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Youth Gain from Camping Experiences

Boys at camp
With summer around the corner, it’s a great time to enroll your children in residential and/or day camps. For most communities there are a variety of camps offered. Camping experiences not only give children something to do, they are also great learning experiences.

Just as a garden or flowerbed requires critical elements like water, sunshine, space, and freedom from bugs to grow and to flourish, so do children. Similar to other living things, you need nourishing, supportive and protective environments where youth can grow to be healthy and contributing adults.

Each young person needs to:
Know they are cared about by others: Belonging
Feel and believe they are capable and successful: Mastery
Know they are able to influence people and events: Independence
Practice helping others: Generosity
Camps offer environments for growth, rich in the essential elements that support healthy development.

Very enthusiastic older youth and caring adults are the staff that lead the camps. Participating youth develop meaningful relationships with admired and trusted adults and older teens. New relationships begin as the campers share cabins and engage in camp activities. As a result of these experiences, the campers develop a sense of belonging as they realize that they are cared about by others.

During camp, youth develop many new skills. Camp teaches children to communicate, to work together as part of a team and to be a leader. Residential camps do this as the children learn to live in the same cabin and perform daily living chores. Leadership is developed by asking campers to fulfill responsibilities that may not be expected of them elsewhere.  Additionally, sharing resources and attention helps foster teamwork and the desire to participate. Campers gain the sense of mastery as they become capable and successful at new skills.

There is a sense of adventure and challenge not usually found in daily home life. Most camps offer time for youth to test new ideas in a non-threatening environment. It pushes children out of their comfort zone and exposes them to new activities and experiences that they may not be familiar with. Many youth discover new hobbies or passions. By exploring various types of activities, children have a greater chance of finding something that they excel at or that makes them happy. Independence is gained as they are able to influence people and events.

Camp also provides many opportunities for youth to help fellow campers through daily chores of cleaning up cabins and dining hall, encouraging campers who may be homesick, cheering on their team, assisting camp staff, and so on. Our society needs for more people to gain the practice of helping others – that element of generosity.

Camp offers youth an opportunity to accept new responsibilities in leadership, conquer fears, practice new skills, and discover individual differences in an environment that reinforces the value of each person. These essential elements should be a focus of every camp. So as you seek camp opportunities for you children this summer, look for ones that feature these four essential elements. 4-H camping opportunities are available in every county in the state of Florida.  Look them up and enroll your child today.

PG

Author: Monica Brinkley – brinkley@ufl.edu

Monica Brinkley has served as an Extension Agent since 1985 in Jackson, Calhoun and Liberty Counties. She currently is the County Extension Director, Family and Consumer Science, and 4-H Youth Development Agent.
http://www.liberty.ifas.ufl.edu

Monica Brinkley

Permanent link to this article: http://jackson.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/28/youth-gain-from-camping-experiences/