Camp’s added benefits

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Photo courtesy of KinderSports

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Going to summer camp is about so much more than just having fun and hanging out with friends. Summer camp also provides a safe environment for children to learn new skills and gain self-confidence, reaching far beyond summer.

Learn New Skills

“The foundation of camp is having fun, building friendships and learning new skills,” said Kathy Donahue, director of recreation services at the Park District of Highland Park. “We provide children with many different and unique opportunities, all of which are learning experiences.”

Developing new skills and increased confidence in abilities is key at the Park District of Highland Park’s Camp Big Top/Little Top, one of the park district’s many camp offerings where campers learn how to fly on a trapeze and how to ride horses and other circus-related skills. When faced with new and unfamiliar challenges, campers also learn the importance of patience and persistence as they try to master new skills.

“Kids go to camp to have fun, and without realizing it, they are learning all these new things,” Donahue said.


At the Northbrook Park District, the camp philosophy emphasizes the importance of campers developing a strong sense of self-confidence, while creating memories that last a lifetime.

“Camp is an environment that provides the opportunity to learn new activities and increase skills in many areas, but especially in the social aspect,” said Jonathan Pratscher, CPRP, leisure services supervisor with the Northbrook Park District. “Summer camp teaches kids how to handle stress, be courageous enough to try new things and that it’s OK to be yourself.”

“The learning opportunities are limitless at camp,” Pratscher continued. “Each day presents new challenges and campers continually demonstrate their ability to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.”

Pratsher said that he has observed groups of campers learning how to trust their peers and witnessed kids learn the importance of supporting their fellow campers during more difficult situations.

Core Values

Summer camps at the YMCA are designed to encourage the four core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility, and campers learn the values, skills and relationships that lead to positive behaviors, better health and educational achievement. In addition to making new friends, campers build self-confidence while discovering new skills and developing a respect for the outdoors, said Mary Craig, association program director at the Lake County Family YMCA, which has locations in Vernon Hills and Waukegan.

“We believe all kids deserve the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve,” she said.

Beyond Camp

Children interested in technology, video game development and computer programming receive more than just hands-on learning at iD Tech Camps, a technology camp for children ages 7 to 18, with locations at 60 universities, including Northwestern and Lake Forest College, which is also home to the iD Programming Academy and iD Gaming Academy.

“Our programs definitely make an impact on a student’s life,” said Karen Thurm Safran, vice president of marketing and business development for iD Tech Camps. “Many times they integrate what they’ve learned into school projects and extracurricular activities, resulting in positive self-esteem and leadership skills. The magic of our programs is that we show how a hobby and passion can turn into a potential career.”