Your children are begging you to let them spend the summer at camp and the enrollment deadline is drawing near. If you’re like many, money is tight right now. Is it worth it financially to invest in a summer camp experience? Before you decide, it’s important to take a good look at the benefits camp offers compared to having your child spend the summer at home or in daycare.
Summer camp for kids is traditionally a positive place that influences their lives for the better — including building important skills, self-confidence, relationships and awareness of the outdoors that they may not get elsewhere. While financial cost is a factor, it certainly is not the only one to consider.
“Our research shows that, for years, campers’ parents have reported that when their children return home from camp they are more caring, understand the importance of giving, are more equipped to stand up for what they know is right, and are willing to be more responsible,” says Maria Schugel, executive director – Northland Section for the American Camp Association.
Before you assume the cost of camp is outside of your spending range, consider how much you will spend on childcare, transportation, extracurricular activities, food and entertainment at home during the same timeframe. Many camps offer scholarships and financial aid, too.
Practical skills: Studies show that one of the important benefits of camp is the exposure children gain to passions that often turn into life-long pursuits.
At Camp Lincoln-Camp Lake Hubert, in Lake Hubert, Minn., campers may choose from more than 30 land and water summer camp activities including horseback riding, sailing, archery, wall climbing, martial arts, riflery, ecology, golf and tennis — as well as a traditional array of water and sports activities.
While it may be easy to assume that camps would provide these types of activities, it’s important to consider — where else would your child get such exposure and what would it cost to pursue these activities separately?
Life-long skills: Aside from tangible skills, perhaps even more important are the intangible life skills that many camps focus on through the camp experience.
“Besides all the exciting activities and friendships made, the immense value in camp comes in the development of key lifetime skills and attributes such as confidence, cooperation, communication, new skills and decision-making, to name a few. Camp goes beyond a summer session. It’s unique in that it really is about each camper developing their best self for life,” says Sam Cote, executive director of Camp Lincoln-Camp Lake Hubert. “In that regard it is priceless.”
Jill Allen-Woodard and her husband, from Ohio, sent their 12-year old twin sons to a residential camp in Minnesota last summer.
“Summer camp was the best thing we ever did for our sons. They found confidence, friendships, and became more self-sufficient when they came home,” she says. “Going to camp removes you from the familiar and places you alone in a nurturing but challenging environment to see who you are.”
Lasting value: According to American Camp Association research, camps build many of the skills necessary to prepare campers to assume roles as successful adults. According to an online report from the ACA, campers said that camp helped them make new friends, get to know kids who are different from them, feel good about themselves, and try things they were afraid to do at first.
The cost of camp is definitely a factor that must fall within your family’s budget. But overall, consider how camp may impact your child’s life in a positive way and help them grow and gain experiences as the most relevant factor in determining its value.