This article appears in Summer Camp magazine 2019.
One of the biggest trends in summer camps is the way they allow kids to make friends the old fashioned way; in person.
“Summer camp is a place where kids can build friendships the way their parents did; face-to-face and heart-to-heart,” said Tom Rosenberg, president and chief executive officer of the American Camp Association. “It’s a place where kids can just be kids. It’s an intentionally safe, human-powered, immersive social environment.”
Making friends the traditional way is a throwback for some kids. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that while 57 percent of boys and girls ages 13 to 17 have made new friends online, most of these friendships stay in the digital space. Only 20 percent of all teens say they have met an online friend in person.
For overnight campers who spend several days or weeks away from their families, the absence of screens allows kids to develop “human-centered skills” such as cultivating friendships, collaborating on projects and developing their own self-awareness and identity, Rosenberg said. The majority of summer camps, 90 percent, do not allow screens, according to research from the American Camp Association.
Also trending are specialty camps that provide a variety of activities to meet many interests, Rosenberg said:
– Especially popular are STEM camps that explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Kids may be building robots, learning how to code or studying sustainable energy.
– Getting back to nature seems to appeal to young campers, who are increasingly signing up for summer sessions that explore farming, ranching, gardening and cooking. For example, farm campers tend to animals and organic gardens, go on hayrides and learn the importance of taking care of the Earth.
– Arts and crafts camps are perennially popular choices, but today’s campers are doing more than coloring and painting. These fine art classes include silversmithing, glassblowing, jewelry design, animation, fiber art and more.
– Because today’s kids are so busy, many summer camps are embracing mindfulness activities. One-third of summer camps offer yoga or meditation, Rosenberg said.
– Adventure is a hit with campers, and activities like challenge courses, zip lines, backpacking and mountain biking are big draws.
– Nearly half of camps incorporate community service into the curriculum, with projects that include community clean-ups, food drives and volunteering with senior citizens and hospital patients.
When choosing a summer camp, be sure it’s accredited by the American Camp Association, the only independent accrediting organization reviewing camp operations in the country. To find a camp that’s a good fit for your child, use the organization’s Find A Camp tool, find.acacamps.org.