What is Youth Camping?

Our kids always look forward to their annual summer adventures with friends at camp. Whatever interests or educational opportunities your children enjoy, it is likely there are youth camping opportunities perfect for your family.

Youth camp, most often called “summer camp” or simply “camp” is a supervised  group camp for children. Youth camping was traditionally outdoor adventure oriented, but today, camps can have an educational, athletic, religious, or cultural theme. Youth camping can be resident (overnight) camping  or day camping.

Youth Camp Types and Activities

Youth camping can be either be resident (overnight) camping or day camping. Day campers typically arrive between 8 and 9 am and are picked up between 3 and 4 pm. Overnight campers sleep in dorms, cabins or tents. They typically get some free time in the afternoon or evening and then participate in evening activities sometime after dinner.
Whether your interests are STEM, sports, scouting, music, art, or religion, there are youth camps to enrich all these areas and more. Here is just a sampling of the various youth camp activities. A camp may specialize in one activity.

  • Architecture
  • Chemistry
  • Creative Writing
  • Leadership Development
  • Robotics
  • Backpacking
  • Mountaineering
  • Acting
  • Magic
  • Conservation
  • Bowling
  • Baseball
  • Martial Arts
  • Swimming
  • Community Service

A much longer list of options can be found via the ACA link below.

Why We Love Youth Camping

 Youth camps foster a sense of independence and leadership unmatched by other extracurricular activities. Camp counselors encourage and support young campers as they build their independence by moving out of their comfort zone and trying new things. Mastering a new skill like paddling a canoe while away from parents and guardians for an extended period builds a sense of independent accomplishment and confidence.

Youth camp also instills a sense of responsibility. Campers are responsible for cleaning up and maintaining their own spaces such as cabins and preparing group meals. They will also be given the responsibility to care for their own personal needs. Small duties like bug spray and sunscreen can build confidence in self-care. Nurturing a sense of responsibility leads to resilience and provides a strong sense of purpose.

Early social skill development prepares our kids to build positive relationships with others as adults. Camp can be a unique opportunity to interact with and get to know a diverse group of kids. Campers will have the opportunity to practice social skills like cooperation and empathy through team building and bonding experiences.

Kids often find a sense of belonging and social acceptance at camp. For some kids, camp is a place to come out of their shells. Many kids come away from camp feeling more confident in making new friends and trying new things. These types of skills and lessons carry over into other parts of their lives and lead to an overall improvement in social skills and happiness.

Girls walking to camp with their dad who is pulling a wagon

How to Know if Your Child is Ready for Overnight Camp?

The average age for a first trip to overnight camp is between 7 and 9 years old but mostly, the right age depends on your individual child and whether they are ready for overnight camp. If your child is not ready right now to go to overnight camp, don’t worry! There are some practical ideas you can work on together to get ready.

  • Practice spending time outdoors. At camp, your child will be spending a large chunk of time outdoors. Practice camping at home in your yard or at a nearby campground. Practice eating and playing outdoors both during the day and evening.  We have plenty of articles to help you camp as a family. You can start with Tips for Camping with Kids.
  • Make sure your child will feel comfortable seeking assistance from an unfamiliar adult. They will need to feel comfortable and safe seeking guidance from a counselor if any situation arises while away from home.
  • Practice sleepovers before overnight camp. Help your child build up skills to be away from home overnight well before overnight camp. Your child should feel comfortable and ready to be away from you and from home for multiple days and nights.
  • Keep in mind, they may not be able to call home unless there is an emergency. A fun way to keep in touch is writing by letters and postcards. You can write letters and provide them in advance to the camp, so they have a letter from home to read every day they are away. Prepare your child with pre-stamped postcards/envelopes and addresses so they can write about their camp experiences. Writing is a terrific way to spend downtime while at camp and feel connected to home.
  • Your child needs to be prepared to be responsible for herself and her own things. Hygiene needs such as brushing teeth, hair, and showers need to be fully independent. Making her own bed and keeping track of her possessions will all be necessary skills to have before overnight camp.

Once your child has demonstrated these abilities, he or she will be ready to enjoy all of the benefits of a youth camping experience. He or she can soon be on the path to creating memories and building skills that will last a lifetime.

How to Find the Right Camp for Your Kid

Some great resources for finding youth camps are local scouting groups such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Your local church community, park districts and schools, including local colleges.

You can find accredited youth camps through the American Camp Association.  The American Camp Association provides accreditation to camps to ensure safety and proper training of staff essential for overnight camp:

“ACA Accreditation means that your child’s summer camp cares enough to undergo a thorough peer review of its operation — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at your child’s camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation…”

John Olsen

John Olsen is a seasoned adventurer with 20 years of writing, public speaking, team leadership, analytics and project management experience.

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