The Debate over Summer Preparations: Sunny Side and Structured at Camp or Free Range

parenting summer camp activities Summer pecking away at your sanity? Camp is not just for the kids

Many parents want to offer kids an unstructured summer and more family time in lieu of a structured summer camp. One such parent is New York Times mom-blogger KJ Dell’Antonia, who published a debate with fellow columnist and summer camp advocate Bruce Feiler. Yet inevitably, sometime between two and ten days into summer freedom comes the exasperated whine of a bored pre-teen.

As Bruce points out in the debate, “all those sports and arts camps aren’t just there for enrichment; they’re there to make parents’ lives easier.” It can be super challenging for any parent to accommodate a free-range kid for a whole summer. Having half or even a few weeks of that time in a structured camp gives a much-needed respite for kids and parents alike…not to mention the amazing summer camp experience itself.

“Camp for camp’s sake”

Even if parents could balance daily their lives and entertaining their kids for an entire summer, summer camp offers its own entirely unique experiences. While KJ makes a solid point that the free-range model feeds kids’ self-determination, Bruce defends “camp for camp’s sake”: “Campfires, songs, ghost stories, canoe races, color war. They can’t get that in our neighborhood and even if I took the summer off, they can’t get that from me.”

Summer camps create instant belonging to a flock

Of his own experience, Bruce explains that “summer camp has deep roots in the experience of American Jews. Largely trapped in cities and with few places to teach their kids how to swim, sail, play tennis, etc., Jews dispatched their kids to sleep-away camp…It was social; it was cultural; it was tribal.” This sentiment extends far beyond the Jewish identity to a wide variety of American families. Religious camps of all varieties bring kids together in a shared identity and focus. The same goes for secular campers in traditional summer camps who attend year after year for the sheer joy of being out in the wilderness, testing their boundaries, and reuniting with close friends from previous years.

The quarreling columnists ultimately smoothed ruffled feathers and mutually concluded that the best way to look ahead at the summer was to address the decision as a family. If your family decides that camp might be a great way to spend the summer, you can peruse our directory of arts, sports, traditional, specialty, overnight, and day camps at

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How Summer Camps are Changing the World

parenting leadership kids camps 2 international At some point, a common thought has crossed the minds of all those who’ve spent a childhood summer at camp: the world would be a little brighter if life were a bit more like summer camp. Some organizations have taken this whimsical fancy to heart and are using summer camp as a vehicle for broader change in the world.

Sports summer camps promote peace and tolerance in the Middle East

Ultimate Peace is an organization that brings Jewish and Arab Israelis and Palestinian kids together to play ultimate frisbee. While many sports camps boast character development in their programs, this one takes sportsmanship to a new level. The sport has no referees to make a call on foul play or boundaries – the kids learn to work their issues out amongst themselves on the field. Rather than discussing their commonalities and differences, they use a common external focus (the game) to come to a point of mutual respect as athletes, competitors, and eventually friends.

The organization hosts a week-long sports camp each year, welcoming about 300 kids from Israel, Palestine, and the United States to play together and gain a new sense of respect for someone they previously viewed as “the Other”. Coupled with year-round coaching and leadership training, this organization is using summer camp to make significant progress in the world of sports and conflict resolution.

Organizations host dialogue-based summer camps for international peace building

Another organization, Seeds of Peace, uses a more direct approach in its conflict transformation summer camp in Maine. As opposed to Ultimate Peace’s action-based approach, Seeds of Peace digs into daily dialogue sessions with campers from all over the world. They discuss challenging aspects of their differences and their competing historical narratives, and ultimately chip away at their inherited prejudices. The summer camp includes religious components and services for those who wish to partake as well as leadership development through creative and athletic forms of expression and critical thinking.

These types of programs led by organizations and religious institutions integrate all of the joys of summer camp with all of the necessary tools to empower tomorrow’s leaders. Start your search for your own journey in shaping the world through the CampPage summer camp directory.

Posted in International, Kids, Leadership, Parents | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment Reports on How Summer Vacation can be a Time for Self Discovery published a June article emphasizing the importance of high schoolers using summer vacation as a time for self-discovery and pursuit of academic and professional interests. According to the article, summer offers a framework for low-stress exploration of activities, colleges, and careers through a parenting leadership kids camps 2 girls camp college prep boys camp couple of different avenues:

Experts support educational camps and college prep programs as beneficial summer pastimes

According to high school counselor Stephanie Diozzi, who was quoted in the article, “‘Many colleges, museums and other organizations offer summer learning opportunities for high school students… Highly ranked schools such as Yale University and Stanford University offer summer programs for high school students, as do civic organizations such as the Rotary Club.’”

Explore career-based summer camps through job shadowing or internships

Job shadowing requires minimal commitment and gives teens a glimpse into real world professional options like nutrition or veterinary medicine. There’s minimal commitment in the case of job shadowing, and an internship gives the chance for a bit more responsibility and a great addition to a college or job application. Furthermore, many summer camp programs of this nature include resources like academic and career counseling to help kids process their experiences.

Use trips to summer camp as a time to explore academic options, too

If your high school students are venturing off to softball or circus camp, college is probably the last thing on their minds. However, the article suggests that parents take trips like these to do a quick drive through of a college or university, just to see what different campuses are like. This gets kids more comfortable with the college search as they enter into their junior or senior year. They can see what size and style of campus feels right and even set up meetings with a current student or admissions counselor if they’re interested. It might be challenging to switch from summer camp mode to academic mode, but even for underclassmen, this head start makes the process easier down the road.

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Summer camps capitalize on kids’ inherent idealism and energy

leadership kids camps 2 Online youth magazine Tween Tribune recently featured outstanding adolescents making powerful contributions in their communities. David Albright, for example, has been baking muffins almost every week for five years for locals in-need at the Beth El Center in Connecticut. Despite his quiet humility, Albright garnered national attention as an honoree in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program in Washington, D.C.

Another young man, 14-year-old Hunter Gandee, completed a 40-mile hike in Michigan to raise awareness about Cerebral Palsy Swagger. The condition limits his brother’s ability to walk, which is why the seven-year-old rode on Gandee’s back for the trek.

Kids like David and Hunter are already having a significant impact in society. If they could participate in summer camps that complement their energy and idealism with tools in advocacy, community development, and other leadership skills, they could exponentially advance their abilities to galvanize change.

Tools from leadership summer camps will help kids influence policy and social practice

Gandee’s project drew attention and partnerships from rock stars, football teams, university research labs, and professionals. In a similar Tween Tribune story, over 2000 people – mostly students – in Katmandu, Nepal set the world record for tree hugging on World Environment Day. The initiative drew the attention of parliament members who praised the project and its significance.

Community stakeholders can indeed be influenced by youth movements. But in order to gain their respect rather than just a pat on the head, these kids need more formal training. Leadership summer camps and quality adventure camps offer opportunities for personal development to complement kids’ inherent social ingenuity.

What kind of world-saving skills can kids attain in summer camp?

Some summer camps are geared specifically towards capacity building for community organizing. Kids take part in leadership or conflict-resolution camps to learn about facilitating cross-cultural dialogue or creating an impactful campaign. There are even camps now that educate about social entrepreneurship – a program that both David Albright and Hunter Gandee might benefit from.

While these sorts of camps offer a boost into the world of advocacy and change making, that does not diminish the influence of traditional summer. Traditional summer camps and adventure camps that challenge teens in contexts like backpacking or ropes courses also encourage creative problem solving, critical reasoning, collaboration, personal responsibility, and leadership, simply through a different context.


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New Studies Indicate that Kids Need More Sleep

parenting NPR (National Public Radio) printed an article highlighting two studies regarding a correlation between sleep deprivation and depression in teens: “The teenage years are a tumultuous time, with about 11 percent developing depression by age 18. Lack of sleep may increase teenagers’ risk of depression, two studies say.” The two studies are from University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

Summer camp helps kids disconnect from the internet and electronics
UT’s lead author in the study, Robert Roberts, says that “Kids should go to bed [and wake up] at a regular time. They should have a dark room if possible — that means no TV, no games, no phones.” Swedish researchers also found that lack of sleep and excessive media use were associated with teenage mental health problems. Rather than reading, playing cards, or simply going to bed earlier, teens surf the internet, listen to music on their iPods, watch videos and chat on their iPads. These forms of entertainment, while seemingly relaxing, actually require a higher level of brain activity than non-screen-based alternatives.

Many camps have strict regulations on personal electronic devices so that kids will engage with their immediate communities rather than their virtual ones. So even though summer camps have demanding hours and packed agendas, kids will actually obtain greater amounts of rest than they would at home. Couple this with the nourishment of nature, fun new social groups, and enjoyable activities, and it becomes quite clear why camp is seen as such a fulfilling and deeply healing way to spend the summer.

Get kids focused on a different set of priorities during summer camp
The article notes that as kids get older, high school homework gets harder and kids take on jobs and more active social lives. Then, “‘when you throw in all the video games and iPods and all the phones,’ Roberts says, sleep starts to become less of a priority.’” Going away for a few weeks during the summer, all of these priorities fall away and kids can remember how to be free from the responsibilities and regiments of the normal year. No computers, no jobs, no reports; just the kids and the trees…and maybe a quick run-through of survival tactics before a river rapids run. This powerful shift lets kids be kids and puts them back on track for stronger and more stable mental health.

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Summer Camps Offer Remedies to Rise in Teen Stress

adventure camps A new survey posted in USA Today indicates that teen stress is on the rise. 64% of the 1018 surveyed teens and 1950 adults reported moderate to extreme stress in the past month and 82% over the last school year. As an added concern, kids are developing bad coping methods like stress-related eating and poor sleeping habits that are carrying over into adulthood. While participants reported a variety of stress-inducing culprits, the benefits of getting kids out of their day-to-day rituals and providing carefree downtime is evidenced by the dramatic reduction of stress reported during summertime.

Summer camp combats sedentary stress-fighting mechanisms
According to the article, “teens say they’re feeling stress in all areas of their lives, from school to friends, work, and family. And they aren’t always using healthy methods to cope.” The survey found that only 28% are playing sports to cope with stress whereas 46% use video games and 43% surf the internet to decompress. This means that more and more kids are sitting all day at school and then coming home to sit in front of a screen. Summer camp gets kids out of their routine and out of the chair. Even indoor, educational summer camps allow time and space for physical movement to complement a very mentally oriented curriculum.

Summer camp allows kids to rest and rejuvenate from the stress of daily life
Kristen Race, author of Mindful Parenting, “says the fact that stress levels dip in the summer suggests how important summer is to kids’ mental health…‘if you look at teen suicide statistics, stress is one of the things that leads to suicide attempts,’ she says. ‘It’s incredibly important to have the downtime, and it makes sense to have a dramatic shift in the summer.”
This shift is relevant no matter what the summertime activity entails. The simple switch away from deadlines and tests and academic pressure to more hands-on activities can help kids unwind from a packed school year.

Even if they are still attending an academic or mentally challenging summer camp, providing a new framework in which they can operate and think gives them a chance to utilize and strengthen different capacities of the brain. It’s like rotating a workout – summer is equivalent to the off-days for the brain so that the muscle can rebuild itself before the next workout. Replacing academics with relaxing activities and rest through camp or even a modest part-time job helps kids release the tension and stress built up during the year.

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The Benefits of Science and and Technology Summer Camp

adventure camps In February 2014, 60 Minutes hosted a special on three remarkable kids. This blog discusses one of them – Jack Andraka – and his incredible feats in the medical health profession. His success comes from a variety of support systems, many of which speak to the benefits of summer camp.

Camp is Great for Scientific Exploration, but Support Starts at Home
According to the episode, “[Jack’s] parents say he has been obsessed with science since he was a toddler, conducting experiments even as a 3- year-old…his parents tried to keep him engaged by encouraging science projects at home.” The Andrakas maintain that as long as their sons don’t blow up the house, they have free reign over the basement-turned-chemical-lab. Luckily, Jack is working on curing cancer instead of starting chemical fires, but most parents can’t allow their kids such liberties. As an alternative, science and technology camps encourage the same kind of creativity but within a safe infrastructure and under knowledgeable guidance of the teachers and counselors (and from a safe distance from your antique furniture).

Science and Technology Summer Camps Encourage Creativity
In his interview, Jack says, “You can be a genius, but if you don’t have the creativity to put that knowledge to use, then you just have a bunch of knowledge and nothing else.” Our educational system stresses smarts over creativity – multiple choice answers over out-of-the-box thinking. How can you as a parent go beyond the systems at hand to support your child’s creativity? Science and technology summer camps bring talented youth from across North America to play and learn together in a totally unique program. These science camps educate from outside the rigid structure of a classroom, and encourage trial, failure, and creative experimentation to foster the not-so-distant future leaders in science and technology.

Educational Camps for Kids Foster Leadership and Community
The episode highlights Jack’s entrapment between the adult and adolescent world: “And while he now moves in very adult circles [traveling as a guest lecturer at international medical conferences], Jack says when it comes to his future he is just like any other lost teenager…‘I actually have no clue what I want to do when I grow up.’” Often times highly intelligent kids become trapped between the adult world of their intellect and the emotional world of their adolescence. For kids like Jack, science and technology summer camp can create a bridge between these worlds. Camp sharpens their skills while offering a healthy social challenge and support system of an equally talented peer group.

Look up summer camps for kids and teens on for locations all over the world that will support your child’s interests in a social, creative, and challenging environment.

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Contributions Parents Can Make Towards Their Children’s Well-Being

parenting camp staff In part of her series on “Parenting for Success,” Forbes Magazine author Kathy Caprino recently published an article on nine key contributions parents can make towards their children’s personal and social well-being. The article itself is quite informative, and many of the values she outlines can be supported by the activities, staff, and environment unique to summer camp.

  1. Find mentors and ask for help: [Mentors’ guidance] matured [her kids] and helped them think like leaders, and helped them obtain guidance and support outside of their parents.
    Summer camp counselors are ideal mentors – they are youthful enough to relate to kids but old enough to provide meaningful guidance; and they are connected to campers’ experiences as they often attended camp themselves.
  2. Develop a growth mindset: Instead of praising kids for their smarts or looks, affirm variables that are in their control, like hard work, or good strategy or honest words.
    Traditional summer camps for kids are rooted in values like integrity, confidence, and setting and reaching personal and group goals. They integrate challenging activities, working through unfamiliar social constructs, and personal reflection. Camps are implemented in a healthy and supportive environment, so kids see the experience more as fun than as a personal growth experience while they’re actually getting both.
  3. Expand their critical thinking: Have them find challenging news topics that interest them, and determine how to respond.
    Kids don’t always have this flexibility to pursue topics of interest at school, but at summer camp, they can dive into their passions. They can problem solve at computer, arts, or science camps, and even some camps that specifically focus on short-and long-term problem-solving like peace and conflict-resolution camps for kids. Whatever activity they choose, the curriculum is uniquely designed to be far more engaging and challenging than institutional education. Therefore, it’s a great way to shake up kids’ thought patterns in the off-season with creative opportunities for critical thinking.
  4. Actively engage in social gatherings: This builds people and communication skills.
    Although the author is focused on having kids help their parents host home events, summer camp contributes to many of the same skill sets through alternative activities. For example, kids will fine-tune their event planning skills as they venture out on small-group canoe trips. Ropes courses and physically demanding challenges strengthen communication within a group dynamic. And all of the above emphasize personal responsibility to a larger group – an imperative value as kids get older.

Check out more steps for fostering leadership and confidence in Kathy Caprino’s Forbes article.

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How Music Beneficially Correlates with Moods

A recent article posted on details the many ways in which music beneficially correlates with moods. The article highlights examples like military marches to instill confidence and courage, shopping malls to pump up consumer enthusiasm, and setting lessons to song to encourage stress free memorization in the classroom.

The Calming Influence of Music
The article cites a series of studies that show a correlation between improved emotional stability and mental clarity with listening to music. Similarly, young kids who are still developing their emotional and mental identity are strongly influenced by external factors like music. Introducing music to children, whether by putting an instrument in their hands, taking them to concerts, or enrolling them in a class or summer camp, has been proven to have positive results on their emotional and mental development. Even if your child winds up exchanging her oboe for a paintbrush or Legos, the exposure to various forms of self-expression and influential art forms can offer a long-term benefit for her mental well-being.

Music: the Simplest Remedy
While this article does not go as deeply into evidence and explanations as other sources on this subject, the basic premise is still relevant: a positive correlation between music and the brain as they relate to learning capacity. This article emphasizes music as a backdrop for academic activities like memorization and attention: “Scientific research supports common experience that pairing music with rhythm and pitch enhances learning and recall.” Whether you are looking at the long-term benefits of music exposure, or for short-term support for your child’s ability to focus, music offers a low-cost perk that requires no prescription, diagnosis, or medical fees – just an instrument, a voice, or a Play button.

Music Summer Camps Grab Campers’ Interest through a Variety of Activities
Music summer camp helps campers with reading, listening, and playing skills as well as the chance to make music both independently and socially. The variety of ways to incorporate music into camp allows kids to mix up their attention and try out different points of interest – maybe they’ll swap their piccolo for the electric guitar; or find that they love listening to Bach while they develop photographs. Kids who turn to games or artwork at a traditional summer camp will ultimately be applying similar skills they developed in their music sessions through other mediums. And the kids who are at intensive music summer camps will find opportunities to suit their particular interests – composing, improvisational play, rehearsing for a show with friends, or simply being a part of creating sound as art.

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Summer Camp Counselors Can Provide Guidance for Life’s Next Leap

summer camp jobs 2 parenting kids camps 2 summer camp employment A recent article on details how parents can support kids as they transition out of high school and into the next phase of adulthood. But parents aren’t the only ones who can help with this. As the article suggests, your teen can reach out to people within his or her network for informational interviews and professional guidance. Summer camp counselors or administrators are fabulous mentors who have known your children, in some cases, for many, many years. Counselors have often helped many teens through vulnerable moments and watched them rise to positions of leadership over the years. They can offer guidance with both a professional and personal insight, and even provide recommendations for schools, jobs, or other programs to which your child is applying.

Summer Camp Can Direct Kids’ Interests from an Early Age
While many kids start with myriad activities at summer camp (or even myriad summer camps over their three-month break), there is a definite trend of older kids returning year after year to the same programs and curricula. Campers will whittle their early interests from baseball, soccer, basketball, tennis, rock climbing, and water polo down to one or two sports. As the campers get older, the programs become more structured and sophisticated, eventually guiding athletes towards club and scholarship opportunities, if they so choose. The same goes for kids who start out with Legos and clay and wind up as engineers and studio artists. Although not all kids will stick with this same interest into adulthood, summer camp helps kids to focus on and cultivate their passions and become open to new possibilities for educational and professional exploration. In addition to these character-sculpting experiences, this article in KidsHealth also highlights that even if kids don’t stick with the same activities into college, their dedication and movement into leadership roles in their fields of interest are impressive points on any college application or entry-level CV.

Independence at Summer Camp Prepares Kids for the Leap into the “Real World”
The article offers advice on how to balance offering guidance with letting go as your kids explore their options for the future. The author addresses issues like self-sufficiency, financial support, and healthy communication. Kids who have attended summer camps will have already encountered many of these conversations as they stepped into more independent opportunities at a young age. Summer camp provides kids with the chance to explore and find their sense of self in a new environment. This is a smaller version of the precipice that many kids stand upon after high school, and it prepares them to face unknown challenges with confidence.

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