Camp has long been lauded for its benefits to children. A recent study by the American Camp Association (ACA) confirms that campers can reap long-term self-esteem, spiritual and friendship benefits.

“The thing about camp is that it is a very dense, very intense experience,” said Edward Walton, M.D., FAAP, an ACA board member. “The community-building happens in a way that it just doesn’t happen anywhere else. So even though the time may be brief, the experience can be profound.”

A camp experience also can counter what has been termed “nature deficit disorder,” the increasing tendency of children to spend their free time in front of a TV or computer screen. Recent studies have indicated that even a fairly small amount of time outside can:

  • sharpen kids’ ability to focus,

  • lower childhood obesity rates,

  • establish a connection to nature, and

  • allow youths to use their imagination and engage in free play for entertainment.

The ACA also recently completed its Healthy Camp Study, a three-year project that evaluated the health of children who attend summer camp. The ACA found that “compared to almost every other activity, especially sports-related activities that parents put their kids into, the camp experience is safer by far than any of those experiences,” Dr. Walton said.

While camp is great for your kids, it is difficult to justify the cost in this down economy. Thanks to camp scholarships, or camperships, summer camp on a budget may be feasible. In fact, the ACA recently stepped up its efforts to increase the number of camperships available. Another alternative is day camp, which typically is less costly than resident camp but similarly valuable to campers.

To learn about the camperships available to your child, contact the camp you are considering. The ACA also offers financial resources for parents. Here are some links to get you started: