You probably underestimate how much summer camp helps kids in critical ways.
Camp is an adventure you embark on with others. Together, you leave behind all that’s familiar and face the thrill of the unknown. Some kids around you are new to camp, while others have been there before. You’ll conquer obstacles side-by-side and learn about each other over the days and nights. Friendships form fast. Some fellow adventurers are shy—others loud and bold. Some are just like you. You’ll grow ever closer together over the years, when you choose to return to camp together. Social skills grow here—precisely because you and others learn mainly from each other.
Climb a 40-foot rock wall. Sing in front of a large crowd. Jump off the high diving board for the first time. Some things about camp seem scary, but you face fears—and drive them away. Counsellors and fellow campers support you when you fail, and cheer you on when you try again. Through “doing,” you become that person who isn’t afraid to step onto the stage alone, jump off the zipline platform, or kayak in the lake by yourself. You’ll own your experience and become a braver and bolder version of yourself.
Away from parents, you’re untethered, free to learn and do things on your own, within the safe structure of camp. You’ll do many new things. Some you’ll get right on the first try and feel like a champ—others will challenge you. You’ll be responsible for your own stuff, and take part in activities where you have to pull your own weight. You’ll grow new muscles and strengthen others. Some things you’ll do alone, others with people you’re not familiar with. You’ll gain trust in others, and—more than anything—confidence in yourself. You’ll rely less on others and become someone people look to for help and leadership, and you’ll feel increasingly comfortable with that.
Talent shows, creative arts activities, do-it-yourself meals ... camp activities let you express yourself in so many different ways you wouldn’t anywhere else. Discover hidden talents and new joys. Do things you initially find strange and learn how exhilarating they are. At camp, there’s room to discover and nurture the creative person inside. You’ll find yourself bolder, less restricted by others’ ideas and opinions, and freer to be yourself.
Days are full of physical activity. The focus is on fun over skills development or competing with others. You’ll do things you won’t do elsewhere, from riding a horse to playing an intense game of outdoor water polo to powering through an obstacle course … to dozens of other things you only get to do at overnight camp. You’ll gain confidence in your physical abilities, no matter what those are. What’s more, your body will remember this joy for the rest of your life.
In between activities, you’ll find time to chill with friends and simply be with each other. But, at overnight camp, those pauses emerge in the northern silence, near placid, pristine lakes, beneath an expansive sky. You’ll find a new level of comfort with yourself and with others. Camp helps you gain a quieter confidence but also a comfort with being quieter.
Gaze up at a night sky filled with the Milky Way to watch meteor showers stream past. Feel the mystery of discovery as you explore woods and lakes with new friends. Overlook vistas of forest and fresh water as far as the eye can see. Surrounded by nature in the company of the tribe you’re now part of, overnight camp can be the start of a lifelong deeper connection to the earth and to a deeper part of yourself.