Opinion research confirms that parents agree with people in the camping industry — summer camps do way more than keep kids busy when school's out. This traditional summer fun has vital benefits for children's development.
provided by The American Camp Association
There are more options than ever before to keep a child busy during the summer, yet summer camp enrollment remains steady despite economic and world conditions. This phenomenon has left many people to ponder the question, why camp?
The answer seems to be that camp does more than keep a child busy. According to camp directors, parents send their children to camp because of the positive impact it has on youth development. In a 1998 national survey of camps accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), camp directors reported that parents rate the most important benefits of camp to be increasing self-confidence and self-esteem, providing a safe place, making new friends, and offering fun activities.
“Parents are recognizing what we in the organized camping industry have known for years,” said Peg Smith, executive director of ACA. “Camp is a vital element in a child’s total development, and it complements the academic skills that are learned in school with experiential-based life skills.”
According to Robert Ditter, a clinical psychologist who specializes in child and adolescent treatment, camp helps build emotional intelligence. He states that camp contributes to the development of three emotionally based competencies—cognitive emotional quotient (EQ), social EQ and emotional EQ—and these competencies cannot be taught in the conventional sense. Rather, they are developed through experience.
“Today’s camp curriculums,” Ditter said, “are designed to teach socialization skills that help a child better cope in the real world.” When parenting children, there's nothing like the benefits of summer camp.
More recent opinion research conducted by the ACA shows fun and safety moving up to the top of the list of parents’ priorities.
According to Marla Coleman, former president of the ACA, when 19 focus groups consisting of parents and ACA members throughout the country were surveyed, parents ranked fun and safety as most important to the camp experience.
“Parents have very definitive perceptions of the value of camp for their children,” she said. “They believe that developmental value is important—social and emotional growth—but this is secondary to providing their children with safe and secure facilities, along with positive and fun activities.”
Safety is paramount
Parents were also surprised to learn that there is no government oversight of camps. Marla Coleman continues, “The parents in our focus groups assumed that oversight of all camps was done—that because camps involved children, someone was checking. Most parents did not know that camp accreditation is voluntary through the American Camp Association.”
ACA is the only organization that accredits all types of camps based upon 300 national standards for health and safety. ACA’s accreditation program educates camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff. The standards establish guidelines for needed policies, procedures, and practices. The camp, then, is responsible for on-going implementation of these policies.
“ACA accreditation assures parents that the camp they have chosen has had a regular, independent safety audit that goes beyond regulations in most states,” explains Coleman. “It helps parents select a camp that meets industry-accepted and government-recognized standards.”
The American Camp Association works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-accredited camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are more than 2,400 ACA-accredited camps that meet the ACA’s health and safety standards. For more information, visit ACAcamps.org.