5 Benefits of Summer Camp in 2020 | West Suburban YMCA

5 Benefits of Summer Camp in 2020

Aug 13, 2020

The West Suburban YMCA has a long tradition of offering kids unforgettable summer day camp experiences at Camp Pikati and Camp Chickami. After several months of stay-at-home orders and virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Y felt strongly that a safe day camp program was essential for kids and families looking to return to some normalcy.
“After missing the final months of school, kids are now getting the opportunity to get into a routine, exercise, read, get creative with Arts & Crafts, play socially distant group games, and build lasting friendships,” says Joshua Downes, Assistant Director of Sports, who holds a leadership position at YMCA Camp Pikati in the summer.
The nature of camp – being outdoors, trying new things, spending time with friends – is perhaps more relevant than ever for children feeling the stress and uncertainty of today’s world. Whether our world is in the middle of a pandemic or not, here are 5 reasons the summer camp experience is valuable for kids and teens.
1. Building Friendships
Building and fostering friendships in a welcoming environment is one of the top reasons to send your kids to camp. Making connections with other kids is important after months of staying home.  
“After being cooped inside for 4 months, camp is providing the social interactions that kids crave,” says Downes. 
Nadine, a parent of two Camp Chickami campers, agrees. “It is so good to have them outside with peers again, and for them to just be kids.” 
Whether making new friends or reconnecting with old ones, camp gives children an opportunity to spend time with their peers and feel a sense of belonging. Many children make lifelong friends at summer camp!
2. Getting Exercise 
With the loss of physical education classes, youth sports, and other active recreational opportunities, kids haven’t been getting the exercise they need to be healthy – a recommended 60 minutes per day according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. A lack of sufficient physical activity can impact sleep, mood, and eating habits. This summer, Y camp staff are getting creative with a schedule of safe and socially distanced physical activities such as relay races, archery, kickball, and swimming.  
3. Following a Routine
Routine is important for everyone, and it is especially valuable for kids. The abrupt loss of routine in the spring was disconcerting for many children. Attending camp and having a set schedule helps kids feel more secure and decreases their anxiety during a time of such uncertainty. 
“[My son] Parker was going crazy without a normal routine like we were used to each summer,” explains Amy Murphy, whose child attends Camp Pikati. “I'm glad we chose to do it. I think he really needed to feel normal for a bit, be around other kids and counselors, doing activities, swimming.”  
4. Learning Through Play
You can’t have camp without camp games! Playing games is a creative and effective tool for learning. At camp, kids leave their cellphones and devices at home, and their days are filled with games that keep their brains and bodies active and engaged. Through games, kids get exercise, learn new skills, develop hand-eye coordination, socialize, and test strategies to meet a goal. Games also teach kids about collaboration and teamwork, which are important skills that carry over once they return to a school setting.  
5. Gaining Independence 
Kids have been spending a lot of time at home since the closing of schools in the spring, and it’s difficult to actively cultivate independence in the comfort of home. Camp offers the opportunity for kids to step out of their comfort zone and try new things without a watchful parent nearby, creating space for personal growth. At camp, kids develop self-confidence and independence by taking on new responsibilities and challenges. Whether setting a personal goal in archery, helping a friend learn a new gimp bracelet stitch, or leading the group in a song, camp is a dynamic environment for growth no matter one’s age!
Summer camp offers many opportunities for kids to learn and grow, and these opportunities are incredibly valuable especially during such a challenging year. The West Suburban YMCA is operating their day camps this summer – Camp Pikati at the Y and Camp Chickami in Wayland – providing quality camp experiences that meet and exceed state health and safety guidelines.
The Y made significant investments to provide families with a safe place to send their children this summer. Outdoor hand-washing stations, bathrooms, and semi-permanent canopy tents were installed; additional staff hired; and large quantities of PPE, cleaning supplies, and individual camper materials purchased. Help keep camp safe and accessible to all kids and families, regardless of their ability to pay, by making a donation to the West Suburban YMCA’s Save Summer Campaign.