“Yours is so much more relaxed than other camps where I’ve worked,” remarked a college-age staffer earlier this year.
Well, there are several reasons for that. One is that we intentionally keep our camp small enough that normal kid energy and noise isn’t usually overwhelming. We also consciously plan lots of transition time into our day so that we don’t feel hurried from one activity to the next. But one of the biggest reasons: we try hard to balance structured activities – yoga, arts & crafts, and themed field trips – with lots of freeplay – both in- and out-of-doors.
The value of this spaciousness and camper-directed play goes way beyond helping keep the counselors relaxed. Child-directed play has enormous benefits in brain development, social-emotional skills, self-regulation, and general happiness and mood:
“Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.” – American Academy of Pediatrics
“Children who can entertain themselves, or play with one another, are unconsciously learning how to adapt themselves to challenges they’ll face further down the road.” – Time Magazine
We are lucky to offer camp in a space that allows for lots of gross motor play as well as imaginative play with traditional playroom toys. When we play in the parish hall, children are allowed to use the materials in whatever why they like. Adults only intervene if children need help making play choices that are safe, don’t damage anything, and enable everyone to have fun.
The playroom contains a variety of imaginative toys and campers often combine different toy types in elaborate role-playing games.
We provide choices and variety in play activities. We often bring out fine-motor building materials such as links and blocks. We have about 1000 Keva Planks and, while extremely heavy to load in and out of the car on school-closed days, they were definitely our best single camp purchase.
Some days we bring out sensory materials such as play-dough, shaving cream, or water beads or process-art materials. (We are overdue for another slime day.)
Sometimes our field trips even allow for free play or open-ended exploration, such as the Children’s Garden at the Botanic Garden or the Spark!Lab at the American History Museum.
We also prioritize outdoor time, which has been shown to improve mood and ability to concentrate. We get out most days and usually spend lunch and extended play time at neighborhood or metro-accessible playgrounds and splash parks.
Sound like fun? It’s not too late for your yogi to join us this summer. Read more about kids yoga camp and sign up!