by Lisa van de Ven
Preteens are racing towards adolescence, with many physical and emotional changes underway. Parents' rules—once held supreme—are now becoming a source of rebellion, though kids in this age group are still on the search for adult role models. Their peer group, meanwhile, is becoming more and more important.
• Looking for independence from parents, but also concerned about being away from them for an extended duration
• Fitting in with peers
As they approach their teen years, kids at camp develop the life skills they need moving forward. Basic skills like sharing and empathy are demonstrated daily in a camp environment, where kids are doing almost everything with a group of their peers, says Sue Brown, owner and director of Camp Otterdale, a traditional residential camp in Perth, Ontario. "They learn to work together and get along and work towards the same goal," she says.
Even with two older brothers attending Camp Otterdale already at the time, 11-year-old Liam says he was a bit worried that he’d get homesick when he first started at the residential camp two years ago. He'd been attending day camps since he was three years old, but this was his first overnight camp.
Thankfully, the homesickness never seemed to transpire, and Liam quickly took to the residential camp experience. "I got used to it and it was really fun," he says. "My favourite thing was the activities that we did after we had dinner—capture the flag, tag, a lot of those things."
The after-dinner activities weren’t only fun, but they gave Liam the opportunity to hang out even more with all of the new friends he made at Otterdale. In fact, that crew of friends, he says, were part of what made camp special, since he had the chance to meet people his own age from across Canada and even from other countries around the world. They're friends that he managed to keep in touch with even after camp was done.
"It’s really a great place to meet friends," he says. "I made some friends from Spain, and a lot of people from Ottawa that go there."
In fact, if you ask Liam, he says he'd recommend camp—especially overnight camp—to any kids his age. "Camp is a great experience. You'll meet new people. You'll make new friends without expecting it," he says.
His mom, Liz Clarke, seconds that recommendation, and says camp has been a "good education" for all of her sons. "It gives them a certain amount of freedom, yet it's still a very structured environment," she says. "You certainly notice a greater maturity level when they come back, and confidence level as well—just [from] being able to spread their wings."
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