Camp should be about quality, not quantity
When most parents choose sleep-away summer camps, they research several camps, ask for recommendations, and choose the best program for their child. Then their kid attends one camp for the duration, and likely will attend from year to year. The focus is on long-term connection.
But when a lot of parents start planning summer day programs for their kids, they compile a list and then book a different program for each week of the summer. Gymnastics one week, boating one week, arts one week…etc. The focus becomes to just keep kids busy.
Why don’t we put the same expectations on day camps that we do on overnight camps?
If a single camp can’t hold your kid’s attention for more than a week, then maybe it isn’t worth sending them to at all. Even without an overnight component, a quality camp should offer much more than just entertainment.
Social connection takes time. Self-confidence is not built in a week. For most kids, it takes a good portion of the first week just to become accustomed to the people, surroundings, and the routine of a new place. For children who have more difficulty adapting to new situations, changing camp every week can be downright stressful.
According to studies completed by the Canadian Camping Association, a camper’s self-confidence and emotional intelligence increase in relation to the length of time they spend at a single camp – whether that is from session to session, or from summer to summer.
It’s not until your child has gotten settled, and has made connections with their cabin-mates and counsellors, that they feel comfortable enough to try new things and take healthy risks.
As a parent, you have a choice to make
You can allow your kiddo to continue in one comfortable environment long enough to increase their confidence, or immediately bounce them off to the next thing, and start over somewhere else.
Of course not everyone is able to send their kids to camp for the entire summer. But if you are being strategic about when and where your kids will attend, you can maximize the benefits of their experience, and make less work for yourself at the same time.
In a world full of social media and instant gratification, summer camp is a place where deep, lasting connections are still possible. The best way to foster those connections is to choose fewer camps, and give them ample time to grow.