It’s a rare adult who doesn’t look back at the summers of their youth with a heavy dose of nostalgia. For many people, it’s among the best times of their life. Childhood is itself filled with some amazing moments. It’s a time of wonder and discovery. A time when anything seems possible and every dawn holds new surprises.
It’s easy to see why summer holds so much joy for kids. They spend most of the year sitting indoors at school. Uncomfortable chairs and artificial light are poor matches for a child’s energy. Summer changes all that. Kids can run, jump, and spend all day in the summer’s sun. It’s a time when kids can really be kids.
There are thousands of different ways that you can enjoy summer. Kids tend to invent brand new adventures out of almost nothing if given the chance. The unpredictability of summer vacation is part of the fun.
The best moments of summer vacation
However, there’s one setting that takes all of that and pushes it to the next level. Ask anyone who spent time at summer camp about the experience and their face will instantly light up. There are few childhood experiences which are so enjoyable that it’s hard to really express to someone not lucky enough to have been part of it. But the camp experience really is something that has to be lived to fully understand.
Of course, the foundation is set by all of the great things already in place about summer. But on top of that, kids are given new opportunities they never even imagined. One of the most important is community. Many camps, such as Camp Barnabas, reach out to encompass children with special needs. Others provide a focus on various individual interests children might have. This isn’t just an important concept for the children with those less-common life experiences. Their siblings often find themselves just as delighted to be part of it too.
Children are obviously able to form important social bonds, and nobody would argue against the importance of a formal education. But the total social immersion children experience at camp is an education that’s simply missing from other times of the year.
The importance of nature
And, of course, part of the experience comes about through the wonders of nature. Adults tend to have a hard time balancing real-world experience and technology. Research shows that children have an even harder time of it. In fact, recent research shows that TV influences developing brains.
Likewise, there’s a growing body of work showing that natural environments improve both physical and mental health. And the same goes for fitness and physical activities in the great outdoors. Most kids are a bit hesitant about the idea at first. But a few days playing in the sun, seeing towering forests, and experiencing the sound of waters stirring in the wind are enough. They quickly start to love that part of the experience.
Solidarity among campers
All of those experiences would be wonderful in and of themselves. But one should consider an earlier point. All of these experiences are carefully tailored around the idea that the children are surrounded by true peers. Some of the kids might come from different walks of life. That offers some great chances to really learn about other aspects of the child’s culture. But more than that, the kids all find out how much they have in common with each other.
This all comes together to form something wonderful. Again, summer is usually wonderful for a child. But time and time again people receive reminders of how much it still means even into adulthood. There’s good reason why adults can come together to fight for the existence of their old summer camps. Those memories don’t simply sit in the past.
The combination of factors ensures that camp remains an active source of joy for people. The younger kids at camp dream of becoming a camp counselor. Camp counselors grow into adults who continually cherish those memories and the lessons learned from it all.
Photo by Robert Collins