Last time, we talked about the difficulties of letting a camper go away to camp for the first time. While we definitely understand the challenge of sending a camper with additional needs to a new environment for a brand new experience, the benefits of camp for those children are very clear. One such benefit is the increased independence that camp fosters in children.
At camp, many of the decisions which are made for campers at home are up to them now, “What do you want to wear today?” or, “Would you rather go to the climbing wall or to the pool for this free choice session?” or even, “Would you like a top bunk or a bottom bunk?” All of these decisions which are likely influenced by parents at home are up to the child (within reason) in the camp environment.
Campers are also pushed a little bit farther outside of their comfort zone in the camp environment. I have gotten the feedback so often at the end of a camp session that a parent is shocked by the things their camper tried during a camp session, that a given activity was “NOT something they do” at home. Since we aren’t as familiar with what to expect from each camper as their parents, we naturally don’t impose those expectations on them, which opens up a whole new world of possibility. If a child doesn’t want to try a particular activity, that is totally fine! However, should they want to give something brand new a try, we will be there to support them through the endeavour and to celebrate with them.
That question we talked about before, “Can parents come too,” tends to hinder a child’s experience rather than make it better. With parents around, campers are less likely to reach out and make connections with the other campers and staff in their cabins. They are less likely to try a new activity if their parents are nearby seeming nervous about it, or expecting that they won’t try it.
At camp, campers learn that some things are just a given. For instance, if every other camper is eating the food on the table, your camper is more likely to join in, even if this is a food that they would ordinarily never try at home. Campers are encouraged to try new things and develop new skills just by being in this new environment.
While we encourage variation in our schedule and try to tailor it to the needs of every camper, our structure tends to encourage campers to go along with the schedule and participate in activities they might not have known they enjoy, or my favourite – activities they might not have known they were even capable of.
This environment is transformative for many of our campers. The development of confidence and independence has huge implications for their lives outside of camp and I am very proud to be a part of that.
“Can parents come too?” Sorry, they can’t. We have seen time and time again that children thrive in an environment in which they get to be independent and get out of their home routines. We promise that they are in good hands and we will do everything in our power to make their experience incredible.