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Summer Camp Can Be An Important Part Of Your Child’s Growth And Development

Summer Day Camp Programs for Kids

To many people, summer camp for kids might appear like nothing more than fun and games.

However, a study conducted in the past few years by the University of Waterloo supports what camp directors have been saying for decades – camp is a setting for positive youth development where invaluable life skills are acquired and nurtured.

“The major changes in campers’ growth speak tremendously of the summer camp experience,” says Troy Glover, the director of the University of Waterloo’s Healthy Communities Research Network.

Canadian Summer Camp Research Project Results

Glover spearheaded the Canadian Summer Camp Research Project, the first-ever nationwide and international research and evaluation project of its kind. Conducted in the summer of 2010, the study tracked 1,288 campers, aged three to 18, from 16 overnight and day camps across Canada.

The research stage was divided into two parts: one-on-one interviews with camp directors to gather anecdotal evidence, followed by camper surveys to measure behaviours, attitudes and values.

The results demonstrated that for “bubble-wrapped” youth who have been over-programmed and overprotected, camp provides a safe environment to freely learn, grow and develop their capabilities.

Summer camp, according to the study, fosters emotional intelligence (or EQ), self-confidence, independence, healthy living, environmental awareness, leadership and other skills that prove beneficial long into adulthood.

Life Skills Fostered At Summer Camp

Youth development experts agree that children need a variety of experiences in their lives to help them grow into healthy adolescents and adults. Here are five critical life skills that are fostered at summer camp:

  • How to Get Along With Others – Talk to any camp alumni and you’ll likely hear how some of their most meaningful friendships and lessons on how to get along with others came from camp.
  • How to Overcome Challenges – According to the recent ParticipACTION Report Card and Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play, over-supervising kids or keeping them indoors to ensure they are safe limits their opportunities for physical activity, endangering their long-term health – read more here. Camp provides a safe environment, allowing children to freely learn how to overcome challenges and develop and grow their capabilities.
  • How to Get Fit – A recent Statistics Canada study found that only seven percent of youth aged six to 19 got the recommended hour a day of exercise they need. YMCA Canada released a study in May, 2015, reporting that 85 percent of parents say it takes effort to be a healthy role model for their kids. The survey also revealed that parents are more likely to cite outside influences as excellent role models for their child. Summer camp is a great way for kids to stay active all summer and ensure they are surrounded with great role models and supportive friends.
  • How to Love the Earth – According to Richard Louv, children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and, therefore, for learning and creativity. We know that when children are connected with their environment, they are healthier and happier. They also learn how to independently and cooperatively deal with whatever adversity they face through the year, be it a rain storm, winter winds, adversity in life, or disagreements with others.
  • How to Lead – When it comes to developing strong leaders, camp provides both implicit and explicit training including morals, ethics, problem solving, teamwork, and life skills.

So while our conveniences make life easier in so many ways, there are experiences missing that provide growth, strengthening of values, confidence, and development for times of adversity. Those experiences need to come from somewhere, and I encourage my own children to go to camp and absorb all the life benefits they’ll find there.

Learn more about YMCA Summer Camps

To learn more about the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka summer camps, please click here.

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