– Summer Camps: Turning Brain Drain Into Brain Gain

Summer Camps: Turning Brain Drain Into Brain Gain

Summer Camps For Brain Drain

Each year, as students close in on those coveted summer months, old schoolyard rhymes about summer vacation seem to make their way around the classroom. After all, Alice Cooper’s 70s’ classic is a celebratory tune that resonates with every generation:

“School’s out for summer!”

You’d be hard pressed to find a kid that isn’t excited about summer vacation, about the promise of swimming pools, warm nights and of course – no school work. Although kids may be counting down the days until summer’s here at last, parents are feeling the pressure from that same ticking clock.

For parents, summer vacation means having to find new ways to occupy their child’s time – time that was previously devoted to the classroom. Although kids are more than happy to burn hours away watching TV or playing video games, the reality is that these activities can actually do more harm than good. In fact, kids that end up inactive and understimulated during the summer end up suffering in their schoolwork than kids that actively participate in summer programs, like day camps.

What Is Summer Brain Drain?

What Is Summer Brain Drain

While it may sound like something out of a cartoon, there’s actually some hard science behind it. In a nutshell, brain drain is a relapse of skills over the summer months. Kids that aren’t being actively engaged over the summer months, whether through summer school or day camp programs, have a much harder time retaining the lessons learned throughout the school year than those who do.

The Effects of Brain Drain

To give you a better idea of how brain drain can affect your child, consider this: During the summer months, if students aren’t being engaged, they lose around two months of grade-level math skills. It isn’t just math – reading comprehension suffers too.

When researchers took a closer look at the effects of summer learning loss, they found that over half of the achievement gap between kids from higher-income households vs. lower-income households could be traced back to unequal access to summer learning options.

Summer Camps and Brain Gain: Educational Benefits

No parent wants to see his or her child struggle, especially when it comes to learning. So how can parents stop summer learning loss and turn the summer brain drain into a brain gain?

The answer lies in a strong summer camp program. Summer camp has proven to be an effective weapon in the battle against brain drain, offering a fun and encouraging environment for children to learn and grow.

Here are just a few examples of the educational benefits of enrolling your child in a summer camp program:

  • Challenge Accepted: As a low-stress, often encouraging environment, summer camp helps kids feel comfortable in learning to accept new challenges, even if it means they don’t succeed on their first try. In this supportive surrounding, they learn how to better face obstacles in the future and how hard work can pay off in the long run.
  • Double Down: Because kids are engaged at camp, they don’t have the opportunity to slip into the bad habits of brain drain – their minds and bodies are continually being challenged in new and exciting ways. This helps them stay sharp, so that when the school year comes around, they’re easily able to transition into their classroom environment.
  • Increased Involvement: While a classroom setting may be intimidating for some, summer camp is a great opportunity for kids to increase their involvement when it comes to reading, problem solving and teamwork because it removes the stress of the classroom but can retain the important lessons learned there.

Summer Camps and Brain Gain: Developmental Benefits

While summer camp can be a power tool for summer learning-loss prevention, it also can benefit your child’s developmental growth. According to the Search Institute, children actually have seven developmental needs:

  1. Physical Activity
  2. Competence and Achievement
  3. Self-Definition
  4. Creative Self-Expression
  5. Positive Social Interactions
  6. Structure and Clear Limits
  7. Meaningful Participation

Summer camp can address each of these needs, and can do so in a nurturing, fun environment. Let’s take a closer look, and see how summer camp can provide growth opportunities for each need:

Summer Camp Promotes Physical ActivityPhysical Activity: Almost all summer camps have physical activity integrated into their daily curriculum, whether it’s planned activities like swimming, hiking or sailing or organized sports like kickball, basketball or freeze-tag.


Summer Camp AchievementCompetence and Achievement: We already know that kids at camp feel more comfortable in the low-stress surroundings than they can during the school year. Their increased sense of security in a camp environment makes them more willing to try new things, to explore new worlds and to push themselves to achieve goals that they may never have thought were possible.

Summer Camp Self DefinitionSelf-Definition: Summer camp seems to have a powerful effect on a child’s sense of independence. Without parents or teachers guiding their decisions, kids can use their time at summer camp to make their own decisions, albeit small, in a low-stress environment. This not only teaches them how to rely on themselves, but it also slowly begins to shape their future self.

Summer Camp Self ExpressionCreative Self-Expression: Arts and crafts, sing-a-long sessions, talent shows: These are just a few examples of the way summer camps offer kids the opportunity for creative self-expression. Again, thanks to the safe and accepting environment of summer camp, children are more likely to branch out in their attempts at expressing themselves.

Summer Camp Social InteractionsPositive Social Interactions: What better place for your child to learn about how to interact with others in a positive way than at summer camp? Camps do a great job of bringing together kids from all across the spectrum and uniting them towards one goal. This helps kids not only learn how to work as a team, but also learn how working together in a positive, encouraging environment can help everyone succeed.

Summer Camp StructureStructure and Clear Limits: For children struggling with the issues of structure and clear limits, summer camp can be a great way to ease children into understanding the importance of these two concepts. Especially since, in order for everyone to participate as a group, everyone needs to be respectful of the structure and limitations of the program.

Summer Camp Meaninful ParticipationMeaningful Participation: Sometimes it’s easy for kids to feel like their voices don’t matter, especially when their parents or teachers are the ones making the decisions. At camp, they can feel like they have a voice and play an important role in their group. Some camp programs may assign a group leader for the week, thus engraining the strong sense of meaningful participation in each child.

Real-Life Experiences

If you’re still not convinced of all the benefits that summer camp can offer your child, then check this out:

In the summer of 2000, the American Camp Association surveyed 1,000 parents after their kids had returned from camp. It asked parents to rank the top five benefits they saw in their child once they had completed camp. On a scale of 1-5 – with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree – here’s what they had to say:

  1. My child felt successful at camp – average score: 4.63
  2. My child made new friends – average score: 4.60
  3. My child gained new skills – average score: 4.39
  4. Camp encouraged my child to get along better with others – average score: 4.35
  5. Camp helped my child have a better idea of what she or he is good at – average score: 4.20

That same year, ACA polled kids from 20 different summer camp programs, asking them how their camp experience impacted them:

Q: Can you think of things you learned and did at camp last summer that helped you in school this year?

“My experiences helped me look at challenging situations differently and instead of giving up, finding a way around them.” – 14-year-old female

“I was more confident, wanted to know everything, was excited to be in school and good grades in 7th grade.” – 12-year-old female

“I learned better sportsmanship and listening skills that helped me bring up my grades in behavior.” – 11-year-old male

“I learned how to be on my own without someone with me all the time.” – 12-year-old male

Q: Do you feel different about yourself when you are at camp?

“At school there are defined groups of people, but at camp, everyone feels wanted.” – 15-year-old female

“Yes, because I’m with people my age and people who respect everyone.” – 11-year-old male

“At camp I have a personality that is different from home. I’m less cautious to do fun or existing things. I don’t feel as long as I sometimes do at home.” – 14-year-old male

“At camp I think that I can do more and be proud of myself.” – 13-year-old female

Activities That Battle Brain Drain

Summer Camp Brain Drain Prevention

When you’re ready to enroll your child in summer camp, you’ll want to make sure you pay attention to the camp’s curriculum for the summer. The best options will involve activities that will stimulate and engage your child’s mind and body.

Your summer camp program should offer any of the following activities in their curriculum:

  • Comprehension lessons – reading hours, science experiments, puzzles
  • Physical activity – organized sports, free play, outdoor activities like hiking, biking, swimming, sailing
  • Arts and crafts – painting, coloring, drawing, crafting, building
  • Exploration – guided lessons on nature, plants, animals
  • Field trips – science museums, libraries, children’s museums, state parks
  • Group programs – activities that will encourage team work, working in groups, working together

In addition to these programs, make sure that you inquire about meal planning. Your kids will probably be spending a large portion of the day at their summer camp, so ensuring that they’re getting nutritious, health-conscious meals is important. Summer months can spell trouble when it comes to watching the kinds of foods your kid is having. With the temptation of summertime treats, it’s no wonder that many kids end up gaining weight over the summer months.

While there’s no harm in summer camps offering the occasional hamburger, hot dog or frozen treat, they should also moderate these kinds of foods, balancing their inclusion on your child’s menu, while making strong efforts to include plenty of water and fresh fruits and veggies.

Summer Camp: A World of Opportunities

With so many proven benefits, it’s hard to say which one will be the reason to send your child to summer camp. Maybe it’s to fight off the effects of brain drain. If that’s the case, then summer camp can offer your child interesting, interactive and engaging activities and programs to stimulate their minds. Or maybe it’s to boost your child’s developmental growth. With creative self-expression and a welcoming, community environment, summer camp empowers any child to grow, develop and learn about themselves and the world around them.

Enroll in Camp Today

YMCA Summer Camp

The YMCA offers a number of options when considering summer day camp programs. Each camp includes themed weeks, weekly field trips, supervised free swim, arts and crafts, sports, games, science and nature activities, and weekly learning zones. The following camps are currently accepting registrations:

West Shore Branch

East Shore Branch

Northern Dauphin County Branch

Camp Curtin Branch

2015 Camp Registration will begin March 7. All registration forms will be available beginning Feb. 23, and can be downloaded or picked up at our YMCA Locations.

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