Why send your child to summer camp? Of course, they will have fun, socialize, and—depending on the camp—develop skills in sports, technology, art, or other specialties, kids can get a big self-esteem boost by attending camp.

Whether it’s at day camp or overnight camp, kids learn more than just how to tread water and make friendship bracelets!

Here are three skills kids learn at camp that increases their self-confidence and helps them become leaders:

Emotional Intelligence

Shifting the focus away from the individual, camp teaches children to be more selfless and be better team players.

An essential skill campers develop is emotional intelligence, commonly referred to as EQ (emotional quotient), says Troy Glover, Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo.

With EQ, which involves recognizing, understanding and managing emotions and feelings, children learn how to work, play, relate, get along, empathize and connect with others. “It’s not just about IQ in children,” he says. “Research supports how EQ is more important in terms of future success. Camp is a good environment to develop that.”

Risk-Taking and Conflict Resolution Skills

Children develop risk-taking and conflict-resolution skills at camp, and gain confidence from it as they learn to make their own decisions without their parents’ help.

“One of the major benefits of camp is the social skills that develop, especially around interacting with other people in a positive way,” Glover says.

Lisa Loeb’s favourite memory from camp included skit nights, singing songs, playing the guitar and trying new activities. “I also loved the feeling of just having done something challenging, like trying water skiing for the first time,” she says in an interview with Our Kids Go To Camp magazine. “I was so scared—it didn’t feel great to fall down, but I loved having accomplished something I wasn’t sure I could do.”

The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter—who founded the Camp Lisa Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps send underprivileged kids to summer camp—discovered how fun it is to meet new people and relate to them at camp. “Camp made me feel more confident in just being myself—even if I wasn’t like everyone else all the time,” she says.

Leadership Skills

Camp is often where leaders are born and helps youth gradually build leadership skills.

“You’re often having to rely on your teammates or cabin mates to complete an activity,” says Moira MacDougall, who heads teen and young adult strategies for the YMCA of Greater Toronto, a charity providing community support programs.

Many camp alumni say camp was their greatest teacher. “Camp does two things at once. It lets kids be kids, and it encourages them to solve interesting problems,” says Seth Godin, entrepreneur, best-selling author of 12 books and called “America’s Greatest Marketer” by American Way Magazine. “The rest of life tends to be about becoming a compliant cog in the endless machine of industry.”

Ready to research camps? Read about excellent Toronto & GTA day camps and Toronto & GTA overnight camps.

This article was first published in February 2013, updated in May 2015.

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