How Summer Camp Naturally Builds Friendships

By: Mollie Shauger | Monday, June 24, 2019 | Summer Camp

Camp friends smiling

Summer camp is an opportunity for kids to have the time of their lives while making new friends or reconnecting with old ones.

An important part of a child’s social development is the relationships he or she will make over time. Independent studies have shown that camp improves kids’ social skills, increases their sense of belonging and empathy for others, and allows them to meet new people.

In a survey of more than 5,000 families around the U.S., 96 percent of campers said that camp helped them make new friends. Also, 69 percent of families said their camper was still in contact with other kids they met at camp.

Here’s how camp can foster new relationships:

Close quarters

Campers eat together, play together, go on trips together, and may even share cabins. They learn a lot about each other’s personalities and idiosyncrasies this way, and form deeper bonds. Campers can even help each other through the challenges of new surroundings and situations, and surviving without the comforts of home.

Sharing in success

Whether it’s winning tug-o-war or building a campfire, campers will delight in their achievements together, especially during team and group activities. Campers are pushed out of their comfort level in some aspects, and they can share these experiences with their peers.

Face-to-face interaction

Going “screen free” can help campers form connections face to face, and have conversations without the distractions that a phone or other device can cause. Kids and teens can be themselves without worrying about their social media profiles and “likes.”


A big part of the camp counselor’s job is to help kids form friendships, in addition to being a role model. Many counselors have been campers themselves and have made friends through the experience, so they can relate to the younger kids.


Kids have the freedom to be themselves without the pressures of school or home. “Camp allows children to reinvent themselves and be who they want to be in a positive, supportive environment,” writes the communications director for the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey.


Campers can connect over the themes and rituals that camp offers, whether it be campfire songs or an end-of-the-summer event. These customs can keep campers in close contact after camp and returning year after year.


For some kids, camp may be their first time meeting people outside of their neighborhood or school. They’ll have the opportunity to interact with people of different backgrounds, practice asking questions and figuring out appropriate self-disclosure. They’ll also learn respect for others.

Shared interests

Kids with unique interests or talents can bond over their shared passion for nature, technology, theater, and more. Knowing others who have the same interests can prevent kids from feeling isolated. It also makes “breaking the ice” a little easier when meeting new people.

The Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges provides camp opportunities for children of all ages at its seven branches: East Orange YMCA, Fairview Lake YMCA Camps, Greater Bergen County YMCA, South Mountain YMCA, Sussex County YMCA, Wayne YMCA and West Essex YMCA.


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