By Christina Campbell
Today’s summer camps offer a huge range of opportunities, whether your kid is a burgeoning scientist, an aspiring circus performer or a future NHL draft pick. Not only that, but special needs, spiritual beliefs and language barriers are also accommodated at camps across the country. And while it might seem early to start thinking about summer, many of the most popular camps fill up quickly, so start planning now to avoid disappointment.
The logistics of summer camps haven’t changed all that much over the years: Day campers get dropped off for a busy day and are tucked into their own beds each night; overnight campers pack their duffle bags and hit the road for a week or two, or longer. What has changed, however, are the lifestyles that campers lead over the rest of the year: Hours of homework, hectic extracurricular schedules and wired devices that demand constant attention leave little time for kids to be, well, kids.
Troy Glover, director of the Healthy Communities Research Network at the University of Waterloo, is leading a five-year study, funded in part by the Canadian Camping Association (CCA), to explore the outcomes that kids experience after going to camp. The national study will wrap up later this year, but Glover says the preliminary results are inspiring.
“The counsellors who participated noted that their campers gained lots of self-confidence by taking risks and trying new things and then learning that it is okay to fail once in a while,” says Glover. “The kids also grew their social skills and learned to adjust their behaviour based on being in a group setting for an extended amount of time. Plus, they gained a greater appreciation and awareness of their ecological footprint and their impact on the environment — even in day camps that focused on sports there was a sensitivity around this.”
And while it’s a no-brainer that gregarious kids will succeed at camp, Glover says there’s a camp out there for every personality. “There are powerful, transformative possibilities when you take the time to choose the right camp for your child. We have a tendency to bubble-wrap kids, but one of the exciting things about the camp experience is being able to unwrap them and expose them to opportunities that will push their limits in a positive way.”