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Camp: Fulfilling the Promises of a New Year

The Benefits Extend Beyond the Fun

January 01, 2009
The first of January speaks to most people about hope. Like a brand-new notebook, the New Year says "fresh start" and begs change large and small in our lives. To create those changes, we make promises to ourselves to do new things—or to do familiar things a different way.

Merriam-Webster defines "promise" as "to pledge to do, bring about, or provide." If "resolution" seems like the New Year's "R word," maybe a new tradition of New Year promises—in the place of resolutions—is just the thing to help all of us make positive changes.

Many of your New Year's hopes and desires probably center on family, especially your children. In the coming year, you can promise your child new experiences, growth, fun and caring. The special moments of childhood that provide those learning experiences come from many sources. The unique experience of camp gives children all of those things—and more.

In the New Year, you can promise your child . . .

Independence and resiliency Many parents have understandable concerns about their children growing up in today's world. Those worries become counterproductive, though, when they get in the way of children's experiences in taking healthy risks. Camp offers the chance for them to take those risks in a structured, nurturing community of professionals who can guide children on a journey of self-awareness and self-reliance.

Life experiences that increase self-confidence "I can do this!" "I'm good at this!" "I thought this would be hard, but it wasn't so bad." "I guess it's OK to try something new." Exploration and discovery are key elements of the camp experience. At camp, children experience successes that promote self-confidence and future academic growth. Independent research published by the American Camp Association® (ACA) shows that parents and camp staff, as well as children, report significant growth in several areas, including independence and values and decisions.

A new perspective Maybe your son or daughter has discovered a special interest in photography or the performing arts. There are camps to encourage those newly-found passions. Beyond traditional camp activities, camps offer programs that address many interests. The opportunity to explore these means of self-expression in a noncompetitive environment allows for natural development of curiosity and talent—and maybe even starts your child on a new academic or career path.

Broaden horizons Not only does camp enhance campers' skills, it also provides the chance to learn more about the world through new friendships, activities that promote cooperation and challenges that foster decision-making abilities and leadership. "Mentor" time spent with caring adults, as found at camp, helps children learn new ways of being part of a wider social world.

Valuable time spent in nature Whether it's a hike in the woods or a wilderness trip, immersion in the natural world teaches children how to appreciate the environment. Studies have also shown that nature can be therapeutic, reducing the stress of everyday life and, in some instances, improving academic performance.

You can even promise yourself that this year you'll know just where to go to find the information to help you decide how to provide your child with the camp experience. To discover the right camp for your child, research camp options online. All types of camp programs can be found in ACA's searchable database at www.CampParents.org. The Web site also provides an extensive array of articles that will give you suggestions about how to choose a camp, as well as plan for it. If you're wondering if there's a camp that will fit your budget, the database helps you search by cost. Also, keep in mind that 90 percent of camps offer some sort of financial assistance.

This year, you can promise yourself and your children new experiences and new ways of doing things to bring you closer to your dreams for you and your family. One of those ways is to explore for your child the promise of camp.

© 2009 American Camping Association, Inc.

With nearly three decades of experience working with children, youth and families, Peg L. Smith is the chief executive officer of the American Camp Association® (ACA). With up to 300 health, safety and programming standards, ACA is the only national association that accredits camps and promotes a safe and fun camp experience with developmental benefits backed by independent research. To learn more about ACA, please visit www.CampParents.org or www.ACAcamps.org.

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