Springtime has officially come to New England—its arrival sparking both chatter and speculation about the upcoming Summer now that the snow appears to have stopped. It’s all about Summer now! Anticipating it…Prepping for it. Welcoming it as early as possible. Summer dreaming and planning and scheming is top of mind for us all, young and old. Camp people, however, have been getting ready for summer for longer than anyone. Since last summer ended, planning for Summer 2015 has been top priority. And now, it’s great to welcome the rest of the world to the fun of anticipating Summer!

We know Summer’s really coming when The Boston Globe 
shines the spotlight on our favorite season like they did in yesterday’s edition, which contained pieces focused on various camp options out there for campers and for camp staff (including the mention of several ACA Accredited camps in New England.) We were thrilled to see the URL for ACA’s online Find A Camp tool because we know well that several families are still patching together plans for summer and that families will continue to sign up for camp for several weeks. Whether camp will be seasonal employment for older high school and college age students and for allied professionals like teachers and guidance counselors who work at schools during non-camp months OR whether it will be  part of younger children’s summer learning for one week or eight, camp will most definitely be the highlight of Summer. How do we know? Campers tell us! Campers love the independence they’re given and the sense of belonging they feel in these child-centered worlds we call summer camp.

It’s this wisdom from the children themselves that we need to rely on to get us through the scheduling and other potential barriers to camp fun and learning. In today’s complex and overscheduled world, it can sometimes be challenging to figure out where camp fits into the schedule. It’s not surprising at all that people get nostalgic for simpler times, like family columnist Beverly Beckham in yesterday’s Globe. Many articles, posts and pieces today talk nostalgically about childhood summers of yesteryear—as though the chaos and headaches of signing up reflect the camp experience itself. If only families could focus on what happens AFTER children get to camp. Signing up is the hard part; once there, campers thrive in a world designed exclusively for their learning and fun. It’s worth any scheduling headaches to get summer camp on your family calendar right now if you haven’t already—for campers, for counselors and other camp staff and even for families that attend camp together. 

Day and overnight camps offer and support the kinds of learning experiences that are being recommended for children’s optimal growth and development. Camps are in the business of setting children up for future success. Sign up! Sign up now. Your child will thank you. Camps uniquely compliment and reinforce the learning that happens in schools and families, so children gain the knowledge and skills that are critically important for future success. Here are four invaluable ways camps change lives:

  1. Campers gain 21st Century skills, essential for success in today’s world. Especially important—the 4Cs: Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation. All four skill sets are fostered at camp.
  2. Campers get the chance to make decisions and take action individually and as group members without adult micromanagement. At camp children are expected to do as much as possible for themselves. Camp counselors don’t suffer from “help creep,” as outlined in this NYTimes Motherlode blog post.   In fact, many are trained to allow children to fail if doing so is safe and presents a learning opportunity. There’s been much written this school year about "letting children fail," especially by Jessica Lahey, whose Atlantic Monthly piece went viral in early 2015.
  3. Camps give children the chance to try all kinds of new things in a world that’s threatening to become overly specialized. As described by this recent blogpost in NYTimes Motherlode: Our Push for Passion and Why It Harms Kids. So, for the child who has not yet declared a “passion,” camp can be a place to explore and try on new activities and experiences. Lest you worry that the child with a specific specialty might not be served well at camp, think again! There are some highly specialized camp opportunities, too.
  4. Camp experiences are FULL of opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. Camps provide carefree and happy environments where “kids can be kids” in an atmosphere that helps stem summer learning loss, a serious concern identified by the National Summer Learning Association.

    Photo credit: Top left: ACA Accredited Camp Howe, Goshen. MA