How Summer Camp Fosters Independence

Do you remember getting to go to your first sleep-over? The first time your parents let you go to an event by yourself? The first time you “felt like an adult” because your parents trusted you to be on your own? These moments in our childhoods help us become capable adults, and a sleep-away summer camp is a great way to help foster this independence in your child. But how does going to a summer camp help your child become an independent young adult? The answer is simply, by providing them with a safe environment where they can exercise autonomy and choice.

At our opening campfire, we introduce the concept of our three zones. The first zone, our comfort zone, is where we feel at ease and comfortable. The second zone, our challenge zone, is where we feel unsure and maybe even a little anxious. The third zone, our panic zone, is where we feel scared and overwhelmed. Now, we don’t want anyone to get into the panic zone, yet if we all stay in the comfort zone no growth or learning can be accomplished. So, we encourage our campers to step out of their comfort zones and into their challenge zone. For some the challenge zone manifests by learning how to be away from home for the first time, sharing a cabin with new people, or being out in the woods. For others it may be scaling the climbing wall, scuba diving, or learning how to ride a horse. Our campers know best where their comfort zone ends and challenge zone begins and we encourage them to step over that line because that is where growth and independence comes from.

To help our campers accomplish that here at Camp Horizons, we introduce them to our philosophy of Challenge by Choice. This means that our campers have the chance to conquer their fears in a safe environment by setting their own limits. This not only means how far they push themselves in the activities they chose before arriving for their first week of camp, but also in choosing those activities for themselves during the second week of camp. We want to give campers a chance to take ownership of their journey and in doing so gain a sense of independence and develop their sense of self through exploration.  

The challenges that your camper will experience and overcome become a part of who they are and give them a positive precedence when facing obstacles outside of camp. The next time they feel unease at trying something new it will not be an unfamiliar feeling. They have stepped into their challenge zone before and excelled, they will be able to do it again.