Are Camp Fees Worth It?
According to the following satisfied parents, camp provides an invaluable experience for their children.
I marveled as to how two weeks could make such a difference in a young life, but it really did. I think the combination of developing skills and friendships in a setting away from home builds tremendous confidence.
Camp has been an important part of our daughter's growing up. She has gained a great deal from the activities and the companionship and leadership of the counsellors. Both our children are far better people for their camp experience and both have learned valuable skills, which will benefit them throughout life. Chris returned home a little more independent, proud of his accomplishments and full of fun memories, which will last forever. You too will discover that a camp experience gives excellent value if you do your homework, and then choose an accredited camp that meets your child's needs.
How does a good camp have such a positive influence on a young person's life?
Children learn more readily at camp because the instruction is fun. For the most part, they are participating in activities that they have chosen. The teaching methods stress hands-on participation rather than passive sitting and listening. The counsellor-teachers, who are close in age to their camper-students, are skilled, energetic and enthusiastic. Improvement, however minimal, is acknowledged with a smile, a pat on the back or a positive comment. Counsellors are great cheerleaders! As campers experience success and gain recognition, their confidence increases.
Campers learn to swim, sail, water-ski, act, paint, and play golf or tennis activities which will fill their leisure hours in years to come. Inadvertently, they acquire valuable life skills. Living in close quarters, they must co-operate to tidy their cabin. Eating in large groups, they need to be patient while everyone is served. Playing with others, they learn to compromise. Alex thinks that fishing is boring, but if he agrees to fish in the morning, his tent mates will sail with him in the afternoon. Interacting with children from different places, cultures and religions increases understanding, tolerance and respect.
The counsellors are the catalysts in instilling these positive characteristics. Other than brief time-off periods, while camp is in session, they are on-duty or on-call 24 four hours a day, seven days a week. Their time and energy is devoted to the safety and well being of their group. From the wake-up whistle in the morning till the bedtime story at night, they work and play with their campers. They are available to help them make their bed, find their toothbrush, rig the sailboat, improve their front crawl, listen to their chatter or concerns, gather wood for the campfire then wonder at the beauty of the night sky. They are able to devote more time to their young campers than most parents and teachers. It is understandable that campers come to admire, respect and emulate these fine young leaders.
Another long- term benefit of the camping experience is making new friends, many of whom become friends for life. Close bonds are formed as campers experience the fun, challenges and triumphs of camp days. As the experiences of former campers attending a reunion affirm, even after years apart, camp friends can resume a relationship as if they had camped together yesterday.
Children, who are kept busy during the school year with athletic, artistic and academic endeavours, need time to rest and relax. Singing with friends around the campfire, lying on the grass watching the clouds roll by, sitting in the sun writing a letter home or skipping stones in the lake are all worthwhile ways to spend a long summer day after the demands and stresses of the school year. After a camp holiday, children are rejuvenated and ready to tackle new challenges.
Join the host of parents who know that sending a child to camp is a worthwhile investment in their future. Begin your search on the website of your provincial camping association.
What I Learned at Camp
Parents send their children to camp to have fun, make new friends and acquire activity skills. In the process, campers learn that time flies because camp is so much fun! There is a camp to match the interests of every child. Some specialize in sports, the arts, science, computers, wilderness tripping, adventure challenges or general activities. There are day and resident, co-ed and single sex camps. Some are devoted to children with learning or physical challenges or campers with special medical needs. The parents' task is to choose, with their child's involvement, the right camp. The child's job is to learn new skills and have tons of fun!
Although I came to camp knowing nobody, I quickly made new friends. As soon as new campers board the camp bus or arrive at the campsite, the counsellors help them feel at home. Even children who have difficulty making friends will succeed with the guidance of an attentive counsellor. While interacting with children from other provinces, countries and cultures, children learn respect, acceptance, tolerance and how to live happily in a group. Friendships made at camp can last a lifetime!
There are lots of things I can do by myself. Camp teaches children to be independent. They learn to look after themselves and their own belongings. They discover that they can live happily away from home for a short time. Camp builds self-confidence and self-esteem as campers learn to paddle a canoe, sail a Lazer, tie dye a t-shirt or perform in a play.
There are more stars in the sky than I can count! On a rural or wilderness campsite, campers discover the wonders of nature. Watching a sunrise or sunset, sleeping under the stars, observing animals in their natural setting or hearing the haunting call of a loon are memorable experiences for a city child. Although a day at camp is full of activity, there is also time to rest, relax and ponder. Sitting around a campfire or chatting by the lake with a new friend offers a welcome change of pace for children with demanding winter schedules.
If I don't make my bed, my cabin mates get angry. Peer pressure works better than parental nagging to get a mess tidied. Regrettably there is little carry over from a cabin at camp to a bedroom at home! With the counsellor's guidance, children learn to co-operate to clean their cabin, rig a sailboat, cross a portage or build a fire to roast marshmallows.
If I accidentally wet my bed, my counsellor doesn't get angry. Counsellors are trained to deal sensitively with problems such as bedwetting, homesickness or disappointment at failing a swim test. In pre camp sessions, counsellors learn age group characteristics, fair and firm methods to deal with behaviour problems and ways to earn the respect of their campers. The director chooses a staff of young people who are fun, fit, skilled, caring, and patient. They are ideal role models for impressionable young campers.
If I don't like what is served at lunch, by dinner I am hungry enough to eat anything! Nutritious meals are planned with children's preference in mind. Variety and choice are offered. Special menus are provided for vegetarians and campers with special dietary needs. However, the camp cook cannot please everybody all the time. Nevertheless, fussy eaters soon learn to enjoy the meal served to them after a day full of activity and with the example of other enthusiastic eaters around the table.
At camp, I feel safe and secure. Campers quickly learn that their safety is a top priority. At each activity, the safety rules, which they must follow, are posted. Early in the session, fire and emergency drills are practiced. Their counsellor is always available to help them. Lifeguards are always on duty at the waterfront. The administration ensures that no strangers wander onto the campsite.
It is great to receive letters from home even if I can't read dad's writing! Mail ranks high on a camper's priority list. Several short letters received over an extended period are preferable to one long letter. Postcards are good but small parcels (with permissible contents such as magazines, felt markers, stickers and sunscreen not junk food) are even better!
I wasn't sure about going to camp, but now, I want to go back next year!
Cottage or Camp?
As a Camp Director, I often heard parents comment, "but we don't need to send our child to camp. We have a cottage." Certainly cottage life provides a child with a happy, carefree, summer holiday. However there are many advantages and benefits to participating in a camp experience that are difficult to achieve at the family cottage.
At camp with the guidance of a caring counsellor, children learn to live happily and co-operatively with their peer group. They have the opportunity to make friends with many children, some very different from themselves. Day by day, they learn to accept and appreciate diverse lifestyles, religions, cultures, abilities or disabilities ñ ideal preparation for living in today's global village. Camp friends become friends for life. I recently interviewed a group of women who attended camp together in the 40's and still meet for lunch once a month to catch up on their news and sing camp songs!
Camp builds self-esteem in a number of ways. Whether your child is four and experiencing one entire day away from home at day camp or fourteen and living away from the family for two weeks, they are learning the joy of independence in a secure, supportive environment. Some new campers may have difficulty initially adjusting to new people in an unfamiliar setting, but with their counsellor's support, they soon settle in. Camp counsellors make excellent role models for impressionable young campers. Young people who chose to work at camp are skilled, friendly, caring, enthusiastic, healthy, active and fit. They are the kind of young people we want our children to emulate.
Post camp letters from parents frequently express their delight and surprise in their child's growth in confidence in a short time period. As one camp parent expressed it, "I marveled as to how two weeks could make such a difference in such a young life. I think the combination of developing skills and friendships in a setting away from home builds tremendous confidence." Even young campers recognize that "camp is such an awesome place to learn and grow. I have many great memories."
Gradually but constantly, day by day, campers become more confident. Whether paddling in a straight line for the first time, hitting the target at archery or winning a game of tetherball, with each new experience, campers feel pride in their accomplishments. With a variety of camps, offering a wide range of activities and programs, an abundance of choice is available to suit the needs and interests of each individual.
At camp, children are encouraged to do for themselves what they are capable of doing as well as assisting others. Eagerly, they set or clear the table, make their own bed, tidy their cabin, pitch a tent, build a campfire or help with the cooking. The challenge for parents is to encourage their camper to continue to do chores eagerly and independently when they are at home!
Skill development provided by competent, qualified instructors, is another benefit realized at camp. Many of these skills become lifelong leisure pursuits. Participating in camp activities contributes to a healthy, active lifestyle. The acquired knowledge can be useful in other situations. Children who learn water and boat safety at camp will be at ease and secure whether at a lakeside cottage or on the ocean during a family vacation.
Over several summers, children develop their leadership potential. Working and playing co-operatively in groups or teams, provides ample opportunities for emerging leaders. Many camps offer leadership-training programs aimed at grooming future camp staff. Soft skills learned at camp are transferable and equally valuable at school or eventually in a career.
In my many years as a Camp Director, only once did the parents actually cheer as the fully loaded bus pulled out of the parking lot on the way to camp. But their spontaneous, enthusiasm reminded me that sending children to camp is good for parents as well! They deserve to enjoy some time on their own knowing that their child is being well cared for, is enjoying a great experience and is growing in many positive ways.
Choosing an accredited camp ensures many benefits for your child. Accredited members adhere to hundreds of guidelines that contribute to a safe, healthy, happy camp experience for your child. And then after camp, everyone can enjoy a safe and happy family holiday at the cottage where the children can proudly demonstrate all the skills and knowledge they gained at camp!
Catherine Ross, Communications Officer Canadian Camping Association, Past President Society of Camp Directors, former Camp Director, author How to Be a Camp Counsellor...the best job in the world!