"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life."
- Mark Twain
Each holiday season, we, as parents and grandparents, are faced with the hard decision of what gifts to give our children and grandchildren. This holiday season, many of us are giving the gift of camp.
While parents are in charge of their child's well-being and education, many grandparents are able to see beyond all those immediate needs and can recognize the benefits that a camp experience has to offer. One such grandparent is Leatrice Slote Spanierman, who says that sending her two granddaughters to camp was a gift of love. "I wanted them to reap the rewards of sleepaway camp that I have cherished since my childhood."
Ann Sheets, national president of the American Camp Association (ACA), believes that "camp provides not only an opportunity to meet new friends and participate in new activities, but also a chance for the child to experience nature and learn about this great planet that we live on."
As a leading authority in child development, ACA has published independent research, which concluded that parents, campers, and/or camp staff saw positive growth in campers across a range of youth development outcomes, including social skills and learning new skills. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, points to studies that indicate that not only does a child's contact with nature reduce stress, but it can also reduce the child's risk for depression and obesity. Because children lack access to nature, Louv says that the camp experience is immeasurable. "Arguably, no other institution has so much experience with the paradox that underlies this discussion: the counter intuitive but essential task of organizing unstructured activities in nature."
The American Academy of Pediatrics concurs. In a report released in October, the AAP emphasized to parents the need for children to have more free-play time, stating that "free play should be promoted as a healthy and essential part of childhood."
As this holiday season approaches, let's give our children and grandchildren a gift that will provide them with time outdoors, a chance to play, an opportunity for experiential learning and growth, and memories, skills, and experiences they will cherish their entire lives.