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Camps equip children to be independent

Date: 3/29/2013

By Lucy Jackson Norvell

Summer camp worlds are designed exclusively for children, the campers. It's amazing how intentional they are. Everything is carefully considered, from the activities that are offered to the staff members who are hired, to the food that is served and the camp culture that is created. All fall, winter, and spring, camp professionals are busy planning and preparing for the summer ahead; they're thinking about everything.

Camps position children to be as independent as possible. Camps set children up for success in decision-making, in progressive skill development, and in gaining group living skills (day and overnight), among other things. In developmentally-appropriate ways, campers get to be responsible for themselves, for their belongings, and for their actions.

At summer camp, children are interacting in real time in real situations with the children and adults who are on hand. They are making the most of the moment with the folks who are there. Unplugged from screens, untethered from curriculum requirements, and separated from parents for periods of time ranging from one week to eight, campers really live their lives. Being a camper is an active existence and children are encouraged to engage fully rather than to watch from the sidelines. And it's this feeling of living fully and learning constantly that draws children back to camp summer after summer after summer.

At camp there's often a refreshing level of spontaneity. Perhaps it's a surprise party for the neighboring group or cabin. Maybe there's an opportunity that presents itself: a torrential rain that sets the stage for an indoor tent pitching adventure unexpectedly; a nighttime bedtime story read aloud that turns into a play with pajama clad actors bringing the scenes alive; a bus ride that turns into a spontaneous song fest; a rare moment in nature like a rainbow or the sighting of an animal or plant children have never seen. Campers often reap the benefits of being in the moment these are the moments memories are made of.

Campers learn by doing, they are encouraged to play, try new things, and to interact with new people. At camp, children and the adults who are there to teach them, share the experience together. They interact; eye contact, taking turns, manners and civility, conversing, storytelling, and sharing mealtime are all part of that real day (and night in the case of overnight camps). Opportunities to practice these real world skills and to interact with people are shrinking for children these days. And summer camps are proud to offer children real world experiences that are fun, meaningful, and educational. Summer camp experiences prepare children for life!

Provided by Lucy Jackson Norvell, director of Public Information, 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.