As a camping professional, one of the questions I hear the most is, why camp? Why, when there are so many other options, should someone choose a Girl Scout camp experience? After 20 years, I think I’ve heard every last reason from parents against adding camp to their girl’s summer schedule: “We already spend a lot of time outdoors as a family, take family vacations, and visit national parks.” “She gets plenty of outdoor time at soccer practice.” “Dance team is enough exercise.” “She has lots of friends at school.” Yes, all of these activities are wonderful, and you should encourage your girl to keep doing them—but you should also consider encouraging your girl to go to camp.
And now, because I know you’re going to ask, here’s why: Girl Scout camp is so much more than girls doing regular ol’ stuff outdoors. Yes, we offer archery, swimming, ropes, horseback riding, theater, hiking, art, backpacking, outdoor cooking, and more (so much more!). And while each of these activities are great, the greatness of a Girl Scout camp is more than the sum of its parts—it’s all of the activities, friendships, experiences, personal growth, tradition, and fun, sprinkled with camp magic and mashed together over the span of one, two, or even three weeks away from home.
Let’s jump right in to the 7 ways Girl Scout camp is so beneficial for girls (and may be the best choice for your girl this summer)!
1. Camp Gives every girl the chance to be a part of a powerful sisterhood that will have her back through thick and thin.
2. Camp is the perfect opportunity for her to challenge herself in a supportive environment.
As part of each Girl Scout camp experience, campers learn to conquer their fears, take healthy risks (physically, socially, and emotionally), and make decisions on their own. And the encouragement girls receive from fellow campers and staff makes it a safe environment to try new things, experience failure, and try again. Whether she is overcoming a fear of heights on the rock wall or trying a new vegetable in the dining hall, Girl Scout camp provides a much-needed space to explore new, and sometimes fearful, challenges that will ultimately give her the courage to challenge herself at school and in her community. That’s grit, and it’s powerful stuff.
4. Camp gives girls access to empowering mentors and role models who will help her succeed.
At camp, girls won’t just be learning from their peers! Girls need caring adults, other than their parents, to invest in them and serve as positive role models. In fact, experts say that kids love to learn, but it’s only natural to feel fatigued from being instructed by adults day-after-day! At camp, your girl will have the chance to meet college-aged adult mentors (her camp counselors) who genuinely want her to be the best version of herself and who will encourage her to make her bed, take showers, take turns, and take on new challenges in a way that parents can’t fairly compete with. Ask any parent of a seasoned summer camper and I’m sure they’ll agree: spending time away from home, finding role models in older campers and counselors, and learning from people with such varied backgrounds is nothing short of formative for their children.
5. Summer camp intentionally helps kids develop the soft skills they won’t learn in the classroom.
Learning to share, communicate, and live with people she isn’t related to is a really useful skill (and great preparation for college, living with roommates, and succeeding in the professional world). Fully participating in the Girl Scout camp experience means joining a community where everyone must agree to cooperate and respect each other as they live and share a space with other campers. This environment teaches girls to address conflict, adapt to different personalities, work together, and learn to compromise with each other.
In the great outdoors, girls succeed by becoming an active part of their camp community. They learn teamwork and collaboration through ropes course challenges, preparing meals, setting up tents, cleaning their campsite, and spending time with mentors that model positive behaviors. They live together, share chores, resolve disagreements, and experience firsthand the importance of communication and interpersonal skills. Most importantly, girls learn from each other as they’re given the chance to experience girls and staff from incredibly varied backgrounds and start to discover that the world is so much bigger than the 50-mile radius they call home.
7. At camp, singing loud, silly songs is practically a sport (and it’s good for the soul)!
There’s no denying that singing kooky camp songs is the best, but did you know singing is also good for your health? Songs are an integral part of daily life at camp, and stick with girls long after the summer is over. Ask anyone who went to summer camp what their favorite camp song is, and chances are you’ll get more than the title—I bet most people will belt out the entire song for you!
If you don’t think you’ve ever experienced the joy of song before, think about a time you sang ‘happy birthday’ at someone’s party or your alma mater’s fight song at a football game. It’s an experience filled to the brim with freedom, comraderie, and happiness, and it just feels good to let loose every once in a while.
In conclusion: camp may be exactly what your girl needs this summer.
So, what’s the best thing about camp? And no, it’s not hitting your first-ever bullseye, canoeing across the lake with friends, or reaching the top of a mountain to see the world from new heights (though those are awesome perks she’ll be talking your ear off about when she returns). As a parent, you may not be there to see it but, when she’s at camp, she’s learning about the world around her, skill-building, and challenging herself in ways you’ve never thought possible. And when she returns home, you might not notice it right away, but I can guarantee she’s grown.
Maybe, in the months after her stay at camp, you notice her start to find her voice, try a new food, or expand her friend circle. Maybe she offers to help out around the house or joins a new club at school. Whether it’s a new behavior, new skill, or a new level of confidence, you might start to wonder, where in the world is this coming from?This—the personal growth, the courage to be herself, the daring to try new things—is what camp brings to the table. Girl Scout camp is the full developmental package and, the most important part is, you’re not there.
*This post has been cross-posted from GS of Northern California, adapted to include photos and details from GSSOAZ, and is written by Mary-Jane Strom, the Senior Director of Camps & Adventure at Girl Scouts of Northern California.
When was the last time you sat down with your girl and encouraged her to make something—something she wanted to truly create—from scratch? In a society seemingly run by screens, it can be easy to forget about hands-on projects, yet those can be some of the most important activities for your girl to do. The act of making things isn’t just fun, it can set her up for major success in life.
“Making capitalizes on play-based experiences (the best way for kids to learn), and is also a wonderful entry to the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as kids are naturally curious and creative,” says Girl Scouts Developmental Psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. Plus, making emphasizes the process—the actual doing—rather than the end product in a way that so little in our lives does. From dreaming up ideas and designing projects to testing ideas and problem solving on her own terms, these hands-on projects are one of the best ways to keep your girl learning.
The art of creation also gives girls agency in a world where most things—where they live, when they go to school, even what they’re having for dinner—are usually out of their control. “Kids live in a world largely built and managed by adults,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “When they are given the freedom to make something entirely of their own imagination, designing how it looks and operates, they can feel true ownership and control in a way they don’t often have the opportunity to.”
Being able to follow through on an idea of your own is psychologically satisfying. “When a child—or anyone—dreams up a project, but then has to hand it over to someone else to execute, they’re giving away part of their power,” she continues. “Meanwhile, the process of transforming their idea into a tangible object or product allows that person to retain complete control over the look, feel, and function—and culminates with an amazing sense of pride.”
What counts as making, though? Really, lots of things! Your girl can make or build a:
You can play a big role in encouraging your girl to be a maker. Here’s how:
1. Set aside an area in your home as a free-for-all making space. Creativity is rarely neat, and your girl needs to feel that it’s okay to explore and really get her hands dirty.
2. Gather found objects your girl might be inspired to make things from. These can be paper towel tubes, excess tin foil, sticks, rocks, old scraps of fabric, string, rubber bands, random buttons, empty milk cartons or cardboard boxes, and even age-appropriate and safe pieces of outdated electronics and appliances. All of these items—along with some more traditional crafting supplies like glue, tape, paints, markers, and construction paper—will give her the materials she needs to get going. Open-ended creativity and building projects and toys can also be helpful.
3. Set aside uninterrupted time for her to brainstorm projects and then actually make them.
4. Ask her to talk you through what she made and why she made certain decisions. What does she like most about the project, and what (if anything) would she do differently next time?
5. Take photos of her creations and create a Maker gallery on the refrigerator, in the hallway, or in her room.