Why summer camp matters
Every night at exactly 10 p.m., taps echoes in the area surrounding the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base of Fort Worth. As a neighbor to the base, I often hear it playing as I wind down my day. Without fail, I hear it and a wave of nostalgia washes over me.
The first time I ever heard taps play was at the end of my first day at summer camp. That was a part of the “day is done” ritual for the hundreds of kids attending camp each week. It is now over 10 years after the end of my camp career, and still I hear taps and instantly recall the distinct smell of campfire, the itchiness of a thousand mosquito bites, the confidence of unexpected successes and the excitement of new friendships. Summer camp changed me; an effect that has lingered over more than a decade. In fact, it is hard for me to imagine who I would be as an adult if not for that influential childhood experience.
Above the fireplace where I went to camp hung the following quote: “sometimes the best way to find out who you are is to go to a place where you don't have to be anything else.” Nothing could better sum up why the camp experience was so important to me and why I think it is important for kids of all ages and abilities. As adults, we understand the power that lies within some fresh air and a change of scenery. For kids, this is a necessary experience to promote independence, nurture curiosity, and empower their natural desire to establish relationships with peers. At camp, kids get to choose who they want to be in a group of what is usually kids from varying walks of life. They are challenged to put themselves out there, try new things, fail, succeed, giggle, interact with nature, and create memories that last a lifetime.
As a child life specialist at Cook Children’s, I also think camp is particularly good for kids in terms of helping them develop coping skills. While away at camp, kids may face minor injuries like scrapes or bug bites, they may find that 9 p.m. calls upon a feeling of homesickness, they may disagree with a cabin-mate, or even be asked to face a fear, like climbing a rock wall or jumping into a lake. In any of the above instances, kids must figure out how to problem-solve, how to make a choice, or how to seek support from others. Few experiences in childhood allow such freedom to just be and what a gift that is.
Every kid should experience summer camp. At Cook Children’s, we certainly believe that to be true. We offer camps for a wide range of kids, from ages 5 to 21 years of age, with developmental and or physical activities. Learn more at this website and see if there’s a camp that fits your child’s needs.
For more information on what makes camp great, or to find an accredited camp for your child, visit the American Camp Association (ACA) at www.acacamps.org
Kizzy Marco is a Child Life specialist at Cook Children's. Child Life specialists work with children and families to help them cope with the extra challenges of living with chronic illness.