Camp allows youth to learn meet new people. (photo from campmiriam.org)
There is something special about camps. Transporting kids out of their customary environments into something that is at least somewhat foreign is a great stimulus to change. New people and new situations over a few-week period force more rapid adaptations than would normally be required. Camp offers an environment for kids and youth to have fun and learn new skills, but also to consider who they are as individuals, without the close observation of their parents.
Some kids bloom in surprising ways at camp. They get a chance to use and develop aspects about themselves that they either never realized were there, or haven’t had a chance to exercise. For better or worse, the regime of mom and/or dad is challenged. Different rules apply, and often they are enforced with a consistency not found at home. There is no one immediately there to intervene in one’s interaction with bunkmates, for example. Kids have to work issues out between themselves as they temporarily share their world.
This is what it is like in the real world, and we learn lessons at camp that we might not learn if we just stayed home. And we get to measure ourselves against others. We get pushed to compete, to strive, to be better, because everyone else is doing that. This allows us the chance to grow in self-confidence. It’s not just family encouraging us, it’s the approval (or disapproval) we gain from those around us – strangers who can become our friends.
Camp offers so many things: the chance to escape the city, to learn to swim and do other sporting activities, to be creative with arts and crafts, and to be self-sufficient in less inhabited areas. The list goes on. What about the songs and dances that we join in with others, which make us feel good, and a part of something larger than ourselves? What about the friends we make, some of whom will be there for us throughout our life? What about the chance to develop and exercise leadership and initiative?
The most delicious thing about this recipe for growing kids into grown-ups is that it’s all about fun. This isn’t about “a little bit of sugar to help the medicine go down.” It’s sugar pops all the way. And a side benefit accrues to parents, who get a little respite when they ship their kids off to camp.
Being a part of the camping experience opens up a universe of possibilities for those who are fortunate enough to have a chance at entry into that world.
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.