What really happens when your kid goes to camp.

I know. It is March. It is cold. Summer is months away. Why should I think about camp?

Don’t you realize how busy I am? We have preschool, sports, swimming lessons, PTA family events to run, and kids to make happy! And this guy is talking about day camp!

Well I am sorry to say, we are only getting started. Day camp is a magical program, a great outlet, and a place where kids get the opportunity to be their true selves. I am passionate about the camp program and chose it as my career because of the lifelong impact it has on campers and staff. I am giving you 3 lessons on why day camp is AMAZING:

  1. Friendship- It is hard to make friends. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who starts a new job, moves to a new city, or even the 5 year old who is going to their first day of school. Learning the skills to meet people, how to have conversations, and what takes to be a friend are difficult. But those who go to day camp know, you need only to be yourself. People will love who you are, just for being the person you are.  And by participating in small groups, kids get the opportunity to meet new friends without being intimidated by the fact that there are so many people! It will help your kids build friendships that will last and remember for a lifetime.
  2. Self Confidence- Day camp provides a place where kids learn to trust how smart, caring, and passionate they can be. Then, it encourages them to BE smart, caring, and passionate. Developing confidence is a long road, and camp lays the foundation for kids to try something new, try it again, and then eventually master it. All while happening in small steps. Campers get the chance to try and fail in a safe place, learn that it is ok to try again, and eventually succeed. The best example I have is our countless campers at swim time. On the first day of camp, we have so many kids try to pass the swim test. And so many do not. But by the last day of summer? Track how many of our campers are swimming without life jackets! You will not only be surprised by the improvement, but also the joy in the children who have developed a sense of confidence and accomplishment.
  3. Exploration- Camp allows us to explore. We get to explore the outdoors and out what animal made those tracks in the mud. We get to explore what makes rockets go so high. We get to explore new flavors and how to make them. The camp program itself is exploration, and each day the campers are exposed to a new experience. This will help them harness a sense of adventure and keep them wanting to explore new things as they older. There are never enough opportunities to get your kids to explore and learn to love new experiances.

Camp is so impactful, I had to edit myself. My original brainstorm had 99 lessons on the impact of camp, but I fear that I was coming on too strong. If you stick with me, I may sneak a few more in for the coming months! When you think about your summer options, consider us! And if you are still not convinced, talk to me, bshelley@indymca.org . I would love to talk camp with you.

Brian Shelley is the Senior Program Director for Day Camp at the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis. Brian can be reached at bshelley@indymca.org and encourages thoughts or feedback!

Read more about YMCA Day Camps and what fun your kids can have over the summer.