Summer camps have long been a way for parents to ensure their children have an influencial and enjoyable activity to participate in during summer vacation, says Patricia Mascarenhas.

Summer camps have long been a way for parents to ensure their children have an influencial and enjoyable activity to participate in during summer vacation, says Patricia Mascarenhas.

Summer is here this means school`s out! After a full year of hectic studies and pressure to perform better students finally get time to enjoy. While having your child watch hours of television a night or play video games throughout the day sounds like an easy fix, it can often impair their cognitive development.

Instead of letting your kids waste their time on TV, DVDs, computers, mobiles etc., why not send them to summer camps? Summer camp is an opportunity for children to be exposed to the best of human character. “Doing new activities in an outdoor location breaks the monotony of learning in a class room. It is an excellent platform to develop life skills adding to the overall confidence, self awareness and attitude of the child,” informs Nayan Shah, Inme, a learning based adventure programme for 9-18 year old children.
Today, there are a variety of camps from which parents can choose the ones best suited. “There are day camps and also overnight camps that can last for days or weeks,” says Carlos Albuquerque, youth programme coordinator, YMCA camp lakeside. Specialised camps including art and music camps, academic camps, sports camps, and camps for special needs children with physical, mental or emotional problems can also be found. These include activities such as white water rafting and backpacking; rock climbing, mountain biking, ropes course, wilderness craft, trekking, cycling, tarzen swinging and scuba diving programmes among many more.

In India, the number of children going for summer camps has increased. “Every time I co-ordinate a programme, I meet more parents who have heard about our programmes through the word of mouth. The excitement is contagious! Parents now realise how camps help the ripening of the spirit, mind, and body,” says Albuquerque. Shah agrees, “There is also a change in the mindset and these camps are seen as essential to add to the learning and development of the child,” he adds.
The benefits of attending a camp are numerous. Consider all the things s/ he’ll learn, all the skills s/ he`ll master, all the friends s/ he`ll make, and all the stories s/ he`ll share with you for the rest of the summer. “Camp allows kids to meet people from different parts of the country, different culture, and socioeconomic level,” says Malini Krishnan, child psychologist, Inner Space Counselling and Assessment.

For the next generation to be more tolerant of each other’s views, ideology, and beliefs, especially in a multi cultural country like India, they need to be around carefully selected role models who show them how to have fun, learn from others, and make friends in person rather than online. "According to the psychosocio development theory children from the 6 to 12 years age group seek to learn how they are and pick up new skills through exposure. During this period they form their individual personality and identity,” informs Krishnan further adding, “Parents need to ensure that their kids are exposed to a diverse healthy environment so that they can pick up good habits. Many of the positive skills children learn at summer camp are called upon later in life,” she adds.

Camps allow children to think for themselves, to learn how to talk to and interact socially. Children learn to constantly challenge themselves. “For the few days that they are with us, we teach them to be good people and allow them to be true to their nature. Society tends to compel children to behave and act in only certain ways, often disregarding the fact that limiting children stunts their development,” informs Albuquerque.

There are also those parents who sometimes cram activity after activity down a child`s throat in the name of gaining that elusive competitive edge. “The main idea of any summer camp is to give children a break, while showing them that there are many paths to success, and that all are accepted for who they want to be,” says Krishnan adding that children should not be forced as it would lead to a negative experience.

Summer camp is the epitome of everything a kid wants... fun! “It instills in them a sense of awe, which helps open young minds to both introspection and new experiences. It may not be the right activity for every child but it is a wonderful experience for most,” says Preeti Mishra, parent. Homesickness and getting dirty are all a part of the package but the friendships, memories made, and the experiences gained can last a lifetime.

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