How Summer Camp Benefits Children’s Mental Health

Summer is officially here, and with it, the decision to fill your children’s days with activity or not. Choosing to send them to summer camp, whether it is a day camp or a sleep-away camp, can provide a variety of enrichment activities and many other sometimes surprising benefits.

In fact, allowing your children to remain idle over the summer can be detrimental to their development. In her article “How Summer Camp Helps Develop your Child’s Mental Health and Resilience”, Lizette Borreli explains some of the dangers of an inactive summer. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) reports that most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months.” Additionally, “…children who are at high risk of obesity tend to gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school in the summer due to the lack of physical productivity many face just sitting at home”.

Sending kids to summer camp can teach them more than knot tying and horse riding. It can increase their independence and resilience, community building, and encourage their problem-solving skills. Spending time away from home in a non-school setting encourages them to build new relationships, take risks, and make decisions. As their independence and resilience grows, they become confident enough to try new problem-solving techniques. In her article “Psychological Benefits of Summer Camp”, Amanda M. Socci writes “…summer camps do not exist for children to attain mastery over skills in order to satisfy state educational requirements. Instead, they provide a more informal environment and strive to provide opportunities for children to practice, fail, have fun and learn how to problem-solve along the way”.

The summer camp environment encourages children to build their own communities and develop new social skills. Sharing space and resources requires communication and responsibility. Learning to navigate these new situations “…will help your child understand how to effectively talk to others in a respectful way”.

Separation from parents, autonomy and ownership over their choices, and confidence to take risks are all essential skills for children as they grow. While these skills can and often are encouraged during the school year, the effects multiply in a summer camp setting. Campers frequently come back as counselors as they get older. Now they are in leadership positions in spaces where they feel safe to take even larger risks without the fear of rejection.

Sending your children off to camp helps avoid summer stagnation. Instead, campers develop new skills and keep as they keep their minds and bodies moving. Their social and mental health improves as they are challenged in new ways and given the space to experiment and even fail.

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