To some parents, summer time seems daunting. It means no school, no sports/extra-curricular activities, no daily socialization, and an opportunity for children to sit at home for 3 months of the year. It can be a burden to find ways to entertain your children during this season in an effort to keep their bodies and minds active.
The summer season has potential to hold lots of new opportunities to learn, grow, and explore. For children, these opportunities are often times hard to come by. And for parents…well, let’s just say the thought of leaving your child’s summer exploring up to chance can seem like a bad idea.
So, the common solution for most parents is to turn to summer camps.
These seasonal camps are a great way to get kids up and moving during the warm summer months. But they are also known for their sociological and psychological developmental impact on youth in the community. According to the American Camp Association, there are various psychological positive impacts that summer camps can have on children.
First, summer camps can have an effect on the social maturity of an individual.
According to Michael Popkin, Ph.D., the family therapist and founder of Active Parenting, “The building blocks of self-esteem are belonging, learning, and contributing. Camps offer unique opportunities for children to succeed in these three vital areas and even beyond home and school.”
It is important for children to gain a sense of community during their younger years. In fact, it is these connections within the community that truly form our social identity, which is why parents desire that their children have positive role models and influences through friendships, peers, teachers, and family. In the summer camp environment, under positive adult supervision, these children can mature socially through interactions with camp counselors as well as peers.
Summer camps also foster an environment of creative expression for growing youth.
According to Peter Scales, Ph.D., noted author/educator, and Senior Fellow of The Search Institute, “The biggest plus of camp is that camps help young people discover and explore their talents, interests, and values. Most schools don’t satisfy all these needs. Kids who have had these kinds of (camp) experiences end up being healthier and have less problems which concern us all.”
The ability to express one’s likes, passions, cares and concerns helps young children feel safe and encourages openness with family and friends. The simple act of creative expression can lead to positive character development and strong relationship building in growing youth.
In addition to psychological benefits, summer camps can also positively impact skill development.
According to a survey administered by the American Camp Association, 1,000 parents ranked the outcomes of their children after attending camp from a range of 1-5 and discovered not only did their children grow socially, but they defined and developed personal skills as well. The results of the survey were as follows:
- My child felt successful at camp (Average score: 4.63)
- My child made new friends (Average score: 4.60)
- My child gained new skills (Average score: 4.39)
- Camp encouraged my child to get along better with others (Average score: 4.35)
- Camp helped my child have a better idea of what she or he is good at (Average Score: 4.20)
(American Camp Association, “Benefits of Camp: Skill Development”)
As can be seen through this survey, summer camp helped children feel successful, understand their personal talents, and learn new skills. Every child is different, thus every child has different talents, skills, and abilities. So, skill development is just as important as social development for a child’s future.
Take an internship, for example. Learning new things in different environments can help college and high school students understand their own skills and gain a better sense of what type of career they see themselves in the future. For children, exposure to different activities can help them formulate a similar personal identity.
The YMCA encourages youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility in all that they do, which is why they offer summer camps for youth every year. The Y seeks to combine all of the existing benefits of summer camps, and add to it. There are three ways the YMCA stands out even further than your average summer camp:
To begin, physical activity is highly important at the Y.
So, at our annual summer camps, we make sure that we provide various physical activities for children. We plan for time to swim in the indoor pools as well as participate in relay races, team-based recreational games, sports, etc. No matter what activities the children will be doing, the element of exercise is always factored into the day.
Next, the YMCA encourages outdoor exposure.
Though we are a primarily indoor-operated wellness and childcare center, we value the importance of exposure to the outdoors during our summer camps. When the weather permits, our desire is to allow youth to experience nature and foster excitement for the outdoors.
Teamwork is another essential ingredient to the creation of our summer camps.
Not only do we desire children to mature socially as they make new friends, but through these friendships, cultivate camaraderie. The Y promotes the idea of team-building for our youth through a host of sports and games. Working in a team allows children as well as adults to focus not only on themselves, but seek to benefit others in a group environment.
Kids learn more than you think through summer camps – at the Y or anywhere else! This is why we strongly encourage the summer camp experience for children of all ages, backgrounds and interests. Exposure to these camps will strongly impact the development of your child and their personal and social growth and maturity, not to mention – they’re tons of fun! Don’t let your kids go through another summer without it!
Whether you’re a member of the Y or you’ve never given it a try, we recommend our YMCA Summer Camp Programs. They’re a great investment and your child will benefit tremendously. In fact, registration is just around the corner, starting in March! Below is a list of 2016 summer camps at our Harrisburg Area YMCA branches to help you get started:
West Shore YMCA:
East Shore YMCA:
Northern Dauphin County YMCA:
Camp Curtin YMCA:
– Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator