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5 Reasons Why Every Child Should Go to Sleep Away Camp

By: Ruby Brent

I have been attending the same sleepaway camp for 6 years straight, and the summer of 2018 was my last year as a camper. I can genuinely say that my experiences there have taught me, and shaped me more than my school has. As I sat around my last campfire reminiscing about the many memories I have from camp, I realized what a shame it would be for kids to not experience a place like this.

  • The most important things it taught me were comradery and communication with others. There is a quote my camp lives by, “ There are no strangers here, only friends who haven’t met yet ”. This means that you must take in any person who comes through the door as a new friend. The more the merrier is the way it goes. When you spend anywhere from 1 week to 8 weeks living in a cabin with other campers your age, you learn to be flexible. As a camper you must learn to be confrontational, to compromise, and to trust others. There aren’t a lot of places to hide when the person you are in an argument with lives in the bunk above yours. Even if you do not like another person, you learn to be civil and to find ways to respectfully live with one another without having to be best friends. These skills help later on in life too for when you are in a workplace environment, or even dealing with dysfunctional in-laws.
  • Homesickness. My first year at camp I was 11 years old, and I had no friends and no idea what to do with myself. It took a lot of courage and bravery to start camp with no support from familiar faces. As the week went on I made friends with both fellow campers, and the staff, and by the end, I didn’t want to go home. I had to grow up a lot during my time there, and I had to become more independent as well. I think that without that experience I wouldn’t have gained the courage to try other new things later on in life.
  • Responsibility. At sleepaway camps, mine in particular, as you get older you begin to take on more responsibilities. For example, there’s a program offered for campers 14 and up called Senior Unit, and if a camper works for an hour either doing dishes, working in the kitchen, working in the barn etc., they get to stay up an hour later than the rest of camp. When I was told about this program I began working immediately, and I was staying up late with my friends every night. As the years passed, however, I found myself still completing the hour of work, and sometimes more, but not staying up. I began to enjoy helping out to the point where I would miss activities just to pick out the horse’s stalls, or I would skip rest hour just to finish the dishes. I saw my self-working, not for the reward of staying up late, but for the personal reward, I felt for contributing to the camp’s environment.
  • Disconnecting from the outside world. While at camp, you are not allowed to have your phone, and it almost seems as though you are in a bubble. The only thing a camper needs to worry about is if their pottery will dry in time to take home, not about the latest addictive game. For the past few years, I have attended camp for 3 weeks each summer, and when I get home I don’t want to binge watch Netflix or to mindlessly scroll through Instagram. I want to be active and to connect with others face to face. In this day and age, people are too obsessed with their phones and technology. They are missing out on life experiences as they stare at a little, bright screen. Sending your kids to camp without technology is the best wakeup call you can give them.
  • Lifelong friends. The bond you have with friends from sleepaway camp automatically tops the bond with anyone else back home. By living with a person for at least a week straight means waking up to them every morning, spending all day and night with them, and that you will be sharing things most friends back home will never hear or see. For me the friends I have from camp I know I can always count on no matter how far away they actually live from me. And when you reconnect with them the next year at camp, you pick up right where you left off, and end up getting even closer than before. It is because of the limited privacy, and close quarters that you develop a bond with these people that is indescribable and unfathomable to anyone who has never been to camp.

While it is true that there are many people who may not enjoy camp, the majority of kids who attend end up leaving with better attitudes, demeanors, and are just overall happier. The memories I have from camp are stronger and more timeless compared to the ones I have from back home. Whether it is for just 1 week, or all 8, every child should be given the opportunity to go to a sleepaway camp and come home with memories they’ll never forget.

 

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