Campfire Notes

What One Week Of Camp Can Do For Your Child

What One Week Of Camp Can Do For Your Child

“My shy, quiet nine-year-old went to camp not knowing a soul. 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

In today’s screen-addicted, fast-moving, ultra-competitive world, raising kids who grow into flourishing, kind, independent adults has become more challenging for parents. But research by the American Camp Association shows that even just one week at a quality summer camp program can benefit your child’s development of important life skills. In partnership with parents who are focused on their child’s healthy development, Gold Arrow Camp offers a positive, growth-focused outdoor experience that can help your child develop important life skills including independence, an appreciation for the outdoors, the ability to have fun while being unplugged from technology, and the social skills needed to make and keep friends.

The idea of having your child away from you for a week may seem scary at first, but the benefits of sending your child to one week of summer camp will last a lifetime. At camp this summer, your child will…


“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.” – Five-year camper

Whether due to parenting trends or the constant electronic connection we have with our kids, children are much less independent than we were at their same age. Twenty years ago, we were babysitting infants at 13. Now, some of us hire babysitters for our 13-year-olds! By sending your child to camp, you give 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. You can read more about why camp experiences help kids develop independence in Parking Your Helicopter.


Most of the time our kids spend outdoors is during highly-structured organized sports, orchestrated by adults. Little time is spent just exploring, building forts, and appreciating the awesome view that hiking up a mountain trail allows. By sending your child to camp, you give 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, Ph.D. So eloquently states, “Our best childhood memories do not include adults.”


“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.” – Five-year camper

Whether checking to see how many people liked their Instagram posts, texting messages to friends, playing video games, or watching TV, our kids are spending a lot of their hours in front of screens. We parents are, too. By sending your child to camp, you are giving your child the chance to completely unplug and learn to better connect face-to-face with other kids and positive young adult role models. Getting unplugged is one of our favorite topics, so read more at Five Reasons to Unplug and Get Unplugged to learn about the many benefits of taking a break from technology.


 “I feel like I have become a kinder person and am better at making friends because of camp.” – Three-year camper

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 in Friendship: The Gold of Childhood. You can also read the research that shows how camp helps develop important social skills.

Read more about the benefits of camp, hear what experienced campers have to say about their camp experiences, or watch a video about camp to learn more!




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Better Together – GAC 2021

Better Together – GAC 2021

We can’t wait to be back together at GAC for summer, 2021, because we are so much BETTER TOGETHER than we are apart!

Last summer, we explored the theme of BE YOU, which was appropriate – and hopefully helpful – as all of us navigated a summer without in-person GAC. You can still access all of the resources we shared to help you learn to be your very best self, because being your best self is always a great idea. We sent a BE YOU workbook to each of our campers (let us know if you need us to send another copy!).

This summer, we’ll be having fun, making friends, and growing our skills (as always), AND we’ll be focusing more closely on these specific skills that remind us how we are better when we live, work, and play together:

  • Practice Face-to-Face Social Connection & Friendship Skills
  • Develop active listening skills
  • Celebrate each other
  • Practice Teamwork
  • Foster Empathy

Practice Face-to-Face Social Connection & Friendship Skills

Unplugging and connecting face-to-face is one of our core values at GAC. This summer, perhaps more than ever before, practicing those connection and friendship skills will be central to each of our camper’s experience at GAC. This summer, we’ll unplug from our screens and focus on the real, face-t0-face, messy real-life relationships that make life meaningful. We’ll work on the skills kids need to make and keep friends, including introducing themselves to others, asking good questions, listening well, celebrating each other, and developing empathy.

Read more:
Too Much Screen Time? Camp Can Help!

Research Finds Children Learn Social Skills At Camp

Develop Active Listening Skills

“The way to improve your listening skills is to practice “active listening.” This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated.

In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.

You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments while the other person is still speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying.”

-Active Listening,

How well we listen impacts all areas of life – including the quality of our relationships with others. Active listening is one of the social skills we’ll focus on modeling and teaching campers this summer. Listening well helps us avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.

Five Key Active Listening Techniques (we’ll be practicing)

1. Pay Attention – Give speaker your undivided attention by looking at the speaker directly and putting aside distracting thoughts.

2. Show that you’re listening by using your body language (nodding, smiling and other facial expressions, posture that is open and interested) and small verbal comments like “yes,” and “uh huh.”

3. Provide feedback by reflecting on what the speaker said and asking follow up questions.

4. Refrain from interrupting and defer judgment by allowing speaker to finish each point before asking questions. Wait until the speaker is done to share your perspective.

5. Respond appropriately in a way that is respectful and the way you want to be treated when you speak.

Celebrate Each Other

Responding positively to others’ triumphs is a friendship-enhancing skill that research has proven also enhances marriages and other relationships. If our kids learn to be as happy and excited for their friend’s victory as if it were their own, that’s an excellent relational skill that will benefit them throughout their lives. Throughout their stay at GAC, campers will be encouraged to cheer each other on and celebrate with each other when a friend reaches a goal, overcomes a fear, or tries something new. When campers truly celebrate each others’ accomplishments, their friendships grow stronger.

Read about how we “WOW” each other at GAC.

Practice Teamwork

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” H.E. Luccock

In this competitive, self-focused era, learning to be part of a team is a valuable skill that is not often taught to children (or adults!). Kids participate on many sports teams, but often that experience does not end up being a lesson in teamwork. Instead, sports teams often become a competitive experience of trying to get the position or play time they want as an individual.

One reason for our focus on non-competitive programs is so that kids can learn new skills without feeling the pressure to win or be the best. We also want kids to learn to be part of a team (their cabin group) and be better team members. The experience of living with a group of diverse people in a cabin group is the first lesson in teamwork that campers learn. Campers learn to work together to keep their living area organized, do daily clean up, and get to where they need to be (meals, activities, etc.). They also learn to support and encourage each other and help each cabin member do their best at each activity.

Read about how we practice teamwork at GAC.

Foster Empathy

Youth today are experiencing the highest level of narcissism and mental health issues (depression, anxiety, suicide) in history. The research-backed antidote, and one cure for what ails young people and adults alike, is increased empathy. This summer, counselors will model empathy and encourage campers to practice more kindness and empathy with one another.

Empathy is a social skill that is difficult to teach and, in fact, difficult to define. Generally, empathy is our ability to sense others’ emotions and imagine what they may be thinking or feeling. Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., calls empathic responses “standard-issue, grown-up social skills,” yet even adults have trouble with them. If adults struggle with empathy, how much more difficult must it be for children! But self-awareness, self-regulation, and the ability to take another’s perspective are all skills children must come to know.

Read more about how we can foster empathy in our kids.

Life is more fun and has much more meaning when we are together. This summer we’ll be celebrating being back together and will be practicing being Better Together!

More fun Things

Jack Johnson’s song, Better Together, will certainly be sung and listened to this summer at GAC!

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