When I think about the summers of my childhood, I invariably think of the summer camp I attended. Along the banks of a river in New Mexico, I rode horses, sang songs around a campfire, and slept under the stars. I also grew into the person I am today.
Whether it is a sleepaway camp or a day camp close to home, summer camp can be an important part of a child’s physical and mental development. While the idea of sending your baby away to the wilds can be scary, it is ultimately good for your child. Camp Fire First Texas’s Camp El Tesoro know this.
Nestled in a bend of the Brazos River near Granbury, Camp El Tesoro offers a variety of overnight camp options for campers from first grade through high school. More importantly, Camp El Tesoro offers campers a way to grow, achieve, and form lasting friendships in a way that school or specialty programs can’t.
A few years ago, the American Camp Association did a study on the value of summer camp. Independently, campers, parents, and camp staff reported camper growth in independence, self-confidence, and self-assuredness. Ninety-three percent of campers reported that camp allowed them to meet and become friends with people who are from different backgrounds. Seventy-four percent of campers reported that they did things that they were afraid to do at first. Seventy percent of parents reported that their child gained self-confidence at camp.
Recently, I talked with Christy Jones of Camp Fire First Texas about Camp El Tesoro and what camp can do for a child. “Camp fosters a sense of independence,” Christy said. After all, counselors have more than one camper to look after, and they can’t do everything for everyone. Because their parents are not with them, children learn to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. The pride children take in learning how to master a skill on their own is almost indescribable.
Camp El Tesoro offers opportunities that campers might not have at home. Children from big cities seldom get to go on trail rides or learn archery or fish while standing on the banks of a spring-fed lake. Hiking teaches an appreciation of nature and our part in it, while conquering a ropes course teaches teamwork and gives campers the opportunity to discover the depths of their courage. Camp can expand a child’s horizons in ways that school, with its heavy emphasis on test results, cannot.
Going to camp allows children to be their real selves. In school, children often feel the need to dissemble. The pressure to “fit in” to a certain peer group can be overwhelmingly stressful. At camp, children can relax and be who they really are. The realization that people like the “real you” is incredibly liberating.
To help this, Camp El Tesoro is, Christy said, “a non-tech camp. That means no cell phones, no tablets, no social media. Cutting the cord is so good for a child’s mental health, and I’ve had campers from little ones to teens tell me how much they love not having to worry about technology.” Children who “cut the cord” and reset from technology sleep better, make friends more easily, and worry less.
Perhaps most importantly, camp allows children to just be children. Yes, there are expectations placed on them at camp. They have to learn to live with strangers and resolve minor conflicts that may arise. They have to learn that their every want will not be accommodated. But without the pressure of grades and the expectations of family, teachers, and peer groups, campers are free to simply live and soak up every adventure and learning opportunity. Simply put, they can enjoy being kids.
To learn more about their overnight camps and to ease any worries parents and children might have, Camp El Tesoro offers two mini-camp sessions where the whole family can experience why Camp El Tesoro is such a special place. These will take place on Sunday, April 10, and on Sunday, May 15, from 1 to 4 pm. For more information, go to www.campfirefw.org/camps/overnight-camps/.