The Importance of Play

Did you know that play is about more than just “fun and games?” You might have heard that “play is children’s work,” and maybe you’ve realized that play often boils down to having spontaneous fun, but what makes play beneficial? What about the long term benefits of play?

Girls Play

It turns out there is a ton of research indicating that play is very important for human beings, even essential for our well being throughout our lives, from childhood through adulthood. One leader of this research and an advocate of what we might call “play for all,” is Dr. Stuart Brown, MD. He is the founder of the National Institute for Play, an organization

“committed to bringing the unrealized knowledge, practices and benefits of play into public life. [The Institute] is gathering research from diverse play scientists and practitioners, initiating projects to expand the clinical scientific knowledge of human play and translating this emerging body of knowledge into programs and resources which deliver the transformative power of play to all segments of society.”

One general conclusion Dr. Brown’s research has shown is a strong correlation between adult success and play. Language skills, thinking skills, and of course, social skills all benefit from unstructured play. And since these are crucial areas for adults as well, it’s important to develop a habit of playing throughout our lives. We can improve these adult level skills by continuing to play.

Here’s a great video of Stuart Brown giving a lecture about the importance of play. He argues that “play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.”

We like this a lot.  It verifies something we’ve been talking about for years; play, and in particular outdoor play, is really important.  More than just entertainment, it’s a powerful benefit for children’s health and happiness.  This research helps us understand how these benefits extend far into adulthood as well.  Naturally, camp is the perfect place to experience all of this.  Free from the over-structured, over-scheduled nature of school, and free from boredom-inducing electronic media, camp provides daily opportunities for play.  Children are so much better for it.

Hey, don’t forget to play!

Anxious about camp?

Happy Summer Kid SwimmingGoing away to camp, particularly to an overnight or sleepaway camp, is a big step for kid. Being separated from parents, meeting loads of new people, and trying lots of new challenging activities— all these can be a little scary. Imagining it all, it’s easy to worry and find yourself asking “What if…?” kinds of questions. In fact, it’s just as common for parents to be scared and worried too. They also can suffer from a certain amount of “separation anxiety.”

There are a couple of things that can help both parents and kids feel better about this. First, realize that this is perfectly normal and all parents feel nervous about being away from their children for extended periods of time. Likewise, all children see their parents as their basic source of comfort and can at first be reluctant to go without it. Being away from each other requires both parents and children to develop a new sense of trust. Parents must trust the camp (its directors and staff, in particular) to take good care of their children, and each child must learn to trust themselves and their abilities away from home.

Fortunately, summer camps are ideal places for this kind of growth. They offer safe, structured environments where each girl finds plenty of fun things to do, but more importantly, caring adults trained to encourage her to make her own decisions, and to be more independent and self-confident. Camps have a lot of experience in this. They know it can take time, but have seen thousands of children succeed at camp and be better prepared for challenges later in life.

If you are considering summer camp for the first time, it can help to practice the kind of healthy separation camps represent. For example, it’s a good idea to schedule sleepovers at friends’ houses or other long weekends away from home.  Even with something this simple, kids learn they can do things on their own.

Camp is a wonderful experience for everyone.  For both parents and kids, it’s a chance to grow up a little.

Summer Sleepaway Camp Memories

Summer Sleepaway Camp Catalog

“I have too many fond memories of camp to pick just one! It depends on my mood. Sometimes it is the memory of the candles reflecting in the lake at Spirit Fire. Sometimes it is all the singing we used to do (& the many, many songs I still know by heart). Sometimes it is the zany pranks and fun, kooky things that let us express ourselves so comfortably, like Kangaroo Court. And sometimes it is just the remembered pleasure of sorting mail in Goodwill on a rainy, misty day while everyone else was at lunch — and how the sound of singing would carry over from the Dining Hall. And the sound of the bells in the morning . . . Oh, just everything, then. (Except the spiders in the rafters!)”
— an Alumnae from the 1980s

P.S. This is the cover photo for the 1961 camp catalog!

Rock Climbing Summer Camp Trip

A Summer Camp Rock Climbing TripAfter breakfast we hike up the hill in camp, just up the trail behind the dining hall, to reach Castle Rock. Locking carabiners, harnesses, helmets, rock climbing shoes, and ropes… everything in place for a day up on the rock. Put on the gear and tie into the rope with a follow-through figure eight knot. Wait for the belayer to get set and begin the commands. “On belay?” “Belay is on,” she says. “Climbing?” “Climb on,” you hear, and you’re ready to go. A left foot up and you’re off. Lean to the right. A foot switch. A little tricky spot, but you get it. This is real rock climbing! Amazing view at the top. A quick rappel and you’re down. Great job!

Sleep Away Camp Girls

Sleep Away Girls CampWhen you ask people who attended a sleep away camp when they were a kid, you’ll find that they recall the experience, not only fondly, but also as one of the most important things they did as a child. And this is true for just about everybody you ask, not just the occasional “camp fan.”

A famous example here is Michael Eisner and his book about camp. There’s a lot to it, and we’ve discussed the benefits of attending camp before, but this photo speaks to the empowerment and self confidence girls often develop at summer camp. Being away from home and parents, being challenged and succeeding in different activities, and being friends with so many different types of people— all weave together to give camp its secret power.

Take that power gained as a child and watch it do great things in adults!

What is the Best Girls Camp?

Best Girls Camp Lake ViewWhat is the best girls summer camp in North Carolina? You’ll often hear claims of being the “best,” but what does that really mean?

It’s really hard to say, of course. There are so many great traditional overnight girls camps out there, ones with beautiful facilities, outstanding counselors, and a diverse program of activities, the differences can be subtle and often boil down to what’s emphasized and what stands out as a strength at any particular camp. All camps have a set of values that helps define its culture, and what it really feels like to be there, and often it’s that feeling that can make a difference.

Many people do consider Rockbrook (at least “one of”) the best girls camp(s) in the south, with its equestrian program, ceramics program, adventure activities, and historic wooded setting. The culture of Rockbrook— emphasizing kindness, caring, generosity and inclusion —also helps distinguish it.

Another way to put it is to say the best camp is the camp you love. It’s the camp for you, the one where you feel at home with good friends and fond memories. For a camp with a long history like Rockbrook, it’s easy to understand why so many consider it the best.  Poke around, and you’ll see why!

Summer Camp for Young Girls

junior girl summer camp

How old do you need to be to attend Rockbrook?

This question comes our way quite a bit, and some parents are surprised to hear that we have a group of campers we call the “Juniors” who are as young as 6 years old. The youngest girls in camp, these are children who have finished kindergarten through the fourth grade. That might seem pretty young for a sleepaway camp, but the Rockbrook program is well designed for this age group, providing these young campers wonderful opportunities to try new things, explore the outdoors, and become more self-confident while away from home.

We also take extra care to assign counselors to this age group who are ready for the care and guidance that young girls often need. The Junior have their own set of cabins, bathroom and showers.  They have a unique stone meeting lodge that happens to also have the best view in camp— miles and miles of mountains in the distance!

Yes, even the youngest girls love camp.

Columbia SC Girls Summer Camp Party

Columbia SC summer camp party

This week we took the new Rockbrook slide show down to Columbia, South Carolina, for a visit with a great bunch of campers, both girls who have already attended RBC and friends who are interested in attending next summer. We really enjoyed seeing everyone. And what a treat to make s’mores! It’s always so fun for us to see our Rockbrook girls, and to help new families learn what makes RBC such a special girls summer camp.

Columbia, SC is located only about two hours from Rockbrook, but in the summer, camp’s mountain climate makes it much cooler and pleasant. Girls from Columbia have been coming to Rockbrook for generations! Almost 100 years!

That’s Amanda, Katie, Anna, Virginia, Margo, Lauren, Betsy, Tillman, Lawton, Amelia, Carey, Mary Clyde, Annie. And thanks to Marjorie Ann and Burgess for hosting the party!