basis for establishing long and lasting friendships. These are the friends that can then look back on their summer camp experiences with nostalgia as they reminisce together about the stress-free days of summer!

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