Friday, November 24, 2017
   
Text Size

Long-Term Value of Summer Camp: Facts and Figures

Category: Parents & Kids Magazine February 2012 Issue

 

Parents Kids Family Mississippi Summer Camp Value   

An estimated six million U.S. children will head off to summer camp this year, arriving with neatly packed duffle bags and plenty of anticipation and (hopefully) heading home with fantastic memories and fresh experiences under their belts. For some families, summer camp is simply a boredom-buster—a way to keep kids entertained during the long, hot days of summer when the routine of the school year is on hold. Many others recognize that a week or two at camp serves as much more than a fun diversion and can offer much richer benefits than meet the eye. Of course, it goes without saying that fun should be a fundamental part of the summer camp package. But there are deeper, longer-lasting benefits that parents can expect for their kids, provided they’ve chosen a solid, reputable summer camp. Consider these:

 

Improved physical and mental health

Despite the freedom that comes with the summer break, many kids are sedentary during the heat of the summer. Boredom, a lack of structure, stifling heat—especially in Mississippi—and a lull in activity can all lead a kid straight to the couch. Indeed, a study by researchers at Indiana University and Ohio State University found that kids gain more weight during the summer than they do during the school year. Fortunately, the study also supports the idea that children who attend summer camp can experience benefits to their physical health. Paul von Hippel, Ohio State sociology professor and lead researcher, said, “Our general finding—that kids do better in a structured environment with scheduled exercise and limited opportunities to eat—is consistent with the idea that camp can help restrain summer weight gain.”

Mental help can improve with a fun stint at summer camp, too. Often, kids living under tense circumstances at home find stress relief in attending summer camp. Divorce, the death of a parent, and other difficult circumstances leave many kids feeling overwhelmed with guilt, sadness, or confusion, and often strap them with a heavy sense of responsibility. “The camp experience,” says Jeffrey Solomon, executive director of the National Camp Association, “can be very freeing for these children and can instill in them a self-confidence that helps them cope with circumstances upon their return home.” In addition, a study conducted by the University of Illinois Human-Environment Research Laboratory shows that a “statistically significant number of children with ADD were found to function better than usual after activities in green settings…The ‘greener’ a child’s play area, the less severe are ADD symptoms.”

Broadened horizons

At most traditional summer camps, kids can choose from a wide variety of activities to suit almost any interest. Often, though, it’s during a summer camp session that children have the unique opportunity to try sports and other activities they never have before. According to research by the American Camp Association (ACA), 63 percent of children who learn new activities at camp will sustain an interest in those activities after camp is over. A new environment and the sense of independence a week away from home can promote is fertile ground for learning new skills and trying new things.

In addition to cultivating new interests, bringing kids from the desk, the couch, or the lull of a computer screen to the great outdoors is a prime goal of camp professionals, especially those who recognize—as the ACA does—that “nature-based experiences are critical for healthy human development.” Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, says, “Often our campers think the forest is a foreign place, not a place they belong.” A one- or two-week exposure to life in the outdoors can be all that’s needed to cultivate a lifelong love of nature in a child.

 

Unhindered playtime

It’s no surprise that the majority of children these days are severely over-scheduled. Between homework, sports practice, and every conceivable type of lesson available, kids rarely just play anymore. Parents, with honorable intentions, often attempt to kickstart the future success of their children in academics and sports by making sure every minute is dedicated to becoming the best at everything. As a result, over the last two decades kids have lost nine to twelve hours per week of free, undirected playtime, resulting in “obesity; high stress levels; rapidly increasing diagnosis of ADHD, depression, and emotional fragility; social incompetence; excessive dependence on adults; and the loss of a relationship with nature,” according to psychologist, author, and camp consultant Michael Thompson (www.michaelthompson-phd.com). In short, kids are too busy to be kids and are suffering as a result. One of the most valuable features of a quality summer camp is plenty of safe—but free and undirected—time to play. Researchers agree that good, old-fashioned playtime is essential for the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of children, and a traditional summer camp is a wonderful place for kids to do just that. “Traditional summer camp,” says Tufts University child development expert Dr. David Elkind, “is an oasis for children who are so focused on preparing for the future and have no time for enjoying the moment.”

Summer camp, for millions of children, is one of the highlights of summer, and it’s all about the fun. Meanwhile, they’re growing, both inside and out, due to the dedication of camp directors, counselors, and parents who know that at least once a year, a kid should be allowed to just be a kid.

 

About the Author: Jennifer Wigginton lives in Madison with her husband and three children.

 

 

Calendar of Events - Jackson Metro

November 2017
S M T W T F S
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 1 2

Calendar of Events, Northeast MS

November 2017
S M T W T F S
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 1 2

Calendar of Events - Pinebelt

November 2017
S M T W T F S
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 1 2

Latest Family Events