Camp Friendships are Unique Experiences for Kids
Connections forged at summer camp can be some of the best relationships children have, giving more insight into themselves – and the bigger world
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Independence in a new environment
Let's face it, moms and dads: Many, perhaps most, of us, can be a tad hovering when it comes to our precious darlings. It can be hard to let our kids explore without constant supervision. But they need the chance to try things outside our watchful gaze to really develop a sense of competence.
And some of the things they'll try at camp let them challenge themselves in a way that might lead us to swoop in and "rescue" them if we were there to see it: "My kid who hates even being in a bathtub paddling a canoe? No thanks!" But facing down their fears in a safe environment like camp – among caring, responsible adults who are not you – allows your child to grow. And trying those things with other kids can form friendships very fast.
"The unique thing about camp is that the kids are in an environment without their parents. For some kids, this is the first time they have interacted with others on their own," Grimm says. "Being at camp for six nights, or two to three weeks, without mom and dad really lends itself to social development."
Of course, part of the reason camp helps kids stretch their boundaries is because they can do so in a controlled environment. Camps are staffed by licensed adults who are skilled at keeping kids safe; at the same time, kids get the chance to do things they'd never get to do in their normal lives, usually while out in nature. It's that kind of excitement and challenge that helps kids form quick and supportive bonds.
"Friendships develop as they experience positive things together – shared time, but also riding a horse for the first time or jumping off a 40-foot climbing tower," Long says. "When they go back to their cabins at the end of each day having shared these experiences, they really become fast friends – it accelerates that process."
Learning to build bridges
Another benefit of camp is that it lets kids who would never otherwise meet a chance to get to know each other on an equal footing. Camps draw from all over the metro area at least; some from all over the United States. This allows campers to mingle with kids from different backgrounds and areas, and gives perspective that the world is bigger than their little corner.
Counselors, too, come from all over the globe to work at camps, which gives kids an interest in the world since they have a strong bond with someone from another country. "When children meet people who are very different from them, it's a wonderful laboratory for life," Bates says. "They are safe and protected while they learn to get along with all different people."
Camp friendships can be an important part of children's development – and can have effects well after the memories of camp have faded.
"Camp is all about helping kids learn how to build relationships," says Grimm. "If everyone knew how to treat one another with respect, we would not have problems we have. It starts at camp."