Summer camp is often a place to send elementary-aged kids so they aren’t sitting around the house bored, and so they’ll make friends and learn new things while having fun. As children grow out of their “little kid years,” we sometimes forget that they still need those experiences they had when they were younger, just in a different form. Maybe you don’t think your tween needs summer camp. Your tween should be babysitting, mowing lawns, working at the pool, or hanging around with friends, right? Well, sure! But why not send them off for a week or more of summer fun and learning this year for a break? Here are some great benefits for tweens attending summer camp.
- Learning how to give back. Community service camps offer a great chance for tweens to make a difference and help out in the community, while also learning skills that will carry them through their lives. Tweens get to spend their days helping others, which just feels good to everyone involved. Maybe your tween will learn how to pack food for the homeless, teach kids how to read, or work on a project that will benefit the community, like cleaning up a playground or fixing equipment. They could even learn how to paint a house, care for a yard for an elderly person who is unable to do so anymore, or they may even learn how to plan and build a house for someone who is in need.
- Making new friends. It’s important to continue to grow and change, and adding new friends to one’s life enriches it at any age. Some tweens attend the same camp or camps every summer and might find the same friends there, year after year. Many are attending for the very first time and need to hone their social skills to make new friends and get to know other tweens in their age range outside of a school setting. Being in close proximity for days or weeks helps them get closer, faster.
- Learning new things. Whether your tween attends a camp to learn more about horses, adventure, a specific sport, or anything else, they have an entire day, week, or longer to focus on that one activity and really immerse themselves in it. Who knows? Your tween might find a new passion that he never thought of before that could be helpful in his educational or work life later on down the road.
- Deepening their faith. If your tween enjoys church youth groups, a church or other religious camp is an option. The day might begin with a church service, followed by breakfast, a hike, and some time spent in the cabin with friends memorizing Bible verses for a competition at the end of the week. Later, there could be singing songs around a bonfire while roasting s'mores.
- Developing a hobby. When your child is disconnected from the TV, video game console, or smartphone, he can really focus on developing a hobby in a creative way. It seems like these days there’s a camp for pretty much any interest your child has. There are camps for horse and other animal lovers, sports lovers of all types (think developing soccer skills, swimming, football, volleyball, baseball—anything!), Boy Scout camp (it covers so many different hobbies and topics), or Girl Scout camp (it also covers so many great skills for tweens).
- Working as a team. Your tween will be meeting other tweens and tweens of various ages and from different backgrounds. Learning how to get along and work as a team is a huge life skill that will be reinforced at camp. Some camps even have them participate in team-building and trust activities to help them get to know each other.
- Staying active. Forget sitting around doing “screen time” all day long during the summer. When a tween attends summer camp, they often forget all about those things and focus on having fun with their friends while going on hikes, paddle boating, and swimming, depending on the camp they choose.
- Standing on their own. Let’s face it, as our children get older, they start to grow away from us. They are simply preparing to head out on their own, and they are also preparing you for that transition by perhaps being a little distant. They are stuck in between childhood and adulthood, and it's a confusing time. Going away to camp for even a short period of time helps teach independence. There is a daily structure at camp that's already in place, which tweens need to follow. Parents aren’t the ones doing the nagging, so tweens often don't tune them out because they are respecting other adults and learning from them.
- Appreciating everything. When our tweens are away from their screens, it is easier for them to focus on nature, learning, and forming relationships. When they are away from us, the parents, tweens will come home with a new appreciation for what it takes to be in a family and help out in the running of the household. Your tween will probably also appreciate funny things like a full pantry that's open all day, their comfy bed, and privacy.
Tween summer camps offer many benefits that cover all the bases, including physical, social, mental, and spiritual. As for the rest of the summer? Well, your tween can spend plenty of time doing those odd jobs to help pay for camp next year, because trust me, they will want to go back! ■