On the surface, summer camp is a fun getaway for kids to help fill the time during a school break. But on a deeper level, it's so much more. We talked to experts from some of our favorite local camps about the benefits of sending kids to summer camp.
1. They gain self-esteem. The American Camp Association reports 70 percent of parents claimed their child gained self-confidence at camp.
"Summer camp is a supportive, creative, nurturing environment for children to learn and grow physically and emotionally," said Mickie Schmith, the camp director at Camp McFadden in Ponca City, "which improves self esteem."
2. They make new (and different) friends. The American Camp Association reports 96 percent of campers said camp helped them make new friends and 93 percent said camp helped them get to know kids who are different from themselves.
Jess Randolph, camp and outdoor specialist at Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, said she sees girls make lifelong friends at camp. Campers are bonded through activities like going on their first hike together or seeing the world atop a horse for the first time, she said.
"Making new friends with children from other communities and being mentored by adult counselors are memories that will last a lifetime," Schmith said.
3. They learn independence. In addition to having to make new friends and communicate effectively with adults on their own, campers have an opportunity to discover who they are away from home.
"It (camp) was the first place I could go and be myself without any other influences," said DJ Morgan, YMCA Camp Classen board chairman and former camp director. "It allows you to step out of your shell. You see people at camp all the time who might have been shy or different at school, but the person they are at camp is a different person, a truer person. And that's something I keep with me."
4. They learn new skills. Think your kid isn't adventurous? Send them to camp and you might be surprised. Seventy-four percent of campers interviewed by the American Camp Association said they did something at camp they were afraid to try at first.
Dance, music, drama, basketball and science are just a few of the types of camps listed on our Summer Camp Directory. Camps offer opportunities for kids to try brand new skills or activities they otherwise might never encounter.
5. They gain a new appreciation for the environment and physical activity.
"The research shows spending time in nature improves concentration and creative reasoning," Randolph said. "Outdoor experiences help promote healthy social development and increase your girl’s self-esteem!"
Schmith agreed and said giving campers the opportunity to spend hours outside exploring, learning about nature, playing games and visiting with new friends has endless benefits.
6. It keeps them busy. If you have to work, the obvious reason for camp is that you know your kids are engaging in an enriching activity while they're out of school. If you can manage to find free time while your kids are away at camp, that's even better! Take advantage of that time to do something you don’t usually have time for when kids are at home.
Lezel and Richard Safi's two sons, Evan and Tye, attend Kanakuk Kamps in Lampe, Missouri each summer. The couple uses that time to take a long weekend trip together and do other special activities together to strengthen their marriage.
"We'll do late dinners. Date nights. Concerts. We plan fun outings with friends, and we don't have to worry about scheduling a babysitter," Lezel Safi said. "It's like dating all over again!"
She also uses the camp time to plan summer activities for when her kids return and organize their closets and drawers and maybe even redecorate their rooms.
Regina Ruff's three kids all have attended Kanakuk Kamps. Her youngest still attends camp for two weeks every summer and although she misses him when he's away, she sees it as an opportunity to recharge.
Back when her oldest two were away at camp, she used it as an opportunity to spend quality time with her youngest son. Now that her youngest attends camp, she focuses on herself with long walks after work, visiting family out of state, staying up late to watch movies and doing other things she can't seem to find time for when her son is home.
No matter how you use the time your kids are away, summer camp has proven benefits for the whole family!