We’re back from the American Camp Association national conference in Austin, Texas where we enjoyed hearing Dr. David Elkind talk about the power of play (free and unstructured play) in children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. He was invited to address the conference of sleep away camps because he understands traditional summer camps as excellent contexts where this kind of play is encouraged. Dr. Elkind explains in his new book entitled, The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier and Healthier Children.
Here’s a quote that jumped out at me. He writes,
Not only does summer camp provide children relief from the pressures to achieve, it reacquaints children with the natural world, with the importance of friendship, cooperation, and the fragility of the environment in which we live.
The book, of course, goes into lots more detail and provides specific advice about how to encourage this kind of beneficial play, but here are a couple of the main points.
- Cut TV time to allow for playtime.
- Get children together so they can initiate play.
- Avoid providing too many toys too often.
- Keep free time on the schedule.
- Spend time outside.
There is much to say about each of these, but it’s neat to see how summer camp, and particularly a sleep away camp like Rockbrook, can really encourage them. Camp is just one of those places where kids can be kids.