Summer Camp Exposes Kids to New Interests and Experiences

Summer Camp Exposes Kids to New Interests and Experiences

The benefits of summer camp, and how sending kids to summer camp help them form new interests, gain new experiences, and learn new skills.


Camp can be many things for kids. It’s a place to have fun, of course, but it offers so much more—new friendships, new interests, new challenges—more new experiences than you can shake a hiking stick at. Whether time at camp is spent underwater, in the kitchen, or even in the infirmary (but hopefully not!), the experience is valuable. New experiences lead to new passions and new skills. When you rave about your child’s new talent, you can be proud to say, “They did it at camp!”

 

Conquering Fears

Though it can be hard to believe, not all children are immediately thrilled at the prospect of camp. It can be scary to imagine time away from home, in a new environment with strange people, schedules, and expectations. Amy Oztan, a Brooklyn mother of two, began sending her children to camp at age 5. They loved day camp, but the idea of sleepaway camp loomed large and intimidating. Jake, almost 10, was anti-overnight camp. Oztan went with a tough love approach to convince him. “We knew that we only had a small window left to make it happen, or else he would be scared to go away forever,” she said. “So I just said, ‘You’re going. You’ll have a great time.’” When Oztan picked the kids up after the week was over, her son was begging for a longer stay next summer.

girl swimming underwater

Whether it’s diving into the pool or learning to swim underwater, developing new water skills is one of the more common kid accomplishments from summer camp.

Developing an Adventurous Spirit

Kids who really dive in—literally—to the camp experience can get a lot out of it. Both of Oztan’s children learned how to swim at day camp. Westchester resident Debbie Skolnik’s two daughters each learned how to dive off of a diving board, a skill Skolnik herself hasn’t mastered. Kathy Cataldo, a West Babylon mother of four, is a leader of a local Girl Scout troop and helps out each summer at Scout camp. Her youngest son Sal loves the Boy Scout camp experience and, as a leader, Cataldo has the opportunity to observe him at his small-boat sailing, movie-making best. She was apprehensive, however, when he wanted to attempt the camp’s mile swim; though Sal was comfortable in the water, he hadn’t done much strenuous swimming due to his asthma. And yet, victory! Cataldo witnessed her son emerge from the lake victorious, exhausted but proud, after completing the swim.

 

Toughing it Out

Of course, things can go wrong at camp, too. Manhattan mom Jennifer Geddes was frantic when she received a phone call that her elder daughter Isabel had come down with strep throat. Not about to miss out on her camp experience, Isabel rolled with it—after medication and a night spent in the infirmary, she went right back to her canvas tent.

 

Expanding the Social Circle

The best experiences at camp sometimes have nothing to do with the curriculum. Skolnik’s youngest daughter Genie, 10 at summer camp last year, built more than model rockets and working robots—she built a friendship with a fellow camper with disabilities. “She learned how to interact well with differently-abled kids,” Skolnik says. Diagnosed with scoliosis at a young age, Genie wears a back brace under her clothes, but had never known another child with any sort of apparatus. Genie helped her friend with a walker navigate the camp, and the two girls adored each other.

 

Gaining Confidence

Along with teaching children how to braid friendship bracelets and sing songs, camp can instill confidence. Last summer, at age 10 Oztan’s daughter Fiona was the only camper from the junior camp chosen for a role in the camp production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, and she was “thrilled to be on stage with the big kids,” Oztan says.

One of the youngest kids in the science program at camp, Genie won a contest to design the fastest solar-powered car. “I remember one morning getting woken up on a weekend, and she said ‘Mommy, I can’t solder the wire just right on this thing that I’m building.’ I can’t believe she woke me up, the English major, when her father, an engineer, was in the other room,” Skolnik recalls. Skolnik’s elder daughter Clara, 13 last summer, developed confidence as a chef, and even makes the family dinner at home sometimes.

 

Also see:

How Camp Helps Kids Form Connection with Nature