Kayaking, canoeing, archery — these are all activities that many kids will rarely experience. But at summer camp, all these activities are offered in abundance. And your child will remember these for a lifetime. Photo courtesy of Camp Cherith

Camp memories will last a lifetime

  • March 21, 2015

Packing your child up and shipping them off to camp away from everything familiar might be one of the most lasting gifts a parent can give a child.

“For many people summer camp is one of the sweetest memories of childhood,” said Keith Hadigate, executive director of Camp Cherith.

“Kids come away from camp having just had the best week of their lives. The good memories your child will make at camp will last a lifetime.”

Hadigate, drawing on 20 years of experience as a camp director, said that it all starts with cutting the umbilical cord from mom and dad.

“At summer camp children are lifted from their usual routines,” he said. “Mom isn’t there to comb their hair or tell them what shirt to wear. Camp gives children the unique opportunity to branch out and make new friends while learning new things in a positive way.”

Summer camps have been around for generations and continue to grow in popularity. In Ontario alone, there are more than 400 accredited camps that offer all types of indoor and outdoor activities for males and females up to 18 years old.

Why send your child to camp? A 2010 study published by the University of Waterloo looked at the benefits to 1,288 children and teenagers who participated in summer camps. The study concluded that children who attend camp demonstrate positive development in the areas of social integration, environmental awareness, self confidence, personal development, emotional intelligence and attitudes towards physical activity.

These findings were particularly true for female campers, older campers and returning campers. New campers did not score as high in the studied categories, although they showed a greater increase in their social interaction results by the end of camp.

At Camp Cherith, located in Walkerton, Ont., campers are exposed to many of the traditional outdoor camp activities such as horseback riding, archery and canoeing.

“Camp is not a spectator sport,” said Hadigate. “Kids who spend most of their lives in the city will get the chance to explore nature — a chance they might not get again for the rest of the year going to school. Camp offers specific outdoor adventure programs which can be unique and invaluable experience for your child.”

Cherith campers, up to 90 per week ranging from six-years-old to 17, do this across the 54-hectare property at a cost of between $129 to $619 per week during July and August. Weekend getaways are available during part of the spring and fall.  

Along with being active, campers are immersed in a number of artistic activities like crafts, music and drama, activities many don’t often have a chance to experience.

For parents, the biggest concern about summer camps is safety. For the campers, the biggest complaint is homesickness. Particularly for those away from home for the first time, being separated can be unsettling, particularly in the first couple of days.

The Ontario Camps Association, which has more than 600 members, including 400 accredited camps, offers some practical tips to parents to help them prepare for camp and to overcome homesickness. It recommends that parents talk to their kids about the possibility of homesickness in the days leading up to camp. Tell them it’s normal and encourage them to discuss any concerns with other campers or counsellors.

It’s also important to refrain from making promises you might regret, including “if you’re really, really homesick I’ll come and pick you up.” It might also help to pack a favourite toy or item for your child, or arrange for them to attend camp with a friend or relative.  

It’s a good idea to write often to a child at camp, but avoid talking about how much they or missed or mentioning family events they have missed out on. Also consider mailing the first letter before your child even leaves for camp so they have mail a day or two after they arrive.

Summer camp should be educational and fun.

“Campers get the chance to explore interests they never knew they had,” said Hadigate. “And even if they don’t fall completely in love with one activity, the chance to try so many different things will definitely enrich their development.

They will learn new skills and try lots of activities, but they’ll also learn more about themselves and how to interact with others.”

And while Hadigate admits these are not unique characteristics to his camp, it is the Christian element which sets Camp Cherith apart from the almost 400 Ontario Camps Association certified summer camps.

“At Camp Cherith we share the love of God to our campers while offering an activity-packed week of fun,” he said.

“Offering the opportunity for spiritual growth as well as growth in skill and character is what makes Camp Cherith different from other camps in Canada.”

The camp experience doesn’t have to end the day your child comes home. They can be encouraged to use their camp skills in their daily lives and also encouraged to remain in contact with camp friends through e-mail and letter writing.

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