10 Things You Never Knew About Summer Camp

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Camp has become a staple of the summer season. Each year, millions of children, youth and adults head to the hills, lakes, valleys and parks to participate in this time-honored tradition. While most people easily conjure up images of campfires and canoes, there is a lot more to the experience. Discover the following 10 things you might not know about summer camp.

1. Camp is older than dirt, almost literally. Started in 1861, the camp experience turns an impressive 160 years young this year. The secret behind the longevity? “There is a camp for every child,” says Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association (ACA). “From specialized camps to general, traditional camps, the essence of the camp experience is stronger than ever.”

2. Camp is worth its weight in gold, and then some. The camp experience is life-changing. It develops friendships and memories that last well beyond the final campfire. There is a camp for literally every budget. Often camps offer special pricing or financial assistance, and some camp experiences qualify for tax credits or for payment with pre-tax dollars.

3. Green is “zen.” Research shows that first-hand experiences with nature, like those at camp, reduce stress in children and help them better handle stress in the future. In addition to teaching children how to be good stewards of the environment, camps are teaching children how to enjoy the world around them and take a minute to breathe deep and feel nature, which ultimately teaches them how to destress the natural way.

4. Mommies and daddies do it too. Camp is not just for children. There are family camp experiences, and camps for single adults, senior adults and any adult who wants to relax and enjoy all camp has to offer. Adults benefit from the same sense of community, authentic relationships and self-discovery that children do. Camp is an excellent vacation option, allowing adults to try a variety of new activities in a safe and fun environment.

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5. Try this on for size. Camp is a great place to try new activities and hobbies. Afraid of rock walls? According to ACA research, 74% of campers reported they tried new activities at camp that they were afraid to do at first. Those activities often leave lasting impressions. In the same survey, 63% of parents reported their child continued new activities from camp after returning home.

6. Manners matter and often linger. The camp experience teaches more than just archery or lanyard making. The entire experience is made of teachable moments. Perhaps one of the biggest is how to live with a group of people. Campers learn to pick up after themselves, respect each other’s property and to say “please” and “thank you.”

7. Veggies taste better with friends. Hollywood and fictional novels may have given camp food a bad reputation, but in truth, camps are constantly exploring healthy food options, and often are at the forefront of items such as allergy-specific diets, healthy snack options and vegetarian meals.

8. If everyone else went to camp, maybe there’s something to it. Camp has played an important role in the lives of some of the most talented people in history. ACA’s family resource site offers a list of notable campers, including business professionals, celebrities, artists and great thinkers.

9. Camp gets those neurons pumping. Education reform debate and concern over summer learning loss have pushed academic achievement into the spotlight. Research shows that participation in intentional programs, like camp, during summer months helps stem summer learning loss. In addition, camp provides ample opportunity for developmental growth, which is a precursor to academic achievement. And, because of the “hands-on” nature of camp, often children who struggle in traditional education settings do well at camp.

10. Camp builds leaders for the 21st century and beyond. Independence, resiliency, teamwork, problem-solving skills and the ability to relate to other people — these are the skills that tomorrow’s leaders will need, and the skills camp has been adept at building for 160 years. “Camp gives children and youth the critical tools they will need to become successful adults,” says Rosenberg.

Reprinted by permission of the American Camp Association. ©American Camping Association, Inc. The American Camp Association® ACA is a national organization with more than 10,000 individual members and nearly 3,000 member camps. ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp and outdoor experiences for children, youth and adults. For more information, visit ACAcamps.org.