Camp. Its power to transform kids and provide a foundation for a positive experience is unique. Yet, those same opportunities for growth and experience should not be limited to the summer. Why not borrow some of the same ideas and techniques we use so effectively in the camp setting and bring them home?
Today more than ever our kids are faced with a society that moves at lightning speed. Technology has become, for better or worse, an ever-present part of their lives and too often the chance to just ‘be a kid’ is limited by overscheduled lives. Enter the home. The home is one of the few places in our lives where we can control the speed, limit the technology and provide for what essential for our kids to grow healthy and happy.
I believe there are four essential reasons why we as parents should work to bring the tenets of camp to our own home and give our kids the best opportunity to grow well.
First, our kids are giving up way too much time to technology and screens. Yes, we watched our fair share of the Brady Bunch, but one screen was extent to our world. Now our kids’ screens exist on multiple devices, at school, on the backs of car seats, in their pocket and yes at home. Increasingly our kids our being taught through screens at school and less though human interaction.
As parents, we have the opportunity to draw a line in the sand and limit the amount and use of technology in the home.
Second, our children’s level of physical activity and play is diminishing. Certainly a byproduct of technology and the lifestyles of people today, our children are simply not moving their bodies like they should. Child obesity is at its highest level; depression, anxiety and the proliferation of attention deficit disorders have all risen. Our bodies, particularly those of our children are wired to require daily physical activity. Limit or even remove that from their lives and negative outcomes will result.
Providing the opportunity for play and physical activity is essential for the healthy growth and wellbeing of our kids.
Third, our kids are not exploring and discovering their world. The opportunity to make independent decisions, experience cause and effect on their own and simply wonder at the world around them is vital for cognitive growth and happiness. Feeding children information through a one-way screen, limiting their time to play outside and relying on organized activity prevents our kids from being the adventurers they were born to be.
Parents much foster an environment where unstructured play and creativity can be achieved and valued at home.
The last reason we should bring camp to the home is that we (society) are removing the opportunity for adventure and the association of Risk/Failure. There are two reasons for this, the first, is liability. Everyone is afraid of getting hurt. Think of all the diving boards that have been taken out of the local pools. When is the last time you’ve seen the tall slides at the park. No one wants kids to get hurt, but remove everything with a little risk from their lives and pad all their landings and you remove something much greater, the chance to conquer fear.
The second reason we have removed Risk/Failure is the fear of loosing. For some unknown reason, we have developed a generation of parents that don’t want their kids to fail or loose. We hold games that don’t keep score, we ensure everyone gets a trophy and we artificially elevate our children where personal achievement and work take a back seat. This is a recipe for disaster because it instills a false sense of confidence and will only lead to a harsh reality in the ‘real’ world.
As parents, we must create opportunities where are kids take some reasonable risks. We must value failure as essential to the learning process and teach them to rise up when they have lost.
Home is where the heart is, and if that is true, we must have the heart to create healthy home. We must be brave enough to limit technology, promote activity and design opportunities where our children can gain confidence and courage. Camp isn’t just for a week or two in the summer. Is should be for a lifetime.