Summer Camp: Giving Kids a Place to Belong

Summer camps can offer a memorable experience children never forget. Summer camp is a time where children can trade stories and share a favorite book or song with a new friend. They can remember summer camp as a time they were greeted with smiles and high-fives from staff and teammates after scoring the winning point in a game. At the right summer camp, children always feel they fit in. A great summer camp is all about ensuring kids get more out of their summer break: more friendships, more accomplishments, and more importantly, a place to belong.

For parents and caregivers, summer camp means seeing their child’s face glow when retelling a camp story, relief knowing their child is in a safe place, and an opportunity to see their child accomplish new life skills. The Y encourages parents to enroll their children in summer camp from a young age through their teenage years. Most summer day camps offer an experience that allows a child to come back and learn something new, year after year.

Summer camp offers a mix of fun and learning activities aimed at improving kids’ well-being, such as Lego robotics, swimming, gymnastics, dance and sports. Parents should look for summer camp programs that emphasize key areas proven to impact a child’s development: friendship, accomplishment and belonging.

The Y worked with SEER Analytics, an organization of independent impact measurement experts, to find out how summer camp benefits kids. Nearly 40,000 parents and caregivers who had children enrolled in summer camp programs were surveyed. Ninety-one percent said day camp programs helped their kids make new friends. In addition, 81 percent agreed the program helped their kids discover what they can achieve, and 86 percent agreed their child felt a sense of belonging at their camp.

The Y’s summer day and resident camp activities focus on impacting the social-emotional, cognitive and physical development of all kids. Additionally, summer camps at the Y focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Art, Math) to help strengthen a child’s academic skills.

When kids are out of school, they can face hurdles that prevent them from reaching their full potential, such as issues related to hunger, water safety, failing academics, safe spaces to play and health. Through summer camp and other youth development programs, the Y helps more than 9 million youth nationwide to “hop the gap” and achieve more, providing a safe place to explore, create and learn.

Linda Blake works for the YMCA, a nonprofit providing programming that targets youth development and is one of the nation’s leading childcare providers. To learn more about the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington’s day camp program, go to www.ymcadc.org.

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