5 Ways Summer Camp Prepares Kids To Be Successful Adults

I recently had a phone conversation with a camp parent (whom I like very much and have a lot respect for) about the possibility of his daughter cutting down on her camp time to make room in her summer for an accelerated academic program. Now, as a former teacher myself, I definitely value knowledge and academics; however, I think we often forget which skills truly make us successful adults.

1. Camp is awesome at developing communication skills and relationships.

Our children are growing up in an age of technology. We text, tweet, post status updates and instant message; but the art of conversation is being lost. Young people are terrified at the thought of walking up to someone new and introducing themselves. They rarely have the opportunity to create new friendships in a face-to-face setting. In an age when all you have to do to become "friends" is press a button, face-to-face communication skills have become a lost art.

Camp offer kids an opportunity to meet a lot of new people from a variety of places and backgrounds. Most camps don't allow cell phones or internet access for campers; therefore, kids learn to introduce themselves, start conversations, find commonalities and form new friendships.

2. It’s not "just play".

"She shouldn't be wasting her time playing games and jumping in the lake." Its so much more than that. All of that "playing" teaches kids about creativity, solution finding, inclusion, empathy and kindness. I've watched a group of kids build a fort in the woods. The amount of problem solving and creativity was amazing. This was not an organized activity led by an adult. This was playing.

3. The only way to become a leader is to be a leader.

Camp gives young people the opportunity to plan, organize, delegate and experience success and failure. Camp puts these skilils into practice. Kids create skits, plan events, organize cabin activities (and even pranks) and all of these activities give kids an opportunity to practice leadership. They make decisions, bring the group to consensus, gather supplies and succeed or fail based on their choices.

4. Camp gives young people an opportunity to fail.

Yes, you heard me right! Oh sure, there will be successes too; however, it is typically the failures in our lives that teach us the most. Trying something new and getting it 100% right the very first time teaches us very little. It is in trying, failing, trying again, failing again and continuing to try, that we learn, grow and develop resiliency. I don't want my kids to quit the first time they encounter trouble or make a mistake. I want them to persevere, push forward and try again! Camp gives kids an opportunity to fail in an emotionally safe environment.

5. Camp teaches kids to care.

At camp, kids are responsible for caring for their "community". They clean their own cabin. They wipe the tables and sweep the floors. They gather firewood for everyone. They weed the garden. They help another camper find a lost waterbottle.

Camp gives young people an opportunity to care for younger kids. Campers look out for each other and help each other through challenging moments. Older kids take younger kids by the hand and give them role models to look up to. Kids are given the opportunity to practice caring for others.

At camp, kids go out of their way to make sure everyone is included. One of the most beautiful parts of camp is the hugs. Everyone is greeted with hugs and said goodbye to with hugs. And, its about the giving, not the receiving.

Defining Success

As I explained to the parent considering an accelerated academic experience, kids get about 40 weeks of the year to work on their academic skills. Couldn't we give them a few weeks to develop these skills? For most of us, these are the skills that made us successful in our relationships, in our careers, and in our families. Isn't that what success really is?