Why do kids go to summer camp? On the surface, it is about giving kids the opportunity to
engage in outdoor play and art projects. However, if it were just about kids getting outside to
run around and make lanyard bracelets, playdates and at-home art projects could accomplish
the same goal. If it were just about occupying kids so that parents could go about their day to-day responsibilities, there are screens for that. Yes, there is something unique about the
activity-packed (up to) eight weeks of (ideally) sun-filled camp that keeps people coming
back every year.
In short, this potentially joyful, and exhausting, time has the potential to be one of immense
growth on top of all the fun. True, much research has demonstrated that kids tend to lose
language and math skills over the summer. However, while it might not be for everyone,
camp offers many other opportunities for growth for those who want to dive in. The informal
ways in which kids get to stoke their creativity and problem-solving skills are immensely
important. Perhaps most importantly, especially in this season when people are emerging
from pandemic isolation, camp offers kids the chance to navigate potentially complicated
social situations through play before they go back to what is expected to be a more normal
Rabbi Hanina reports in the Talmud that he learned more from his friends than from his
teachers (and even more from his students). Camp offers a wide opportunity for friends, old
and new, to spur each other to solve problems, work together, and create new worlds.
Summer always ends too soon, but the experiences from the summer can be a springboard
to greater success throughout the year.
Rabbi Eric Zaff