What can children discover about themselves, others and the world through the adventures of camp? What natural wonders, new friendships and diversity of experiences will they encounter?
The camp experience
To many children, few environments are as special as camp, where they simultaneously become a community and learn how to be independent as they participate in a diverse set of physical, social and educational activities. Campers get to try new things, find new talents and develop attitudes and practices that build leadership and character. They also make lasting friendships and memories.
Overnight, day and specialty camps give children opportunities to experience many such avenues of discovery. As campers live and learn among peers, these programs foster social development, instill confidence and teach conflict resolution. Ivy Sheehan, camp director of the YMCA of Delaware’s Brandywine location, says, “Children experience successes as well as opportunities to try again” during overnight stays or daily participation at the organization’s camps.
Key among the success of any camp program is the ability to provide a safe, positive environment for campers of all ages. In their endeavors to achieve this goal, staff of the YMCA of Delaware’s programs get training on the significance of the role they play in each camper’s life. As children uncover new experiences at camp — amid the fun and team-spiritedness of campfires, bugle calls, canoeing adventures and talent shows — what they discover may be as distinct as what type of camp your child chooses to enjoy.
Campers who participate in a residential program have the unique experience of staying onsite for the whole program. For example, at the YMCA of Delaware’s Camp Tockwogh in Worton, MD, campers learn to navigate how they feel about not going home each night and discover their resilience. In this environment, campers also gain a heightened sense of independence as they choose their own meals and take responsibility for their personal hygiene. Elizabeth Staib-King, Camp Tockwogh’s executive director, says, “Campers learn more about themselves internally” in this type of program.
Overnight camps offer a wide variety of outdoor activities, including sailing, horseback riding and hiking, so campers can explore nature in a variety of ways and build skills and character traits that will serve them throughout their lives. As they strive to fit in and work well with fellow campers, children also learn how to control their behavior with direct or indirect input from peers, adults and older campers around them.
Day camp delivers the traditional camp experience of making new friends, with the encouragement and support of staff who catch campers who fall out of their comfort zones. Campers may rest easier, knowing they will return home at the end of each day.
Many day camps employ weekly themes, take field trips and offer a broad variety of activities such as storytelling, sign language, basketball, archery, swimming, “book nooks,” and arts and crafts. These activities stretch campers’ boundaries, allowing them to realize how much they are capable of learning and doing.
Specialty camps feature programming specific to campers’ interests or hobbies and may include such topics as teen leadership, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), sports, dance, art, farm and ranch experiences and cooking. Some specialty camps also provide opportunities for campers with special needs.
Camps focused on specific topics stir kids’ imaginations and teach them more about their passions on a deeper level. “They are ‘vibing ’ into that specialty,” says Sheehan. These camps “solidify hobbies, habits and passions,” she adds.
All three types of camp experiences broaden children’s global view through nature exploration, physical movement and the realization that fellow campers may not see the world the same way they do. Your campers are sure to discover something about themselves this summer at camp!
Nicole D. Crawford is a freelance writer.