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Ten reasons to consider summer camp for your kids

Date: 3/20/2013

By Bette Bussel

There's no doubt that summer camp is fun. Kids get to sing silly songs, play funny games, swim in lakes, and tell spooky stories around a campfire; this is the image of camp that has been captured and memorialized in films, books, and television programs. But there's much more to camp than just a good time. For the last century and a half, experiential education in summer camp settings has played an integral role in children's overall development – cognitive, physical, and social-emotional. Here are ten reasons why your child shouldn't miss out on the unique growth experience that awaits this summer at camp:

1. Development of critical-thinking and leadership skills. Camp provides the perfect environment for your child to learn and practice individual and group decision-making, how to socialize and navigate their interactions with others, and how to resolve conflict and other issues that may arise when living and working together closely.

2. Increased physical activity – from canoeing and hiking to soccer and tag, an on-going workout is a natural part of the day.

3. Direct experiences in nature and living much more closely to the Earth – being outside is proven to reduce stress levels, improve mood, and simultaneously stimulate all of a child's senses.

4. Lasting intergenerational and diverse relationships – from peers to counselors, summer camp gives your child an opportunity to meet new people from a variety of age groups, providing them with positive role models and new friends.

5. Safety away from home – at camp your child is supervised by trained professionals who ensure their safety while inspiring them to try new things.

6. Greater self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and self-confidence – in addition to learning how to take responsibility for themselves, their space, and their belongings, campers often discover strengths that they never knew existed through various activities and experiences. Being at camp is independence boosting.

7. Reduced summer learning loss – studies have shown that during summer vacation, students can lose the equivalent of up to three months of what they've learned during the school year. Camp programming keeps a child's brain active, alert, and acquiring knowledge and skills.

8. Positive risk-taking – camp provides a safe, wholesome, judgment-free environment for your child to step out of their own comfort zone to take physical and emotional risks that they never would have under other circumstances.

9. A strong sense of community – group living and team experiences teach children how to work together for a common goal and to find their place and voice within a group.

10. Memories that will last a lifetime – when the summer ends, camp memories live on in children's hearts and minds.

Provided by Bette Bussel, executive director, American Camp Association, New England. The American Camp Association, New England, a 501 (c)3 organization that serves as the region's leading source for "all things summer camp."

Families and camp professionals in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont can visit or call 781-541-6080 for help finding a camp or for additional information and resources.