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The Enduring Value of Friendships Forged at Camp

The Enduring Value of Friendships Forged at Camp

Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Category: Why Camp?

Many parents are understandably concerned with providing experiences for their children that will help them to grow up to be healthy and successful adults. Common parental considerations include things like a high-quality education, good nutrition, exercise, and plenty of extracurricular activities. Yet one component of an optimal childhood is often underrated: childhood friendships. These relationships are key for children’s self-esteem, stress management, social development, and overall mental health, and it’s incredibly important to nurture them.

The oldest childhood friends many Americans have are those they met at summer camp. Camps connect kids and teens during the most formative years of their lives, the years in which physical and psychological growth occurs the fastest and in which friendships are the most readily formed. In addition to teaching a variety of valuable life skills, sleepaway camps are great places for your child to form a lasting friendship with one or more peers for the following reasons:

  • Create bonds that can’t be made at school. The friends you make at camp are different from those you make at school, where your every move is judged by your peers using what is often harsh and superficial criteria. At camp, kids have the chance to shine (and bond) based on characteristics other than looks, academic or sports performance, fashion sense, or even social skills. Fellow campers are more likely to value creativity, kindness, perseverance, trustworthiness, and other personality traits that truly matter.
  • Promote authentic relationships. There isn’t much room for facades at camp. Most camps leave little time for hiding behind a screen, and campers spend most of their time interacting with each other face to face. Kids eat, sleep, play, take part in physical activities, and get dirty in close proximity to one another, which adds another layer of “realness” to their social perceptions. All of this allows kids and teens to be their authentic selves, which also leads to more open and honest relationships with others.
  • Offer opportunities for personal growth that others witness. Camp programming is filled with moments in which campers are presented with (low-stakes) decisions to make, problems to solve, and challenges to overcome. Many children who struggle with a physical or psychological difficulty early often improve considerably by the end of camp. Their peers bear witness to this process, giving each camper deep insights into the character of the next. This makes for more meaningful bonding experiences as well.
  • Provide room for spontaneity, fun, and silliness. Whereas school (and even some after-school activities) are all about performance, competition, and maintaining an image, camp is all about having fun. Spontaneous free play is important for healthy brain development and helps kids to cope with stressors in their lives. The carefree environment of camp is often also more conducive to camaraderie and the lowering of emotional guards than higher-pressure arenas like school and organized sports.
  • Make for memorable experiences. The vast bulk of school experiences consist of repetitive mandatory activities that are important but not memorable, such as taking tests and doing homework. Conversely, summer camps offer a wide variety of activities and are full of firsts, like learning to swim, trying new games, and discovering nature. These make for great “milestone memories” that will last a lifetime. The companions kids share these memories with will always have a special place in their minds as well.

    Help Your Child Make Lasting New Friendships With Surprise Lake Camp

Surprise Lake Camp is a nonprofit organization that provides a home away from home for generations of young people. We believe in the value of community and friendship. Our Jewish values and identity shape our connection to nature. We’re dedicated to helping young people unplug, grow, and develop values, confidence, and skills to last a lifetime, adding to SLC’s storied history as the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp.

At SLC, your child will have the chance to make and keep lifelong friends. Our campers live “10-for-2,” dreaming all year of the two months they spend here with their closest friends ever. If your child is new to camp, learn more about us on our First-Time Campers page.

SLC is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide beneficial camp experiences to as many children as possible. When you make a charitable gift, you give children life-changing opportunities. Partner with us to support camper confidence, growth, friendships, and Jewish identity. Donate today!