The Way Children Play
As a kid, I (Stacie) would often sit and listen as my parents fondly recalled memories of playing outside—heading out right after breakfast to roam the neighborhood and not come home again until the street lights came on at night. To hear them describe it, it seemed that every kid in the neighborhood came outdoors to ride their bikes, climb trees, and have fun with a lot of imagination and not much else. They laughed as they described skateboard accidents, sledding adventures, and walking for miles to go for a swim in the Mississippi River—all of which took place unsupervised.
While my siblings and I also spent quite a lot of time playing outside, it looked a little different than the childhood of my parents. We weren’t out roaming the streets. Instead, we had fun safely confined in our yard. We set up a makeshift diamond and played baseball. We pretended the swing set was a time machine, ran through the sprinkler when the weather was warm, and created a “club” whose meeting space was in the branches of the tree in our yard—all within eyesight of my parents.
It is becoming obvious that the way children play has been changing with each generation. Some of it is out of necessity. Neighborhoods have changed. Cities have changed. Diverse and widely-accessible technology has offered new forms of entertainment through video games, televisions, tablets, and phones, often limiting the time children spend outdoors. Sports and extra-curricular activities clutter schedules and leave little time for free and imaginative play.
Not all of these changes are negative, but it does often leave parents feeling nostalgic for their childhood and the way they used to play. We want our children to feel safe, but we also want them to have the space to explore, invent, create, and imagine.
Camp is one place where this safe “free play” can happen. Away from technology, away from planned schedules and required activities, the kids who come to camp have the chance to play the same way that their parents did. They meet new friends and dive into games and activities, immersing themselves in the outdoors, whether it be just for a day event, a weekend retreat, or a week of summer camp. They experience the thrill of the sledding hill, build mud towers in the creek, catch frogs, dive into the swimming pool, work together to overcome “The Islands” element in the challenge course, and fight off the “Alien Invasion” that has come to Camp Wyoming.
Camp promotes imagination, creativity, and resiliency in kids. It teaches independence, confidence, and social skills. It encourages physical activity and enjoyment of the outdoors, no matter the season. Give the gift of play to a child in your life, and let them experience what camp is like. You could even join them. Retreats like Grand Camp or summer camp programs like Family Camp let kids experience play with the important adults in their life. These are chances for the entire family to create and imagine together.
What were your favorite childhood memories? Where did your imagination take you? These experiences are ones we want to share with every generation, and we believe that camp is a great place to do just that.