From day camps to overnight camps, summer programs have been a staple in many families’ lives. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, kids had to stay close to home, many on their screens, not seeing friends or doing typical activities — and spending lots of time with
their parents or siblings. Many camps decided not to offer in-person programs but hosted virtual camps in 2020. This summer, after two compromised school years and everything that’s gone along with it, our children’s need for the benefits of summer camp will be crucially important:

REAL HUMAN CONNECTION — Zoom and remote learning have saved us in so many ways. But there’s no substitute for real human connection. Making and strengthening relationships while being guided by loving people is what camp is all about. The essence of camp is in the friendships we forge, something we are all lacking and craving these days.

REACQUAINTING OURSELVES WITH NATURE — While society has been trapped indoors for the past year, most of the world is outdoors, and it is beautiful, and fills our soul with joy. Our bodies yearn for the outdoors, and that’s where most summer camps happen.

RESILIENCY — Our kids are certainly developing it; experiencing disappointments that will make them stronger. Learning to be brave and confronting challenges and fears are also important facets of resiliency. It’s easier to stay at home and stare at screens — but we want our kids to grow up with the kind of courage and “cando” attitude that our health care, essential workers, and superhero school teachers have learned and cultivated.

MENTAL HEALTH — While summer camp is widely known for its physical health benefits, according to the CDC, “Children’s mental health during public health emergencies can have both short and long term consequences to their overall health and well-being,” so it’s no surprise that hospital visits related to mental health have risen dramatically for school age children and adolescents. Extroverted kids are suffering, missing the energy of their peers. Introverted kids may seem to enjoy sitting in their homes, away from life’s normal pressures — but they need social interaction just as much.

Camp is a ray of hope and offers a return to the normalcy we all need. To make memories and have moments to help us feel whole. The pandemic has taken a lot from the kids. Camps offer a chance to give summer back to kids.

>> This article was originally published on page 12 in the EAST COBBER March/April issue. <<