Summer camp is a chance for kids to break free from the repetitive routine of school, take part in exciting, new activities and make friends while they’re at it. Just because camp prioritizes play, however, doesn’t mean it’s not an informative, intellectually stimulating and meaningful experience as well.
When campers set off for a summer of fun, they’re also embarking on a journey of maturation and development. From collaboration to communication to gaining confidence, camp teaches kids many essential skills as they’re playing the day away.
These attributes don’t just go away come September, either—the life lessons of summer camp stick with individuals until they send their own kids to camp, and beyond.
To shed some light on the most transformative skills campers take away from their experiences, we’re exploring the various valuable life lessons of summer camp.
#1 – The Ins and Outs of Working as a Team
When kids attend camp, they’ll immediately be placed into a social environment filled with children of similar ages who have common interests. They’ll also be teamed up with fellow campers and encouraged to work together toward common goals during:
- Relay races
- Dramatic reenactments
- Artistic projects
- STEM activities
- Crafting sessions
They won’t just be placed into teams and left to their own devices, however. They’ll be under the care and guidance of committed leaders who will help them succeed in games, projects and other collaborative efforts.
Leaders are an essential part of the camp experience and effective, charismatic leaders can take the fun from mild to marvelous. On top of this, excellent leaders give campers someone special to look up to for the summer.
As a Harvard op-ed reflecting on the benefits of camp notes, leaders are essential role models who encourage cooperation and friendship amongst their troops. They create an environment where it’s easy for their campers to get along and, thus, work together in situations that call for cooperation.
Kids who learn to cooperate take those skills into the classroom and work more effectively on group assignments. So, when your camper is captaining the next team project and working harmoniously with their peers, you can see camp’s life lessons in action.
#2 – How to Be Resilient in the Face of Adversity
For many kids, especially those heading to camp for the first time, their adventure will be filled with memorable, but unfamiliar experiences. When arriving on-site for a summer of fun, campers can expect to:
- Meet new friends
- Discover a new environment
- Interact with new authority figures
- Take part in new activities
- Encounter new challenges and ideas
While these experiences are overwhelmingly positive and fun, they require campers to step outside their comfort zone and reconsider their own perspectives. They must detach from the familiar solace of family and trust in new people for personal support. To that end, the very nature of camp encourages campers to build their resilience.
Resilience, exemplified by the ability to adjust to or cope with negative events, is extremely important to our physical and emotional well-being as we develop. Recent studies reveal that increased resilience in children leads to overall better mental health as they mature into adults.
Resilient campers stand up to social pressures and effectively mitigate negative influences. They adapt when placed in new classes or on new teams and don’t give up when they’re dealt difficult situations. Campers carry their resilience into every challenge and opportunity in life, making them expertly equipped to keep a cool head when the going gets tough, no matter what age you send your child to summer camp.
#3 – How to Effectively Approach Problems
As mentioned, camp gives kids the opportunity to take part in new experiences, learn new things and broaden their horizons. Whether it’s crafting catapults or designing mechanical dinosaurs, campers are likely to get a taste of something they’ve never tried before.
Along with the excitement of discovering new things comes the challenges of adjusting to the unfamiliar. Kids must learn how to effectively launch that catapult and counterbalance the mechanical t-rex’s weight so its tiny arms don’t tip it over.
Leaders work together with their campers to cultivate innovative, inquisitive mindsets so they can address these and similar challenges using their own logic and reasoning. The American Camp Association (ACA) identifies five main steps to problem-solving that camp helps campers understand and execute:
- Assess the situation.
- Determine each party’s goals.
- Brainstorm solutions.
- Select a course of action.
- Carry out the plan.
These steps seem simple, but they’re a formidable foundation for any camper to base their decision-making and reasoning on. So, whether they’re developing a presentation with their classmates or sharing toys with their siblings, they’ll be ready to effectively address any issues that arise in future relationships.
#4 – Key Communication Skills
Camp crosses cultural, economic and social boundaries. It brings kids from all walks of life together to revel in shared leisure, refresh from the trials of the school year and, as mentioned, work together towards common goals. In order for a large group of campers to work together and solve problems, however, they must first learn to effectively communicate.
Communication isn’t one solitary skill, but instead, a set comprised of abilities such as:
- Speaking clearly in a way that others can understand
- Listening, comprehending and responding to others
- Reading non-verbal cues
- Maintaining active listening practices, such as consistent eye-contact
The ACA emphasizes the importance of organized play in helping campers develop these abilities. Leaders encourage their troops to cooperate during activities and exercise these skills, allowing them to develop naturally over the course of the summer.
The result? Congenial, candid campers who understand that:
- Effective communication simplifies accomplishing shared goals
- Open communication promotes a sense of community and makes everyone feel more welcome in a space
- The communication skills that they’ve learned can be applied beyond camp to family, sports teams, school and friend groups
#5 – Personal Growth and Self-Discovery
Another benefit of summer camp is that it exposes children to a wide range of different activities, ideas and opportunities. On any given day, a camper may have the chance to:
- Build a tilt-a-whirl Paint a stained-glass masterpiece
- Craft and control fully-operational bots
- Design and run a zany carnival-style game of skill
- Act out a royal celebration worthy of a real king or queen
- Use tools to make functional furniture from raw materials
In essence, camp allows children to try myriad different pastimes and see which ones pique their interest. Whether technology tickles their fancy or working with their hands is the way for them, the opportunity to give many things a go is part of what makes the summer camp experience so unique.
For some campers, the variety of activities simply keeps camp exciting and engaging throughout the summer. For others, however, the vast wealth of experiences can uncover an unknown interest, reveal a hidden calling or help them decide on a path for their future.
#6 – Self-Confidence and Courage
As mentioned, camp encourages kids to step outside of their comfort zone and be resilient in the face of change. Part of being resilient, however, is developing the courage to address and overcome your fears. Summer camp boosts a child’s self esteem and confidence, helping them feel more comfortable in everyday life.
We all have different things that scare us. New social situations, unknown people and exciting, but unfamiliar activities might be intimidating at first, but camp leaders help instill their troops with the confidence needed to jump headfirst into such scenarios.
In fact, studies by the ACA reveal an overwhelmingly positive correlation between attending camp and elevated self-esteem and self-confidence. Leaders play an essential role in helping children develop these attributes by:
- Identifying the unique qualities and characteristics of their individual campers
- Pointing out their positive traits and offering cheerful encouragement when they do the right thing
- Helping them work on their weaknesses in a constructive, non-judgemental manner
Positive reinforcement from a trusted authority figure—especially one as cool as a camp leader—sticks with children. Come September (and beyond) they’ll take that glow of confidence into the classroom with them without succumbing to the nervousness of a new school year.
Learn Valuable Life Lessons During a Superb Summer at Camp Galileo
Summer is a time for kids to play and enjoy the unique sense of freedom that youth offers. If, however, they happen to learn a valuable life lesson or six (or more) during all that fun, all the better!
At Camp Galileo, we pride ourselves on delivering a fun-filled, transformative summer program that sticks with kids well past their time with us. A 2017 study by Stanford Graduate School of Education researches found that our approach to camps helps children develop skills to persevere at unfamiliar challenges, share their ideas more freely, and respond better in the face of failure. Whether it’s the confidence to finally try out for that team, or a sense of direction for their high school career and beyond, there’s a wealth of valuable takeaways waiting for kids at Camp Galileo.
Creativity, STEAM exploration, collaboration and play define our award-winning programs. These four essential pillars provide the basis for cultivating resilience, self-confidence and abstract thinking in our campers. Then, after an unforgettable summer of adventure and fun, they take these skills into the world and apply them to making it a better place.
Enroll your child in Camp Galileo today—the fun lasts the whole summer, but the memories and lessons learned will stick with them for a lifetime.
Science Daily. Failure to launch: Parents are barriers to teen independence. https://www.sciencedaily.com/
American Camp Association. Want an Independent, Confident, Resilient Kid? Camp Can Help!.https://www.acacamps.org/
Centers for Disease Control. Screen Time vs. Lean Time Infographic. https://www.cdc.gov/
Time. How We’re Endangering our Kids’ Imaginations. https://time.com/
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Is spending time in screen-based sedentary behaviors associated with less physical activity: a cross national investigation. https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/
World Health Organization. Physical Activity. https://www.who.int/
National Library of Medicine. The Effect of Chronic Exercise on Energy and Fatigue States: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
American Camp Association. The Value of Camp. https://www.acacamps.org/
American Camp Association. Benefits of Camp. https://www.acacamps.org/