Summer is approaching and families are thinking about summer camp. Camps can be a great experience for children and come in a variety of formats. Let’s talk about how you can promote age-appropriate camp experiences when parents ask, “Is my child ready for camp? How might she benefit from it?
The American Camping Association believes an organized camp experience is a vital component in the development and education of the whole child. Various organizations have found that through camp, youth:
- develop lifelong skills
- acquire independence
- unplug from technology
- learn social skills and how to meet new friends
According to the YMCA, camping teaches self-reliance, a love for nature and the outdoors and the development of attitudes and practices that build character and leadership. But how can we help parents choose a camp for their child?
Camp formats vary. Some communities offer day camps -- a great way to gradually introduce the camp experience for both the child and the parent. Some day camps are only half days (morning or afternoon), while others offer full-day camps. Some day camps may last multiple days, to enhance the camp experience. Overnight camps can range from a few days’ up to a few weeks’ long.
As a youth worker, you can help parents explore the variety of camp experiences available. Half-day camps are ideal for children in kindergarten through second grade. Full-day camps are a great option for grades three and four to prepare them for a longer experience. Overnight camps might be right for youth in fourth through sixth grades. Remember that all youth are different; some may be ready for camp experiences sooner than others.
For youth in grades seven and above, camps can offer leadership experience, so encourage them to apply to be camp counselors. In this role, they will help to plan and/or carry out the camp, working with adult staff to offer a full camp experience to younger youth. Research in the 4-H program supports the idea that youth leadership roles in camping may enhance the life skills outcomes of youth who serve in leadership roles.
As youth workers, it’s important for us to connect parents to camping opportunities during the summer. With the variety of camp formats, there is a place for all youth to experience the non-formal learning that happens in an outdoor environment.
So, I would like you to think about these questions and challenges: How are you going to help parents learn about camping opportunities? How can you challenge youth to try something new and attend a camp? How do we help families see the overall benefits of a camp experience?
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