When your child arrived home from camp this summer, did they seem to be walking a little bit taller than before? While this may have been a summer growth spurt – it’s certainly not unheard of for campers to add an inch or two over the course of a summer – that added height might just be a result of them standing a little straighter, and walking through the world with a bit more self-assurance. In fact, one common refrain that we hear time and time again from camp parents is that the child who returned home after a summer at camp seems eons more confident and capable than the one who left – and according to the American Camp Association, 70% of parents report that their child gained confidence during the summer at camp. And with an incredible combination of interesting activities, positive and supportive counselors and instructors, and a support network of an entire camp community built in, it’s easy to see how Maine Camp Experience (MCE) camps provide campers with the opportunity to develop the confidence and belief in themselves that will carry over into the school year.
One way that MCE camps allow children to develop confidence at camp is by allowing them to try new things, and to discover something that they can succeed at. MCE camps offer an incredible array of activities – from bracelet making to boating – and the variety and diversity of activities allow campers with different strengths to identify the activities in which they can succeed. There is nothing quite like watching a child discover strengths and talents that they didn’t know they had – as Landsports director at an MCE camp, there have been numerous times where I have witnessed a self-proclaimed “un-athletic” camper leave an activity smiling from ear to ear because they discovered they were actually a pretty good basketball player, ropes course master, or archer. By discovering activities where they are naturally inclined to succeed, campers learn to value themselves and their abilities, which helps them become more confident and self-assured in turn.
However, confidence is not something that is solely reserved for those discovering innate, previously untapped abilities and talents. The campers who I see the biggest change in over the summer are not the ones who come in and discover that they are a champion in any one area – it’s those kids who are unsure of their abilities, but who over the course of a summer learn to improve and master a certain area, and to take pride in the work they have done. As counselors, it is our jobs to instruct campers and help them develop this mastery, and also to provide positive reinforcement and support for all campers, helping them recognize and celebrate their own improvement and ability. No matter where a child thrives – whether they are a strong swimmer, an excellent bed-maker, or a good listener and supportive friend – there is a place at camp to celebrate their successes. By helping kids recognize the areas in which they are thriving, by assisting campers in the areas that they are improving, and by celebrating that improvement and success, counselors can play an integral role in helping campers develop the confidence and self-assuredness that is the hallmark of a camper’s journey.
Of course, while the recognition of counselors is certainly a positive factor for campers who are in the process of developing this confidence, one hallmark of MCE camps is the way that a whole camp community will come together to celebrate an individual’s success, which only bolsters the confidence of that specific camper. At the MCE camp I work at, we will frequently sing “Congratulations” in the dining hall at mealtimes to celebrate camper milestones. If a camper has passed out of their swim group, has skied for the first time or passed a slalom test, or has reached another major camp milestone during a given period, the entire camp will stand and sing to them. Furthermore, these songs are generally initiated by a supportive friend – they are not mandated by the camp or predetermined – and so the camper who is being celebrated knows that this is a genuine expression of appreciation, and that they are willingly supported by their camp family. Similarly, the camp I work for awards certain individual awards at the end of the summer for the most improved skier and horseback rider – and when these awards are announced the winning camper always receives a major ovation. Once again, the celebration and support of the entire camp community is a resonant theme, and you can see the confidence in a camper’s eyes as they accept the award with an ear-to-ear smile.
A summer at camp is an incredibly fun experience – however, it is also much more than that. The value in a summer at camp also lies in the personal growth and development a child will experience, and the structure and support that are built into MCE camps provide incredible opportunities for campers to develop a confidence and self-belief that will serve them well beyond their summers at camp. So the next time you go to buy an outfit for your camper, maybe you should choose the next size up – after a summer at camp, they’ll be walking taller after all.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Camp Guide, Laurie to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.