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TshCamp Blog

Want an Independent, Confident, Resilient Kid? Camp Can Help!

September 17, 2018
Audrey Monke, MA

While it’s easy to think of ways to teach our kids to do laundry or solve math problems, finding a way to instill important character traits isn’t as simple. The way we model traits we want our children to exhibit has a powerful influence on them, and some traits (kindnessgratitude, and generosity) they learn first and foremost from parents.

But there are other traits best learned through experiences outside the home and beyond the watchful (sometimes too watchful) eyes of parents. Camp experiences offer exactly the kind of experience away from home where children grow important character traits like independence, self-confidence, and grit.

1. Independence

“Looking back at my life, camp has been the most influential part of it. I can truly say camp is where I developed my independence, gained confidence, and learned what friendship truly means.”

Being hyper-involved and in constant communication with our children has become something modern parents brag about. But when do we start letting go and giving our kids a chance to feel independent? This has become much more challenging in an age where cell phones are always attached to our (and their) hips and tracking apps are ubiquitous. In fact, as parents today we tend to foster dependence even when we’re trying not to. Forgot their lunch? A friend says something mean? Stubbed their toe? We know right away and swoop in to help.

Whether the result of parenting trends or ultra-high levels of physical and digital connectedness, today’s children are much less independent than we were at the same age.  I find it hard to resist editing my son’s paper to make it “just a little bit better” or jumping in to help make his lunch when he’s running late for school. Thirty years ago, we were babysitting infants at age 13.  Today, some of us hire babysitters for our 13-year-olds!

Camp experiences offer the unique opportunity for kids to see how much they can do without us hovering nearby. They build their independence skills because they take more responsibility for themselves and their belongings, make their own decisions, and feel a sense of autonomy. For many kids, camp is the first opportunity they’ve had to experience these things.

2. Self-Confidence

“Camp has really helped me become more confident with who I am and has helped me try new things. Without camp, I would be too shy to go up to someone and introduce myself. Camp has had a giant impact on my personality, and without it I would be a completely different person.”

When we tell our kid she’s “great” at something, it’s easy for her to be wary of the praise. We parents are notorious for seeing our kids through rose-colored lenses and thinking they are the greatest at _______ (fill in the blank); our kids know intuitively that our assessment of them, however complimentary, is most likely not accurate or objective.

However, when another respected adult mentor – like a camp counselor! – recognizes a positive trait in our child and points it out, that can have a powerful impact. When someone outside the immediate family recognizes our child’s unique qualities and helps him or her address weaknesses, it can build real self-confidence.

3. Grit

“I love the encouragement that I got, both from counselors and campers, to try new things all the time. I love that the camp encourages you to do that. The camp atmosphere made me stand out and be unique, in ways that I would have been too embarrassed to try at home.”

This is the new buzzword in education and parenting circles thanks to Paul Tough’s best-selling book, How Children Succeed. Angela Duckworth further cemented the importance of grit, or resilience, in her popular TED talk: Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance, and her book, Grit. People with grit have “stick-to-itiveness,” persistence, and resilience, all of which help them work hard and push past difficulties and failures.

We all need some grit. But how do we teach grit to a distinctively non-gritty kid or young adult—one who quits when something gets challenging, who doesn’t want to try anything new or difficult, or who prefers playing endless video games to practicing piano, reading, or some other more useful-seeming skill?

As parents, it’s hard to create experiences that require our children to use grit, but at camp those experiences happen every day. While struggling to climb the rock wall or attempting to get up on water skis for the 12th time, our kids develop their grit muscles in a big way at camp. And, they likely wouldn’t try for as long or as hard if we parents were hovering nearby with our worried expressions. At camp, kids are encouraged to set goals, challenge themselves, and overcome failure again and again. And that develops their grit.

Interrupting the cycle of dependence can only happen when we as parents are willing to encourage our children to develop their independence, self-confidence, and grit, and, though it may seem counter-intuitive, that happens best when we’re not around.


Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk: Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp

Photo courtesy of Gold Arrow Camp in Lakeshore, California.

Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, MA, with her husband Steve, has owned and directed Gold Arrow Camp (Lakeshore, California) for the past 30 years. She has been a member of ACA since 1989 and was president of the Western Association of Independent Camps (WAIC) from 2007–2010. Audrey researches, writes, and speaks about camp, parenting, friendship skills, and positive psychology. Her upcoming parenting book (Center Street, 2019) offers ideas for bringing the magic of summer camp home. Sign up for Audrey’s book updates at or contact her directly at


This article appeared on  September 18th, 2018 at the AMERICAN CAMP ASSOCIATION website.

Originally published at

Why Horses Are Great For Kids

Why Horses Are Great For Kids


by Jennifer Forsberg Meyer


Reprinted with permission from Growing Up With Horses, 2006 edition


This article appeared on  July 9, 2014 at the EQUINE LAND CONSERVATION RESOURCE website. Thomas School of Horsemanship is in no way associated with said organization.

The Restorative Powers of Nature

The Restorative Powers of Nature

An Interview with Florence Williams

Growing up a city girl in a family that valued extended outdoor time, Florence Williams is today a science writer and environmental journalist, bestselling author, public speaker, and podcaster. With an English degree and a graduate degree in creative writing, Williams is a contributing editor at Outside Magazine and a freelance writer for the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, and National Geographic, among other publications. Her most recent book, The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, is an investigation into the restorative powers of nature and a look at the science that backs it up.

Best Horseback Riding Facility on Long Island


Long Islanders Voted Thomas School of Horsemanship in Melville Best Horseback Riding Facility on Long Island!

Looking for an adventure? Horseback riding is not just for the experienced anymore. Enjoy country life right here on Long Island by checking out our winner for Best Horseback Riding Facility on Long Island.

Thomas School of Horsemanship has been serving the Long Island community for more than 70 years. Their day camp, ride school and parties deliver the utmost in joy and discovery, while simultaneously teaching the ultimate respect for the animals. Their staff is cultivated from their day camps, so that students build on their experience with growing responsibilities, truly fostering a lifetime love and generations of experienced, knowledgeable and gifted horseback riders who recognize and genuinely appreciate this timeless craft.


How To Complete Your Child’s Youth

Often, as parents, we joke about how it would be nice if children came with manuals. They don’t. We do our best to educate them. We provide a loving and nurturing environment, we show them the differences between right and wrong, we try to instill values and morals in hopes of cultivating happy and open minded, kind and caring little citizens. Through exposure we offer them every, and any, possible opportunity. We expose them to everything as we assist them with their search of themselves and their identity.

When I think back to all the activities I have involved my children in over the years, I can honestly say I left no stone unturned. Having a son and two daughters we enrolled our kids in dance, swimming, soccer, lacrosse, football, painting, pottery, baseball, softball, yoga, girl scouts, boy scouts, horseback riding, gymnastics, creative writing, guitar, tennis, piano, violin, archery, voice, percussion, cooking class, ice skating, chess club, and yes… even fencing!

Of all the things I have exposed my children to I can say, without question, the single most valuable and enriching experience my children have ever had the opportunity to enjoy is… summer camp. There simply is no greater exposure for a child than summer camp. Summer camp gives children the chance to make new friends, make new decisions, play, learn, socialize and most importantly grow. You can find endless pages on the internet discussing the benefits of summer camp and even countless categories discussing those various benefits; psychological, educational, sense of leadership and belonging, self-esteem building, and environmental awareness. The list goes on and on. What other forum can a child find such learning, fun, and appreciation for life than summer camp?

I don’t think my children are different than most.  They attend school without too much complaint.  They come home and do their homework.  They have a rhythm to their schedule and fulfill their responsibilities.  They have pressure to achieve.  They have pressure to compete.  Our school systems themselves have tremendous pressure and competition.  American schools currently rank 26th in Math and 21st in Science and 17th in reading (OECD 12/2013).  Our education system is so entirely consumed with testing that much time is dedicated to preparation and memorization.  There is little time for creative thinking and outdoor activity.  Recess time in our district is limited to 20 minutes. Of that 20 minutes some time is taken lining up to be released onto the playground and lining up to get back into the classroom.  A child is lucky to have a solid 15 minutes of free, outdoor time during a typical school day.  Long gone are the days when I was a child and good behavior of the class could earn you an extra afternoon recess.  Maybe this is why when summer comes, homes explode with anticipation and excitement.  Our home is transposed into an entirely different climate.  Summertime!

But, what is happening outside of school?  Between the internet, smart phones, video games, and social networking, today’s generation is constantly immersed in screens.  It is not at all unusual to see a group of young people sitting together at a pizza place or yogurt shop each in their own little world, their young faces inches from the latest smartphone.  It is estimated that young people spend between 40-51 hours a week in front of screens.  This is a generation growing up with such a barrage of technology that new addictions have been outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders 5; “Internet Gaming Addictions”.   Something has to be done to break the cycle.

This is where I would like to talk about my summers as a child.

This is where I would like to talk about how my children spend their summer.

Thirty years ago I spent my summers at the Thomas School of Horsemanship, in Melville Long Island. Now my children spend their summers atThomasSchool.  It is an extraordinary day camp with a sleep-away camp feel.  From the moment you step out of the car onto the  33 magical acres your senses are set ablaze.   For 70 years the family owned camp has served children onLong Island, and their parents and even their parent’s parents.  Families sometimes come from New York City and beyond to the lure of this beautiful place.  The camp director, Nancy Thomas, is an extraordinary woman who has devoted her life to the love of children and horses.  She spends her summer days immersed in campers’ activities.  The Directors of the camp counselors are mothers or fathers  themselves and personally see to the safety and happiness of each camper.

I have such fond memories that I can still name the horses I rode there as a child.  I miss them the same way you might miss an old family pet.  There is no other experience quite like that of grooming and riding a 1,000 pound gentle giant.  The benefits of being around horses are so significant that physical therapists, occupational therapists, and psychotherapists use these magnificent creatures to help their patients.  Horses teach us so many incredible things.  Strength, communication, responsibility, bravery, patience, tolerance, discipline, cleanliness and they teach us to be calm, gentle and quiet too.  For a child there is nothing quite as empowering as controlling an animal that outweighs them 14 times.

My children count the days to the start of summer camp.  They recall their favorite horses, friends, and camp activities over and over.  During those blissful summer days they leave the campus disappointed that the day is done.  Yet, they burst through the door at the end of the day spewing accounts of the wonderful times they had.  Anticipation wakes them the next morning, ready to do it all again.  The last day of the camp season they are reduced to tears, deeply saddened that another summer has ended.

So if you’re considering a new activity for your child, by all means consider the significance and worth of being around horses.  And if, by any chance, you haven’t sent your kids to camp you may want to reconsider.

There is simply no better experience we can provide for our children than sending them to summer camp.  Camp enriches children’s lives beyond measure, altering not only the outcome of their childhood but, the outcome of their adulthood.  How powerful is that?