3 lasting benefits of summer camp for kids

As the Director of Curriculum and Training for The Little Gym International, I see countless children passing through our summer camps at The Little Gym, on 6 continents and over 31 countries. While I am an expert in gymnastics, health, fitness and child development, I consider myself primarily an expert on families, as we are fortunate enough to build lasting relationships with families in our classes and camp experiences. I’m here to offer some tips on how active programs like summer camps not only exercise your child’s body, but more importantly, their mind and heart.

Benefits of summer camp for kids

While summer can bring a welcome break from your kids’ routines, it can certainly shake yours. If you’re planning to send your kids to summer camp this summer but might be apprehensive about doing so, I’m here to talk about the benefits of summer camp and how sending kids to camp can positively impact the entire family dynamic. , and set your kids up for long-term success.

Related: Want a safe summer camp experience? What to look for and what to avoid

1. Helps children develop mental flexibility

Mental flexibility is the ability to comfortably thrive in a new environment with new rules, expectations or demands. Yes, being flexible goes far beyond gymnastics! Providing a new learning environment for your child creates a critical opportunity for the development of “mental flexibility,” which is one of the tenants of executive functioning skills. According to an article by the Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University, “Executive functioning skills are the “mental processes in the brain that allow us to plan, focus attention, remember directions, and successfully juggle multiple tasks.” Those are some very important life skills!

But to have executive functioning skills, a person must develop three types of ‘brain functions’. One is mental flexibility. Practicing mental flexibility can be uncomfortable at first; new places can be daunting, but as a child becomes more comfortable and confident, he will develop this hands-on skill that will help him deal with challenges in social and academic settings for years to come. Enrolling your child in camps is a great way to introduce them to new experiences, new faces, and eventually, new friends. These opportunities allow your child to develop their “inner flexibility” and openness.

2. Builds confidence and develops a “growth mindset”

When your child tries something new, whether it’s gymnastics, pottery, improvisation, or dancing, he’s taking chances and making mistakes as he learns. Making mistakes can feel overwhelming, and when this happens, the child may shy away from new activities for fear of ‘failing’. But learning that mistakes are opportunities rather than failures creates what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” According to an article by the Association for Pyschological Science, “Those with a growth mindset believe that skills can be developed – they are more likely to see effort as something that drives learning and to see setbacks as opportunities to develop new skills. skills”. When a child sees a mistake as a chance to learn and grow, he or she is more confident about taking risks because they don’t see the outcome as a measure of skill.

Related: Summer Safety Tips: 5 Things Parents Should Consider This Summer

A stimulating and positive camp environment can provide a safe place for children to try new things, make mistakes and learn from them in a positive environment. At The Little Gym, we believe that taking risks and accepting mistakes is at the heart of building trust. When selecting a camp experience for your child, be aware of the activities and pay special attention to how they are taught. Instructor-led camps focused on confidence-building activities are a great place to start. Giving your child the gift of a growth mindset can make them a curious and confident learner long after their camp experience is over! Summer camp can be the perfect place to try out lots of new activities in a casual, active, and safe environment for kids of all ages.

3. Expands the imagination

Let your child exercise their imagination through the power of play. At The Little Gym, we often say, “Gambling is a 4-Better word.” Here are some ways play can help your child’s development, according to a Scientific American article:

  • Physical skills such as agility, balance and coordination.

  • Social and emotional skills such as impulse control, self-regulation, relaying, empathy and communication as they work together towards a common goal.

  • Cognitive skills such as following multi-step instructions, creativity and problem solving. Children will not only listen and follow the instructors’ instructions, but they will also listen to their peers when “solving problems or negotiating the rules of the game.”

When a child develops skills in these three developmental domains, he is also building a strong foundation for critical thinking skills.

Related: A ‘Lazy Parent Summer’ Is the Only Way I Want to See Summer

Selecting the “perfect” camp can often be like walking on a balance beam – sometimes we can feel off balance. Rather than finding the perfect camp, try looking for the perfect balance of versatile experiences for your kids.

Instead of asking “yes or no” questions like “Does your camp have a resume?”, try asking engaging questions like “What does a day in the life of one of your campers look like?” Turning these “yes or no” questions into a conversation is a great way to really get to know the leaders of your camping community and start your child on a summer path of learning, growing and having fun – creating memories that will last a lifetime. and positively impact your family dynamics.

3 lasting benefits of summer camp for kids

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