12 Most Useful Life Lessons I Learned at Summer Camp

12 Most Useful Life Lessons I Learned at Summer Camp

Where I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, it was commonplace for children to spend eight weeks each summer at overnight camp. From as early as the age of 6 through 16 or so, many of my contemporaries were ensconced in camps across New England, each perched on a lake.

Some may think sending children away for that long at such young ages is slightly barbaric, but to me and a lot of my friends, summer camp was a given — for better or worse. Some kids hated it, but not me. I loved it all, and learned so much about getting along in the world.

1. Listen to your mother

Mosquitos are big and nasty during the humid summer months. Even worse when you’re near a lake. So do like your mother says — spray on the spray.

2. Find a mentor

There was an unspoken agreement that the older kids would find a younger kid to take under their wing. It made the young girls feel special and the older girls feel important.

3. Try everything once

From horseback riding to canoeing, the activities were varied and plentiful at camp. It would be have been easiervto stick with what I knew — in my case, tennis — but it’s a lot more fun and interesting to try everything, at least once.

4. Don’t be a mean girl

Everyone knows it’s better to be nice, but that was especially true at camp, what with the bouts of homesickness and loneliness that some girls experienced. There was always a mean girl (there always is), but it’s better if it’s not you, or me. Just be nice to people.

5. Share your stuff

Care packages and secret stashes of candy were highly valued among the campers, as the food at camp tended to be somewhat… awful. If you share your stuff, others will share with you.

6. Take a shower

It was easy to forget to take a shower at camp, what with all the swimming in the lake. But really, it’s always a good idea to take a shower now and then.

7. Walk in the rain

Nothing was as refreshing and sweet as walking in the rain at camp. It didn’t matter if you got wet or dirty — that’s what camp is for. I can still hear the sound of the rain on the pine trees and birch trees. It was magical.

8. Eat breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially at camp where you can always have cereal and fruit. Then the rest of the meals, even if they’re… awful, won’t be as big of a deal. Start out well-fed and the rest of the day will go better.

9. It’s ok to cry

Every year after parent’s visiting day I would get really, really homesick. I would cry a lot. The mean girl in my cabin would tease me, but I didn’t care. I missed my parents. It’s ok to cry if you’re sad.

10. Fireflies are amazing

At night, fireflies would light up around us as we sat watching the stars and singing camp songs. They were amazing. Stop and watch the fireflies — or the butterflies — or whatever amazes you.

11. Sing when you want to

Camp involved a lot of singing. After each meal, every evening, all day long, there was singing. Some could sing well, some not so much — but it didn’t matter at all. Everyone sang, and it was fun.

12. Suspend reality for a while

Us campers got to do it for eight weeks — escape from reality and live in a little world of our own. Everyone should do it now and then, even if for only a few minutes. Suspend your reality and close your eyes — the fireflies are waiting.

Have you or your kids ever gone away to summer camp? I’m sure you have stories — let us have them in the comments below!

Featured image courtesy of Leshaines123 licensed via Creative Commons.

Sharon Greenthal


Sharon Greenthal is a former stay-at-home mom, now empty-nester. She lives in Orange County, CA with her husband Peter and their perfect dog, Lambeau. Her two children are away at college. Sharon blogs about her observations the world around her, from the important to the inconsequential.

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