Psychological Aspects: The Camp Experience
Camp and Youth Development Outcomes
Parents want the best opportunities for their children. They want them to have whatever it takes to be happy and successful — good health, ability to get along with others, thinking and problem-solving skills, a good self-concept. Children need resiliency skills: self-esteem, life skills, self-reliance, and prosocial behaviors. The camp experience offers a nurturing environment away from the distractions and, in some cases, hostile environment of the city.
Peter Scales, Ph.D., is a senior fellow with the Search Institute in Minneapolis. A noted educator, author, and psychologist, Dr. Scales says, "Camp is one of the few institutions where young people can experience and satisfy their need for physical activity, creative expression, and true participation in a community environment. Most schools don't satisfy all these needs."
In recent years, camps have put a greater emphasis on what leaders in the child development field have been saying about the needs of children today. Camp activities and group living in a natural environment are the tools used to create camp communities that provide for successful, healthy development and a place where having fun is a daily criterion. In such a structured environment, children interact with positive role models who have time to listen, talk, relax, and reflect. They learn to work together, make choices, take responsibility, develop creative skills, build independence and self-reliance, and gain confidence. All are necessary steps on a child's path to a healthy, productive life.
Advice from the Experts
The camp experience is recognized by child development professionals as valuable in helping children mature socially, emotionally, intellectually, morally, and physically.
"The building blocks of self-esteem are belonging, learning, and
contributing. Camps offer unique opportunities for children to succeed in
these three vital areas and even beyond home and school."
Michael Popkin, Ph.D., family therapist and founder of Active Parenting
"The biggest plus of camp is that camps help young people discover and
explore their talents, interests, and values. Most schools don't satisfy
all these needs. Kids who have had these kinds of (camp) experiences end up
being healthier and have less problems which concern us all."
Peter Scales, Ph.D., noted author/educator, and Senior Fellow, The Search Institute
Reprinted with the permission of the American Camp Association. © 2008 American Camping Association, Inc.
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