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In the camp industry, we often use words like “safe” and “nurturing” to describe our camp communities. While camps certainly are safe and nurturing places for children, camps also provide a place for kids to engage in healthy risk-taking. As outlined in the article The Myth of Risk: Promoting Healthy Behavior by Challenging Teens, adolescents are wired to take risks as they grow older and explore their independence. The article spotlights the social-emotional benefits of encouraging positive risk-taking behavior, and camp communities are perfect environments for young people to take healthy risks.

What is a Healthy Risk?

Risks, unfortunately, often come tagged as something negative. Teens engaging in precarious behavior are often thought of as rebellious or reckless. We, however, actually take healthy risks more often than we think, and summer camp environments are ripe with opportunities for healthy risk-taking. Children are challenged to try new activities alongside a group of peers they may or may not be familiar with. They take healthy risks when they invite a friend into a game or ask to join an ongoing game. Performers in the camp-wide talent show are taking a healthy risk. First-time campers are taking a risk by leaving the comfort of their home to live independently with a group of people they have never met.

Finding Value in the Challenge

Per the research by Teens Today cited in the article above, there are clear benefits to a young person’s self-perception when they engage in healthy risk-taking behavior. This research shows they are more likely to describe themselves as happy, confident, and respected just to name a few and also gain a stronger sense of self. Healthy risk-taking helps set up young people with a lens to become more self-aware and to see just what they are capable of.

Not only does camp create an opportunity for kids to take these risks, but it sets children up to be successful when they do take these risks. Acute camp counselors who have built a strong rapport with their campers are present to provide social-emotional guidance to them leading up to and after campers take risks. Counselors are there to celebrate the successes and help kids bounce back when things don’t go their way. Positive risk-taking is ingrained in the culture of kids summer camps and helps young people feel confident taking healthy risks.

The social-emotional growth children walk away from camp with is driven by the positive risk-taking promoted in their camp environment. They will be more likely to engage in healthy risk-taking at home and school because of their successful experience at camp.