Campfire Notes

10 Reasons GREAT Parents Choose Summer Camp for their Kids

10 Reasons GREAT Parents Choose Summer Camp for their Kids

My shy, quiet nine-year-old went to camp not knowing a soul. Two weeks later, she came home transformed.  She blossomed. She made friends, learned a multitude of activities, felt safe, loved, confident, and happy — really, really happy.  As hard as it was on me, it was all worth it for her. It was the single best thing I have ever done for her.

-First-time camp parent

Is your kid going to camp this summer? Congratulations! You’re giving them an experience that may have many life-long, positive benefits. You are giving them the opportunity to grow and develop skills and character traits that are often hard to develop in the comforts of home.

summer camp, sunshine parenting, 10 reasons

Let this list remind you about some of the many reasons why you are being a great parent by sending your child to camp this summer!

At camp this summer, your child will…


Camp makes me happy and nothing can prepare me for life as well as this environment.

“Come on,” you’re thinking, “How can two weeks in the mountains change my child’s overall happiness level?” Good question. In research I conducted a few years ago, one of the things that both parents and kids agreed was that children feel happier after being at camp. The combination of positive emotions, deep friendships, being disconnected from technology, and just plain fun makes kids feel happier at and after camp. I’ve previously written about how the science of positive psychology may explain why kids flourish at camp and demonstrate increased happiness levels during and after their camp experience. In this era, when we’re seeing our kids suffer from rising rates of depression and anxiety, isn’t it nice to know that there’s a place where kids can go that actually serves as a positive intervention for overall happiness?

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp for Their Kids#2 DISCOVER THEIR BEST SELF

Being at camp gives me this sense of belonging that I’ve never felt anywhere else.

In many different ways, but all with the same underlying meaning, campers describe camp as a place where they can be themselves. They feel open to saying and being who they really are, not stuck conforming to what’s considered “cool” and “acceptable” in the outside world. Surrounded by a diverse group of friends of different ages and backgrounds, kids develop the ability to explore their own interests and express their own thoughts better.

As a parent, I hate to admit that I sometimes push my own interests on my kids, even when I don’t mean to. For example, I might say, “You’re so good at softball! Don’t you want to keep playing?” when my child says she doesn’t want to play anymore. When kids step away from their regular activities and normal life schedules (as well as their well-meaning but often overly directive parents), they have the opportunity to think through what’s really important to them as individuals.


The counselors challenged me to do things I wouldn’t normally do at home.

Learning self-reliance, experiencing mistakes and failures, and reaching for goals are all camp experiences that help campers develop their grit, an important character trait that we’ve learned is critical to success in life. Camp offers a unique experience to children – the chance to be away from their parents for a short period of time and learn to handle more things on their own. Without parents to step in and assist, or rescue from mistakes, kids develop confidence in their own ability to make decisions and solve problems. Just being “on their own” is a huge confidence builder for kids, and they feel more self-reliant after being responsible for themselves and their belongings for a few weeks.

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp for Their Kids#4 MEET POSITIVE ROLE MODELS

Camp has made me into a leader, having the best role models as my counselors to look up to.

One of the best things that happens at camp is that kids get exposed to a different kind of adult role model than what they see in the media. No reality TV stars will be gracing the waterfront or backpacking trips at summer camp. No perfectly coiffed and stick-thin model will be standing next to them brushing teeth in the bathroom. No macho guy who speaks disrespectfully about women will be leading the campfire discussion. In fact, the college students who choose to spend their summer working at camp are an outstanding bunch of young adults. Most are stellar students with outstanding leadership skills. They love the outdoors and working with kids, and they are the kind of people we want our kids to emulate. They love leading discussions on topics that are important to their campers and helping them build confidence. There’s no focus on appearance at summer camp, and so designer clothes, makeup, and trendy hair-styles don’t hold the same importance that they do at junior high or high school. In fact, the predominant style at camp is pajama pants paired with dirt and sweat-stained t-shirts. And we hardly ever spend time in front of a mirror.

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp for Their Kids#5 DEVELOP BETTER COMMUNICATION SKILLS

The other part of camp that has influenced me the most is the simple idea of trying to always smile.

In post-camp surveys, campers consistently write about how ditching their electronics was one of the best things about their camp experience. In fact, it’s a practice they take home with them, setting aside phones during meals with friends so they can connect more genuinely, face-to-face. In the absence of technological tethers, campers have many hours each day to practice these face-to-face communication skills. They learn the importance of things like eye contact, smiles, and body language as they positively interact with their peers. Counselors help facilitate lively discussions, and campers learn to ask each other questions, listen more carefully, and figure out common interests. Kids learn and practice valuable communication skills at camp, which they can use throughout their lives.


Going to camp has made me even more independent and a much better people-person. I am able to go confidently up to someone and introduce myself, or hang out with someone new because of my time at camp.

You are giving your child the opportunity to live and thrive without being with you and under your constant scrutiny.  The growth in confidence and independence happen at camp BECAUSE you are not there.   Read more about why camp experiences help kids develop independence in Parking Your Helicopter.

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp for Their Kids#7 EXPERIENCE OUTDOOR CHILDHOOD FUN & ADVENTURE

I have so many fond memories of camp that I can’t choose a particular one. However, some of my favorites memories include sleeping under the stars, doing fun activities, and spending time with friends.

You are giving your child the gift of magical childhood memories – dirt, adventure, story, and joke-filled days and nights spent with friends outdoors, under the stars, and around the campfire.  These childhood memories will last forever. And, as Michael Thompson, PhD, so eloquently states, “Our sweetest childhood memories do not include adults.”

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp for Their Kids#8 RELAX

The atmosphere is so relaxed.

You are giving your child a break from the pressures and stress of competitive sports, school, and you.  Forgive me if that offends, but I, too, am a well-meaning but over-involved parent who provides just a bit too much advice, feedback, and guidance to my children. Our kids need a break from our well-intentioned involvement in their lives.

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp for Their Kids#9 GET UNPLUGGED

Camp has helped me appreciate nature and the outdoors a lot more than I think I would have if I didn’t go. I can go without my phone or connection to social media awhile, because camp has shown me that amazing stuff happens when you put your phone down and have a nice conversation with someone.

You are giving your child the chance to unplug and connect face-to-face with other kids and positive young adult role models. 


I feel like I have become a kinder person and am better at making friends because of camp.

The bonding and friendships that happen at camp are different from those that occur at school and on sports teams. The intensity of living together and experiencing life together, without distractions, creates the ideal setting to form life-long friendships and really get to know people well. Read more about camp friendships.

So, if people ever question your decision to send your young child to a traditional, longer camp stay this summer, let them know that it’s hard for you to let your child go, but that you’re giving your child a gift that will have more impact than any material item you’ve ever given.

There you have it! Ten of the reasons that great parents send their kids to camp! Don’t you feel good about your decision?

Check out the Sunshine Parenting Podcast for TONS of resources and interviews about summer camp, parenting, and raising thriving kids!

Article originally published at Sunshine Parenting.

Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, MA, has been the owner of Gold Arrow Camp since 1989 and currently serves as the Chief Visionary Officer. In addition to her vision-casting and mentoring at GAC, Sunshine is an author (Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults), podcast host, speaker and coach on the topics of parenting, social skills, and happiness. Find out more at her website, Sunshine Parenting.



Posted in:
5 Ways Camp Grows Grit

5 Ways Camp Grows Grit

“It turns out that grit predicts performance better than IQ or innate talent. Grit makes our kids productive and successful because it allows them to reach their long-term goals despite life’s inevitable setbacks. This ability to overcome challenges makes them stronger and more masterful at their tasks. Moreover, the ability to cope with difficulty – to be resilient – paves the way for long-term happiness.”
-Christine Carter, “Why I Send my Kids to Camp: It Grows their Grit”

#1 Learning self-reliance grows grit.

Campers learn to do more things for themselves when Mom or Dad aren’t around to clean up, make decisions, solve problems, intervene with social challenges, and remind kids about appropriate outerwear for a cold evening.

With counselors alongside for support, camp is a great place for kids to develop independence and self-reliance, which in turn increases their confidence.

Counselors will coach campers to be responsible for themselves and their things, but they will not tidy up campers’ bunks or dress them in warm sweatshirts. Learning to do more things for themselves – and seeing that they CAN do things without their parents’ help – grows campers’ grit.

#2 Experiencing mistakes and failures grows grit.

So often, parents step in and stop a failure before it occurs; how often have we rescued a homework assignment left behind on the desk or put the finishing touches on a procrastinated science board project? It’s just really hard to stand there and watch our children crash and burn when we know the easy fix, usually involving our intervention.

Unfortunately, by not allowing our kids to feel the pain of the forgotten assignment or the sting of the lackluster science board, we deprive them the chance to LEARN from their mistakes and NOT MAKE THEM AGAIN. Instead, they learn about “parental rescue,” which is not something we want our children to take with them into adulthood. At camp, kids make mistakes all the time and are actually encouraged to fail (which is viewed as nothing more than a first attempt in learning).

A camper forgets his water bottle? He walks back to the cabin with a buddy to get it. A camper didn’t hang up her towel after activity? She takes that same damp, icky towel to her next water sport. At camp, independently fixing mistakes and persevering through failures are celebrated. Campers are learning from these mistakes, and they are also growing their grit.

#3 Talking about, setting, and reaching goals grows grit.

At camp, kids have the opportunity to reinvent themselves and tell their own stories. Counselors encourage campers to talk about what they want to learn at camp, new skills they want to acquire, and specific goals they have for the camp session. These goals become a guidepost and motivation for campers as they move through camp, and whether they reach or almost-reach a goal, they grow through challenging themselves to try.

Water skiing—the first activity I taught at camp as a counselor—is a great example of how kids grow grit at camp. Frankly, waterskiing isn’t much fun for first-timers; in fact, it takes most people a lot of practice and effort just to get on top of the water, and most don’t make it to standing because they give up too early. But those who keep trying often discover a rewarding payoff.

In the same way, campers experience amazing gratification when they overcome a fear of heights or break through their shyness when talking to new people. Even pooping in the woods for the first time is celebrated as an accomplishment at camp! And each of these goals reached, big or small, grows grit.

#4 Facing new challenges grows grit.

In addition to specific activity or social skills goals, there are many new things campers experience that aren’t necessarily challenges, but they can be for some kids. Campers are faced with many new, unfamiliar things at camp: a new place to sleep, new people, new activities, new foods, and a new view, to name a few.

If you studied abroad during college, you know that living in a new country and navigating the culture grows your grit. For many kids, going to camp is like that. For an only child, living in close quarters with eight or nine other kids is a completely new experience. It may or may not be challenging, but it’s different and needs to be navigated. And every new experience, whether easy or difficult, grows the confidence kids have in themselves about approaching OTHER new experiences. And that grows their grit.

#5 Feeling emotional and physical discomfort grows grit.

Many campers feel some degree of emotional discomfort while away from home. Because of this, some parents will never send their kids to camp. Those parents simply can’t handle the idea of their child going through any kind of distress.

But those of us who have experienced how camp positively impacts our kids know that it’s the difficult, uncomfortable stuff that helps them grow. The most common emotional discomfort at camp is homesickness, and it’s especially painful and daunting for anxious kids. Homesickness is very real, but it can be a huge source of growth once the camper figures out how to overcome the emotions and successfully complete camp. I don’t know of any other setting where kids can be coached through a difficult time and emerge invigorated, proud, and wanting to do it again.

The physical discomforts of camp are also real. Parents may not want to hear about (and probably couldn’t handle themselves) the hardships involved in a big lightning storm, a frigid mountain night, a steep uphill hike, or lake water so cold it makes your teeth chatter. But these things are good for campers, who often don’t experience much physical discomfort at home. Campers speak with pride about the emotional and physical challenges they face and overcome at camp. And those experiences—maybe more than anything else—grow grit.

Article originally published at Sunshine Parenting.

Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, MA, has been the owner of Gold Arrow Camp since 1989 and currently serves as the Chief Visionary Officer. In addition to her vision-casting and mentoring at GAC, Sunshine is an author (Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults), podcast host, speaker and coach on the topics of parenting, social skills, and happiness. Find out more at her website, Sunshine Parenting.

Resources/Related Posts & Podcast Episodes

The Blessing of the Least Favorite Activity

The Importance Of Cabin Group Activities

Why Kids Need to Get Uncomfortable

Posted in: