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Campfire to Fireplace: Bringing camp lessons home

If you ask someone where they first learned how to read a map, swim in a real lake or worked as a team to solve a problem, chances are high that “camp” would be a common answer.

Summer camps provide kids and teens with an outlet to pursue a variety of skill sets both physically and mentally. In addition to activities like hiking and fishing, the summer camp experience can also help bolster other skills in realms like communication, teambuilding, resiliency and even self-confidence that will carry long into adulthood.

Embracing self-discovery

Whether it’s a day camp or an overnight camp, parents and kids spend time apart during the process. This independent time can help kids develop a sense of identity among peers. 

Kids learn to become more self-reliant while learning new skills and exploring weaknesses and learn to trust their inner voice instead of depending on parents or teachers for guidance. 

Independence is vital to becoming a self-sufficient adult. Camp teaches kids and teens that being independent, whether it’s leading a hike or dividing up evening chores, requires responsibility and leadership. 

More creative campers may find the alone-time helpful for finding inspiration to hone skills in reading, writing or art away from the bustle of everyday life.

Developing healthy habits

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only one in three children is physically active every day. Summer camp is a place where physical activity is normalized and encouraged. 

Daily physical activity is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and overall heart health, but it can also boost confidence and help manage stress. Whether day camping or overnighting, full days of camp activity require starting off with a nutritious breakfast and plenty of sleep. But healthy habits don’t have an age limit. What young campers learn early on can benefit them all life long. 

Embracing play

The routine of going to school, finishing homework, attending extracurricular activities and going to bed can make some kids stressed and sluggish. Although still structured, summer camp teaches kids the value of recreation, even after a busy day. The incorporation of free play activities at camp also can help kids develop creative thinking skills, gain experience in resolving conflicts, build negotiating skills and serve as a healthy way to relieve stress and make new friends.

Increasing self-sufficiency

Summer camp teaches the art of DIY and off-the-cuff improvising. Campers may have to learn how to wash or repair their own clothes after a hike, or take turns helping prepare camp meals with their peers. Some camps even provide lessons in gardening and animal care for campers of all ages, which will carry into adulthood 

Many camps are located in fairly remote areas, and instead of running to the store for simple and quick solutions, campers have to engage in critical thinking and prioritizing, which can help at home when deciding how to handle chores and homework.

Learning resiliency

Resiliency in the face of conflict is an essential life skill. Summer camp provides the opportunity for children to face many challenges and practice overcoming them. Campers might not be able to reach the top of a camp’s rock-climbing wall or reel in a fish on the first try, but they learn from their summer camp support system of peers and counselors to keep trying.

Happily unplugging

Between smartphones, televisions and computers, kids and adults are all guilty of spending too much time in front of a screen. On average, children spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of some kind of screen.

Most summer camps don’t permit usage of cellphones or electronic devices, even in destinations where a wireless signal is available. Instead, campers learn to navigate forests with peers with only a compass, make handmade crafts, play sports, ride horses or dance without electronic distractions. 

Upon coming home from camp, kids and teens return equipped with new skill sets and perhaps even new hobbies.

Respecting others

Camp provides an outlet for kids to mingle with peers of similar interests. It also provides an opportunity for kids to meet peers with different backgrounds and different interests. 

At camp, kids learn to work with others to accomplish common goals, whether it’s building a fire or winning a game of baseball. The exposure to different viewpoints and opinions will help campers develop respect for others and teach them the positive outcomes of working as a team despite differences, which will carry over into experiences like school and, for teens, potential workplaces.

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