Have you ever dreamt about running away with the circus? True, this may be a pipe dream now that you’re fully grown with a job, mortgage and a family to support. But, rest assured, you can live vicariously through your children by sending them to circus camp this summer.

“We teach kids trapeze and juggling and clowning,” says Doug Young, owner of the New Jersey Circus Center in Morganville. “Not everybody can throw a football, but this is a sport in the same way golf or bowling would be. We show them you don’t need to be good at team sports to be athletic. It really helps build their confidence.”

Besides, learning to walk the tightrope has plenty of benefits beyond performing in the big tent. “We truly try to stress that you can’t judge yourself based on somebody else,” says Young, who runs a two-week day camp for kids each year. “All you can do is put your best effort forth. Whether it’s circus or learning to ride a bike or something else, that’s all you can really ask of yourself.”

5 Real-Life Lessons Kids Can Learn from Circus CampHere are 5 ways that circus school can help kids in other aspects of their lives:

There’s No ‘I’ In Teamwork
“Trapeze teaches kids to trust another individual. There’s a trick we did at camp last year called ‘Peter Pan,’ where one kid was sitting on the trapeze bar and the other kid had their legs flexed up between the legs of the person sitting on the bar. They were basically hanging from their legs. It can be a lot to trust that person and feel like, ‘They have me.'”

It’s Possible to Juggle It All
“We set aside twelve minutes every single day just to focus on juggling. The right side of your brain actually controls the left side of your body and vice versa. Some elementary schools use juggling as a way of helping kids with dyslexia. There’s studies that show it makes the two hemispheres of your body talk to each other. There’s so many benefits to juggling that people don’t even realize. It’s amazing!”

Find Balance
“When kids get up on the tightwire, their first inclination is to put their feet wider. We show them that, when you stand on a wire, you actually have more balance on one foot. Kids who are right-side dominant – where they write with their right hand – find more strength in their non-dominant side. So it’s a way to be able to balance out strengths and weaknesses in the body. That way, we don’t end up having one side hyper-strong with the other side less likely to support us.”

Become a Multi-Tasker
“Rolling globe is a long, round plastic ball that kids have to stand on. I always say, ‘You’re on the ball. What now?’ It teaches you to do something with your lower body while your upper body is doing something opposite. You’re not just working the right brain-left brain connection. You’re working the upper body-lower body at the same time. It’s like the old adage, ‘You can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.’ We’re taking these kids and showing them, with practice and time, they can do it all.”

Be a Clown … and Learn to Express Yourself

“For a lot of kids, it’s really vulnerable to stand in front of a group and allow them to laugh at you. But the makeup a clown wears is meant to amplify their expressions, to make them bigger than they are, to help them tell a story. It’s not to hide their features or disguise who they are. Clowning can be a really neat thing for kids to explore as far as vulnerability. It gives them a safe place to allow people to laugh at them while exposing a part of themselves at the same time.”


Hero (Top) Image Courtesy Steve Sarafian
Additional Images Courtesy Steve Sarafian

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