Most camps are positive places

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As I read the incredibly devastating article about Camp Move IT, I am inclined, as a 29 year camping professional, to weigh in on the matter and remind the readers not all camps are the same and most experiences from quality camping programs will be positive.

This summer millions of children will attend camps around the country. According to a study conducted by the American Camp Association (ACA) the vast majority of these children have positive, life building experiences. Those that had experiences which were rated as less than positive were often because the child was not ready for camp, the fit was not right between the camp and the child or the camp staff members were not properly trained or experienced in caring for a camp community.

Each year the ACA visits and accredits thousands of camps across the country. These ACA accredited camps undergo a series of visits from other trained camp professionals who grade the visited camp on standards varying from risk management to program quality to human resource practices. The successfully rated camps are then able to carry the ACA logo on their marketing material. This logo, while not necessarily a trademark of high quality, does mean the camp meets at least the minimum standards for quality and safety and should be the starting place when searching for a camp for any child.

The need for camping experiences continues to grow as a child’s time becomes more and more structured. The need for free play and understanding how to live and learn in a group setting are critical skills which children will use throughout their life. Our society is quickly becoming a highly supervised, highly structured place for children. While the necessity for this is obvious, the developmental loss for children is devastating. Think back to the skills you learned as a child as you participated in activities with your friends, skills such as how to choose sides, how to lose games with dignity and to win with humility.

The experience gained from a camping session is, for many children, one of the most important activities they will ever take part in. The opportunity to disconnect from media and reconnect with the environment is just the beginning of a quality camp experience. Children gain precious social skills by learning to make new friends from around the world not just around the neighborhood.

Campers gain group work skills as they become a part of a community designed specifically for their age and gender. The opportunity to join with a group of new friends and play in a safe environment where adults can join in and not just be seen as authority stimulates a child’s understanding of leadership and fair play. It also teaches children how to communicate and interact with new adults and other kids, this is a skill in which studies suggest are critical to the long term well being of children. Today’s child spends 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen. The need for outdoor unplugged experiences is greater than ever.

When searching for a camp for your child, ask about ACA accreditation, the experience of the staff and directors as it relates to child development and ask for references. Your child will appreciate it and it will bring you peace of mind.

Jerry Huncosky,
CEO. Frost Valley YMCA
Claryville