Summer camps can boost healthy development

Summer camps can boost healthy development

Whenever Sam Young tried to explain where he went for a month each summer, words just didn’t do the place justice. He tried to explain the fresh smell of the outdoors, the feeling of the cool breeze off the lake and the unparalleled beauty of the woods. But he realized something — it was really the people who made Camp Lincoln memorable.

Now a freshman at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill, Young credits his summer camp experience with helping him gain confidence.

“Camp is a great place to really find out who you are,” Young says. “The six or so summers I spent at camp helped to make me a better person. I learned about cooperating well with others, setting goals and working toward them. I also developed friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Advancing childhood development
Andre Brewer is the director at Camp Lincoln for Boys in Lake Hubert, Minnesota where Young spent his summers as a child.  He says that camps offer a wide array of benefits for healthy development.

“Children grow in a variety of ways after a summer camp experience,” Brewer says. “The most growth usually happens in the areas of independence and social skills. Because campers are away from their parents, they are able to make their own decisions, such as choosing what to eat, what activities they want and what to wear.”

Dr. Ken Davison, a clinical psychologist with the Advocate Medical Group in Downers Grove, Ill, agreed that sending your children to summer camp can have a positive impact on their development.

“There are a number of ways in which camps can help stimulate growth,” said Davison.  “Camps provide structured opportunities for children to expand beyond the learning that they have done during the school year.”

All shapes and sizes
According to Davison, children who attend summer camp can grow physically, psychologically, socially, mentally, and even spiritually.

“There are opportunities to increase awareness of feelings, from excitement to fear, and ways to process those feelings,” he says. “They learn how to work with people who may not be like themselves to make choices and live with decisions, to adapt in new environments and rely on themselves. They get to slow down, enjoy the outdoors, and finally learn more about who they are outside home. All of that is a part of healthy development.”

Taking the first step
If you think your child may benefit from a camp experience, Brewer recommends the following steps:

  1. Speak openly and honestly with your child about the opportunity, especially if he or she is younger and has never been away from home for an extended period of time.
  2. Consult with friends and family members whose children have attended camps to get a feel for the types of camps available.
  3. Contact camps in your area, or to go to the American Camp Association’s Website for a wealth of resources.
  4. Once you contact a camp, speak to the director. Share your honest questions with him or her. This way, you can determine if that particular camp would be best for your child, and this also allows the camp director to be able to advise you if the camp would be a good fit or not.

“In the end,” Brewer says, “the parent and the camp director want this to be a win-win situation for the child.”

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.