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Malia and Sasha go to camp!



President and Mrs. Obama choose summer camp experience for Malia and Sasha.

With both First Daughters, Malia and Sasha, at overnight camp for a month this summer, President and Mrs. Obama join the millions of American parents who annually choose a summer camp experience for their children — even if it means being a little “kidsick” while the kids are away from home. 

As Malia enjoys her second summer at camp and Sasha embarks on her first camp journey, the President admitted to feeling a little “depressed” while his girls are away. Camp professionals and child psychologists have described parents’ feelings when children leave as “kidsickness” — akin to the normal feelings of “homesickness” that a majority of children feel when leaving home. Overcoming separation anxiety is a healthy part of youth development and just one of the many benefits children gain with a summer camp experience.

Other benefits of camp include building life skills that can help children succeed in the workplace and as productive adults: while participating in camp life and activities, research by ACA (a nonprofit American Camp Association) shows that children learn and practice skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving, conflict-resolution, leadership, teamwork, independence, and resiliency. “Camp has been essential to the education of the whole child for 152 years,” says Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association.

According to ACA’s Youth Development Outcomes study, conducted with over 5,000 families with children in more than eighty ACA-accredited camps, in conjunction with Philliber Research Associates and with generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc., children also learn how to make and reinforce human connections, which is particularly important in the Digital Age, when kids are more likely to make friends electronically. Ninety-six percent of campers said that camp helped them make new friends. Ninety-two percent of campers reported that camp helped them feel good about themselves. Correspondingly, parents reported that children gained self-confidence at camp (70 percent) and continued to stay in contact with camp friends (69 percent). Other findings from recent camp research include that youth showed increases in social acceptance, connectedness, responsibility, confidence, empowerment, citizenship, and nature stewardship, as well as engaged in physical activity at much higher levels while at camp than their non-camp peers.

“The Obamas’ decision to send Malia to camp again, and to send Sasha to camp for the first time, sends a very positive message to parents,” says Smith. “Camp is a safe and supportive environment where children can develop authentic relationships, unplug from technology, connect with nature, and participate in human-powered activities. Camp allows children to relax and enjoy just being kids. There is a camp experience for every child, whether they live in the White House or anywhere in America. More than 10 million children will attend camp this summer.

Smith says, “Camp professionals put a child’s best interests first and are quite willing to work with parents to ensure a positive camp experience. We encourage parents to communicate with their children and with camps to choose the right camp for each family’s needs, and then to create a partnership in which children can thrive. Like the First Daughters, when children know that their parents are supportive and enthusiastic about camp, children can have life-changing experiences at summer camp.”

About ACA
The American Camp Association® (ACA) works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-Accredited® camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps that meet up to 300 health and safety standards. For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org.