WHAT’S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT SLEEPAWAY CAMP, ANYWAY?

Miriam Klein, Rosh Moshava
Can’t our kids just hang out and be KIDS for 2 months of the summer? After a school year full of the pressures of homework and tests and above all, highly structured days, why should they then spend their summer vacation at another structured program far from home? What’s so important about sleepaway camp, anyway?

This is a question that many parents grapple with when making the decision about what to do with their children for the summer. There are plenty of studies that demonstrate the developmental importance of a summer at overnight camp, Jewish and otherwise, but still - is it really that great? I would like to argue that the concerns above are the EXACT reasons children should attend summer camp. As a full-time educator in a yeshiva day school (as well as Rosh Mosh at Moshava Alevy!), I have seen first-hand the many reasons why children should attend overnight summer camp in this day and age.

FUN Structure
A structured summer camp program offers a framework for children to grow and thrive. The camp day is on a schedule-- there’s daily Kima and Nikayon and Mifkad and Chinuch . As parents, we all know that kids really do best when they have expectations put on them. Camp teaches them that even outside the confines of school and home, we still make our beds and pick up our clothes, we still daven shacharit , we still learn Torah. But within that schedule are also all the things that kids love to do - sports, swimming, crafts, and surprise special activities and more. And the best part is that they get to do these things along with both old friends and new.

Tech-Free Zone
It is undeniable that kids today - much like their parents - are addicted to their screens.. Our kids are spending more and more time interacting and learning with and through screens than they ever have before. But when they step off the bus at camp, all that tech falls away. Camp is a screen-free zone with face-to-face interaction and real social bonding. Campers are on the field, learning to collaborate, problem-solve, and develop good sportsmanship and teamwork skills. A summer at camp is a chance for creativity and imagination to flourish. Camp is an opportunity for kids to kick the tires on a new interest, or try something they’ve never even thought of doing before. Kids learn new games, and create their own; social skills and talents are built; and kids develop stronger bonds with peers and older camp staff that they take back with them to enrich their lives, even when the summer has ended.

Breaking the Mold
We're all shaped by our environment in one way or another, but sometimes that molding becomes an ill-fitting suit that is a struggle to break free of. Camp allows children a break from their school and home environment and gives them a chance to meet other people who may not have set ideas about what and who they are. They can leave the drama of school behind, meet new friends, and step out and even reinvent themselves in a judgement-free zone.

Independence
Without mom or dad around, who is going to make your child’s decisions? Who is going to tell them to brush their teeth? Make the bed? Camp allows for a chance for children to start to understand the thought that goes into making a good decision. Children also learn to ask for help, and to lean on their peers and counselors for additional support.

Stepping out of their Comfort Zone
Maybe a kid likes soccer, but they’ve never tried to be the goalie before. Or maybe they don’t like the art teacher in school, so even though they like to mess around with paint, they never really put in much effort. Sometimes we think we can’t be good at something, but often we’ve just never tried! Camp is such a great place to just try something new, look at things differently, and prove what we’re capable of - not just to our friends, but more importantly, to ourselves. At camp we can try out playing offense, choreograph the bunk dance, fly across a zip line, reach the top of a 70-foot up climbing wall -- and have our friends and counselors cheering us on the whole time.

Appreciation for Home
Let’s not forget, time away from home helps kids appreciate all that stuff they take for granted: parents (& even siblings), their bedroom, mom or dad’s home cooking, and the other stuff they leave behind for a few weeks each summer. Some kids don’t give it a second thought, while others of course may dwell or experience a few days of homesickness (which is completely normal). But an understanding of, and appreciation for, what we have and what is provided for us on a regular basis definitely begins to take shape at camp.

At Moshava Alevy we take the growth - and fun - of kids seriously. We believe strongly in our campers and we hire staff that care about the development of each camper. Our staff is committed to inspiring your children to reach new heights this summer and to help your child mature and grow in self-confidence, independence, Jewish identity and literacy, and to have an AMAZING summer of a lifetime!
In case you missed it -- check out the previous issue of the Moshava ABCs!

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