Kids learn to make, keep, be a friend at day camp |


Our children’s lives are made up of a series of milestones. Not just the ones that doctors check for, but the big (and sometimes routine) events that happen throughout the years that mark maturing and growth: sleeping in a “big girl bed,” wearing shoes with laces, putting his face in the water at a pool, going down the tallest slide at the playground, starting elementary school, seeing a movie in the theater.

Attending day camp for the first time is another of these significant milestones that promotes confidence and independence. Day camp presents an unmatched opportunity and environment for kids to build social skills and make friends without parental involvement, often for the first time.

Friendship making is fundamental to the social and emotional development of children. The more practice kids get using social skills, the easier time they will have making friends. The ability to make friends is refined though trial and error. Camp increases kids’ exposure to forming and maintaining friendships, which leads to a greater likelihood that they will be socially comfortable and self-assured.

Recognizing camps that value friendship at their core is easy; everything they do from how activities are led to who is hired as counselors reflects a desire for kids to learn how to be a friend, make a friend and keep a friend. These camps recognize that each child refines social skills at a different pace and that the definition of growth changes camper by camper. They offer carefully created small groups and multiple week sessions to provide the consistency and time needed to develop meaningful relationships.

Whether it is playing a group game or waiting in line for a turn at bat, campers discover and apply the skills of friendship every day at camp. Experiencing a myriad of activities with the same group of kids over an extended period of time allows campers to recognize shared interests and commonalities, which are often the foundation of a friendship. The give and take of relationships is modeled as campers compromise and negotiate with others as group decisions are made. Hearing the cheers of peers supporting each other through new challenges assists campers in identifying the feeling of comradery. Having a schedule that combines organized activity and structured downtime provides opportunities to learn how to gracefully jump into play, pay attention to non-verbal communication cues, and listen to and respect the feelings of others.

After spending the summer at a friendship-oriented day camp, campers develop interpersonal skills that impact how they interact with others at home, school and throughout the rest of their lives. Some campers will walk away with a new, lifelong friend while others will have begun to gather the tools needed to create friendships in the future.

The best part of all this? Campers don’t even realize what they are learning. They know that they are having the time of their lives, meeting new people and doing cool things. As adults, we have the benefit of seeing so much more.

Friendship is the heart and soul of JCC Chicago’s 9 Apachi J Camps. Each summer, campers (3 years–8th grade) spread their wings, explore new interests and create lasting friendships. Locations in Chicago include Apachi Northside, Apachi Chicago on the UIC Campus, Apachi Hyde Park and Apachi Rogers Park along with specialty programs in Sports, STEM and Hebrew. Learn more at

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Posted on February 28, 2017 at 10:12 AM