The benefits of sleepaway camps for children and teens

The benefits of sleepaway camps for children and teens

(BPT) – As a parent, you worry about your child’s future. Will they be confident enough to weather life’s ups and downs? Will they find happiness and success? How will they navigate their future challenges?

According to research by the American Camp Association (ACA), a traditional sleepaway camp — where a child or teen spends 1-4 weeks away from home — helps them experience growth and development beyond a specialized day “camp” or class.

Rather than spending a week learning computer coding or at a hyper-focused sports camp, a sleepaway camp develops qualities that last a lifetime.

Enhanced self-development

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It may seem hard to let your child spend so much time away, but camp can be a huge boost to their confidence, independence and resilience. It also builds social-emotional skills to benefit them through adulthood.

  • Confidence comes from doing. A child who must do things on their own, without a parent nearby, learns they can accomplish much more than they thought.
  • Becoming self-reliant and developing a feeling of competence comes from attempting — and sometimes failing — until they succeed.
  • Learning to persevere through discomfort helps a child feel like they can handle anything, creating resilience.

A camp experience that builds independence, self-reliance and confidence is a huge gift — and parents can give that gift to their children by finding a camp that boosts a child’s sense of self.

For example, Cheley Colorado Camps, a traditional sleepaway camp celebrating its 100th year, is designed to give children a chance to slow down, learn about themselves, connect with nature and explore new things in a relaxed, supportive environment.

According to Brooke Cheley-Klebe, camp director and fourth-generation Cheley family camp leadership, “Parents and campers tell us the camp experience was life-changing. It is not only a mechanism for growth, but an experience that shapes their life in a positive way for years to come.”

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Expanding horizons

Being away from home means your child leaves their comfort zone. Sharing space with kids they’ve never met, from different backgrounds, states or countries is also a completely new experience.

Exploring challenging activities expands your child’s world, which can be fun, exhilarating and self-affirming. If your child or teen has never ridden a horse or gone rafting, these activities may stretch their abilities beyond what they thought they could achieve. Cheley campers partake in dozens of outdoor activities, crafts and more.

Trying a variety of new things changes a child’s idea of what they’re capable of — much more than camps focusing on one subject — fostering curiosity, perseverance, a love of learning and inner confidence.

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Connecting with nature

As young people increasingly spend time indoors, they lose opportunities to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty around them. Spending time outdoors improves young people’s ability to live in the moment.

Affinity for nature was one of the top benefits of camp found in the ACA study. Sleeping under the stars and exploring the outdoors foster an appreciation for nature that can’t be achieved any other way.

Unplugging from technology

Sometimes it seems like technology and social media have taken over, especially for young people. Giving up technology for weeks may seem impossible, but the results are astonishing. A decrease in anxiety and an increase in happiness are noticeable in most campers when they unplug.

In the ACA research, teens and children who unplugged reported learning how to live in the moment. They stopped worrying about the past or future, instead focusing on their present experiences.

Putting down technology means learning to look other people in the eye. They develop better social skills while reading each other’s non-verbal cues, like facial expressions and body language. Face-to-face interaction is the only way to develop those skills.

Lifelong friendships

Kids at sleepaway camp bond with other campers in a deep, lasting way. Sharing the camp experience creates a sense of community, fostering lifelong friendships.

In the ACA research, children and teens said making new friends was the best part of camp. They — and their parents — said social skills learned from camp helped them develop friendships at school, long after camp ended.

While you may initially feel reluctant to send your child to camp, giving your child this gift can be life-changing. To learn more, visit