When it comes to preparing kids for the real world beyond school, it’s not necessarily the writing, reading, and arithmetic that matter most. Teamwork, problem-solving, communication, negotiating, self-confidence, decision-making, empathy… These leadership skills don’t come naturally to everyone, but they are essential for success.
Enrolling your child in a leadership program or camp is one way to give them hands-on experiences and challenges in a supportive environment, which can set them on a path to becoming a future leader—or just a confident, well-adjusted human.
This non-profit offers kid-led, free leadership programs for ages 9–12. Each child is matched 1:1 with a trained adult Kid Coach who helps them plan and work toward goals over months that make a real-life, positive impact on their communities. For example, past goals included anti-bullying campaigns, petitioning for traffic signs, and repopulating insect pollinators. A 3-week summer program is also available. Programs are virtual in 2020–21 and open to kids across Canada.
Come for the cookies, stay for the camaraderie, camping, and leadership opportunities. Open to “all persons who live their lives as female” (ages 5–17), Girl Guides encourages children and youth to “challenge themselves, find their voice, meet new friends, and make a difference in the world” through programs and day and overnight camps incorporating outdoor adventure, financial literacy, mental health, advocacy, community involvement, and more.
Leadership is a cornerstone of the Scout program. Scouts lead their peers on outdoor adventures, with the guidance of adult volunteers. And, of course, they have fun doing all the things you’ve probably heard about: building campfires, going on nature hikes, and overnight camping. While Scouts is not a religious organization, it is rooted in general spiritual belief. Programs are available for ages 5–17.
This Burlington, Ontario–based organization is dedicated to developing leadership skills in kids ages 6–13, Kids 4 Kids offers after-school club, in-school programming, and summer camps summer camps (day and overnight). They use cooperative games, team-building activities, original music and stories, role playing, and discussions to engage kids and teach leadership strategies in a fun and informative way.
If you grew up in a rural area, you’ll likely be familiar with this 100-year-old youth organization that is probably best known for giving out blue ribbons for livestock at agricultural fairs. But while programming at 4-H clubs and camps remains rooted in sustainable agriculture and food security, the 4-H of today is also about helping youth “learn to do by doing” in areas of the environment, healthy living, community engagement, science, and technology. There are 4-H chapters in 70 countries (with opportunities for travel), it is open to all youth ages 6-21, and is dedicated to inclusivity.