SUMMER HOLIDAY CAMPS

 

Researcher's Viewpoint

Summer camp is the perfect antidote to the "bubble-wrapped kid" says Troy Glover, associate professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo. Michael Ungar, author of Too Safe for Their Own Good, coined the phrase bubble-wrapped kid to describe urban children who are overprotected by their parents, to the detriment of them learning to become independent and responsible individuals.

 

"Summer camp removes the bubble wrap from children," says Glover, who is involved in the first year of a national five-year Canadian study on the benefits of summer camp. Camp provides a safe and nurturing environment, but at the same time it is structured to allow children to challenge and test themselves. This fosters self-confidence and independence, he says.

 

Glover sees camp as an effective teaching environment because learning is enjoyable there. "When people look at camp, they see fun. But that is not what camp's about. What's really important, and the value of the experience, is what children learn. Sure camp is fun. But why do we dismiss the value of the experience because it's fun?"

 

Campers learn not only about themselves, but also about relating and interacting successfully with their peers. They become self-reliant and, at the same time, learn to work as part of a team, whether it is sharing cabin clean-up or supporting one another on a high-ropes course. "Summer camp is a self-contained community where you have to work together with others to achieve anything," Glover notes.

 

He argues that children learn some of life's most important lessons at camp. "Parents spend a lot of time these days trying to enhance their children's academic credentials. Yet, it is good social skills that allow children to grow up to be successful adults."

 

"Many parents mistakenly don't value the soft skills enough," Glover says. "If you look at developmental psychology, these sorts of soft skills are what make the difference to children in the long term." As part of the camp study, Glover involves interview parents of current campers as well as past campers who are now adults. "We are looking at the short - and the longer-term impact of camp. Adult camp alumni will be interviewed about how camp influenced where they are now."

 

From a practical standpoint, Glover says camp should also be seen as a health benefit to  a society concerned about childhood obesity. "The best way to encourage activity in children is to send them outdoors. At summer camp, children are almost always outside and in motion."

 

Glover also favors summer camps for kids who have trouble fitting in with their peers elsewhere. "Kids who don't necessarily excel in some areas have a chance to find something they can do well at camp. Many camps offer a lot of alternative physical and sporting activities. Camps are also a place where children are celebrated and find the freedom and confidence to be their true selves," Glover says.


Summer Camp Village (England)
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