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Learning Independence

“For most children,” says Lindsay Hutchinson, a director at Frost Valley YMCA in the Catskills, “summer camp is their first experience—or their longest time during the year—spent away from home and their loved ones.” In an environment without their parents or guardians, kids learn to make decisions for themselves. With the help of camp staff and counselors, children at Frost Valley choose their own activities and make everyday choices about what clothes they wear and what foods they eat with healthy options in the dining hall and staff encouragement to try new foods.

Summer camp is a beneficial experience for children who are ready to learn how to live more independently. Frost Valley’s traditional overnight programs (Camp Henry Hird and Wawayanda) encourage development as a well-rounded individual in an era where many decisions are often made for them.


Gaining Responsibility

Camps are a wonderful opportunity for children to manage daily upkeep and cleaning of their cabins and dining hall, learn to budget spending money at the camp store, receive encouragement to eat healthy meals and more. “I remember coming back from my first summer at camp and the shock on my mother’s face when I automatically started cleaning up dishes unprompted after dinner,” says Morgan Theze, director at Camp Henry Hird (Frost Valley’s camp for children grades 8-10). “It was an expectation at camp, and that level of responsibility remained throughout the school year.”

Frost Valley’s camp staff guide and support children in making good choices. Kids who attend horse camps (Mustang Village for girls in grades 2-5; Durango Village for boys in grades 3-7; and East Valley Ranch for girls in grades 5-11) have their own horse to care for throughout their camp stay. Farm Camp is another opportunity to gain responsibility, since it’s a working farm on 515 acres, with a barn full of animals to care for and a large organic garden to tend, alongside traditional camp activities like arts and crafts, swimming, boating, sports and games.


Trying New Things and Challenging Themselves

Camp is a place to experience activities for the first time, such as archery, high and low ropes, orienteering and much more with staff who are passionate and knowledgeable about a diverse range of activities. The culture at Frost Valley celebrates differences, so kids become more willing to try new things without fear of being made fun of or ostracized by their peers.

Kids ages 11-17 at Bear Grylls Survival Academy Camp learn valuable survival skills like foraging for food, creating a shelter, rappelling, building fires for food and warmth, and more. Adventure Camps offer campers supervised camping at offsite locations—such as Maine, West Virginia and New Hampshire—where they gain skills in rock climbing, backpacking, rope climbing, paddling, whitewater rafting, and more.


Making New Friends From Diverse Backgrounds and Abilities

Positive teambuilding activities and group bonding are a big reason why campers have good experiences and happy memories that last a lifetime. Each camper brings their own uniqueness to the community, and counselors are trained to celebrate and support each child’s individuality. Sometimes a child’s needs are physical or medical. The camping community welcomes and supports them in whatever ways will benefit them.

Frost Valley campers come from a wide range of geographical locations all around the world, each bringing their culture with them to camp. Frost Valley welcomes children with varying abilities and medical needs (including Mainstreaming at Camp for kids with developmental disabilities and Kidney Camp for children on dialysis and with kidney disease). All campers learn about different cultures and the staff shares stories about their lives to encourage inclusion.


Learning From Positive Role Models

Camp is a great place for children to meet positive role models outside of their family. Staff at Frost Valley know how to take care of others and their environment, and have a wide range of interests. By “showing” rather than “telling” what it means to be a good citizen and friend, children learn from caring, knowledgeable adults who want to pass along what they’ve learned.

Frost Valley is known for its rigorous staff training program and hiring practices. Each staff person is interviewed by director-level staff, and undergoes complete background checks and a comprehensive training that covers all aspects of child development and care. “Almost 80% of our staff grew up as Frost Valley Campers, and their main reason for working at camp is to provide the same amazing experience to our current campers that their counselors gave them,” says Hutchinson.


Spending Time Outdoors and Unplugging From Technology

It’s increasingly common today for children to spend more time indoors, interacting with electronic devices rather than friends. A break from technology offers opportunities to bond with other campers and staff in different ways, like supporting each other while they experience the zip-line for the first time, collaborating on an art project, or swimming out to Frost Valley’s inflatable water slide together. “These are memories that they will talk about all year long,” says Theze.

Making a friend can be difficult when you’re distracted by a phone screen. At Frost Valley, campers and counselors have a saying: “Disconnect to Reconnect.”


Respecting Natural Resources and the Environment

At Frost Valley, all campers spend at least one night sleeping outside and under the stars. Campers and staff hike to a beautiful, wooded location, away from more trafficked areas, and cook dinner over an open fire, play games under the trees, eat s’mores while sharing stories, and sleep under a dazzling canopy of stars. There’s no better way for kids to feel a connection to nature—and to each other.

The importance of understanding, respecting and proactively protecting our natural environment has never been more important. Stewardship is one of Frost Valley’s eight core values, and taking care of nature is the centerpiece of every camper’s experience.


Sign Up Now for 2017 Frost Valley Summer Camps!

Frost Valley YMCA’s overnight and day camp programs begin soon—but this year, spaces are filling up more quickly than ever before! Learn more about their many life-changing programs for children and families and sign up today at www.frostvalley.org.

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Hudson Valley Magazine editorial staff.