Local Experts Weigh in on the Benefits of Attending Camp
By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
After more than a year of being socially isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are eager to find ways for their children to enjoy this summer safely—and what better way to have fun, while creating lifelong memories, than at camp?
There are a number of benefits exclusive to the camp experience.
Choosing the right camp might take some deliberation because of a vast array of options, ranging from sports, arts and adventures to day, sleep-away and specialty camps.
No matter the selection, camp offers children the opportunity to gain independence, learn new skills, and socialize and make new friends.
Before sending your child off to camp, longtime Palisadian and camp expert Nancy Forman advised to have an honest discussion and consider a few things.
“What is your family’s goal and what is your child’s goal?” Forman said to the Palisadian-Post. “Do you want them to go to camp or do they want to go to camp? You have to be on the same page … it’s going to set the tone for every summer going forward. You’re going to have resistance, you’re going to have a fight and the dominoes are going to fall down.”
Forman said it is critical that camp is a wholly positive experience. For many, camp may be a child’s first experience away from home, which paves the way for their exploration of self-identity.
“The experience you’re going to get is something you’re not going to get at home, you’re not going to get at school, and it’s going to help shape you,” Forman said. “This is you starting to emerge.”
Whether a child is enrolled in day or overnight camp, being away from home provides a sense of self.
While she considers both valuable, Child Development and Behavior Specialist Betsy Brown Braun said families should also weigh the differences between day camp and sleep-away camp.
Brown Braun said she is a proponent of sleep-away camp because it is useful in teaching children to be independent and self-reliant.
“Just by virtue of the fact that Mommy and Daddy and nanny or whoever are not there … kids learn to take care of themselves in ways that they do not feel they have to when they are not home,” she said. “Their sense of self, their independence is so enhanced and they’re put in a position to use all of the skills they have but very often don’t have to use.”
Scott Harris, a licensed psychologist of over 20 years who practices in Brentwood, said a camp experience can be “tremendous.” He said the camp experience, whether day-to-day or week-to-week, can benefit children socially and emotionally.
Harris explained that at camp, children are socializing with their peers all day, allowing them to relate to one another. Children begin to nurture friendships and bond over their shared camp experiences.
Children also engage in activities, whether a game or sport, that will teach them teamwork and how to work together. Children begin to acquire special skills: leadership, organizational and communication.
“It can be a very positive learning experience,” Harris said to the Post.
The benefits of camp are countless and can last a lifetime. Forman said the camp experience taught her son lessons that he carried with him into adulthood.
“Parents, especially today, we really tend to coddle our kids and I don’t think they necessarily get the character building as much as they do when they’re off on their own and it’s their world and their … different experiences in different environments,” she said. “I cannot tell you enough the experiences you get at camp … how they help shape you.”
Similarly, Brown Braun shared that her children started going to day camp at the age of 5, sleep-away camp at a later age and attended “forevermore.”
“I think it really paved the way for them … to go away to college and live happily, comfortably, competently away from home,” she said about the long-term, lifetime benefits of attending camp. “Kids need to get away from the grip of home fires, they need their chance to do their own thing without having to achieve grades or being the best or any of that stuff. It’s about experiencing life in new ways and being with new people.”
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