CAMP - A WELLNESS COMMUNITY EXCLUSIVELY FOR CHILDREN
Camps exist for their campers! And while every camp has a different mission and philosophy, child well-being is behind everything. EVERYTHING!
- SLEEP – During camp, campers can expect to get more sleep than they do at home. It might be the super active lifestyle and all the calories they burn. Perhaps it’s the fresh air and sunshine. Maybe it’s the intensity of being fully engaged in life all day long, rather than discussing it via social media or watching TV. For overnight campers, possibly it’s the absence of light and sound pollution common in cities and suburbs. Pediatricians are calling for children to get more sleep. Some schools are considering later start times because the research on child sleep is so compelling. Children need a lot more sleep than they’re getting in today’s world—a 24/7 world that never sleeps. Overnight camps provide the time to sleep while day camps inspire children to get a good night’s rest!
- FOOD – Children love food! And camp makes children hungry. If you have yesteryear’s notions of camp food, check out what campers today are eating! Day campers sometimes bring lunch. But if they do, there are usually rules. Perhaps the camp is nut free because some of their campers have allergies. A no trading rule is common at camps where children pack lunch. This is one way of ensuring that children eat the food that was packed for them and not food they’re not allowed to have for medical or other reasons. Some day camps provide food. There might be a service that delivers food to the camp or the camp itself might offer a food service. Day camps with food service and overnight camps teach children quite a bit about food and about getting their dietary needs met in a community dining setting. Children are introduced to new food at camp and they eat things that surprise their family members or things they have refused at home. The counselor who builds a beautiful salad at the salad bar or creates a yogurt parfait at the breakfast bar can inspire a camper to try something new. Camps are constantly figuring out how to serve up food that is as nutritious as it is delicious. Not only do some campers pick produce from camp gardens, others have the chance to cook it. Camp experiences expose children to new, nutritious food and inspire at least some of them to try it.
- PEACE & SOLITUDE – The pace of camp is different than the pace children keep during the school year. There’s time for a child to grab a moment and "just be." Maybe that’s during a yoga or meditation session or during the post lunch rest time. Perhaps it’s on the walk to the waterfront or in awe of one of Nature’s creations—like clouds rolling across the sky. And maybe it’s in a favorite sitting spot, overlooking the lake or on top of a big boulder or in a grassy meadow or under an enormous tree. As research proves, just being outdoors lifts mood and improves focus. Camps, in addition to offering amazing program opportunities, also specialize in allowing children time and space to experience being "unprogrammed," an important aspect of psychological wellness.
- MUSCLE POWERED PURSUITS – At camp, everyone moves. Typically campers move much more than they do during non-camp months. Camps’ programming offers an active lifestyle for campers: riding horses, bikes and stand-up paddle boards; playing team and individual sports; swimming, sailing, kayaking, and rowing on the waterfront; navigating elements of the ropes course or hiking up hills and mountains. Even the more informal camp activities keep children more active than they may be accustomed to: tag after dinner, walking down to the waterfront and back up to camp or participating in an all camp counselor hunt. Life at camp is active, very physically active. Camp is where children are introduced to the outdoor muscle-powered pursuits that become their passions in adulthood—climbing, biking, running, boating, etc…
- SOCIALIZATION – Having fun with peers in the safe setting of summer camp is also an important form of wellness. Laughter is therapeutic. Learning and engaging in group problem solving tasks with their peers and spending the entire day (or in the case of overnight campers the evening also) with their peers is a developmentally appropriate experience for children. So is the socialization they have with adults in the camp community. Camp staff are adults who are an entirely different adult creature than parents and teachers. The opportunity to engage with the adults who have been carefully selected to work in the educational setting of summer camp contributes mightily to campers’ well-being. A great wellness practice is to surround yourself with the right people. Camps do this well.
- SELF-CARE – All of these ways to pursue wellness work together to give children the chance to practice self-care. In their trained counselors, they have role models and self-care coaches. Campers begin to understand and practice how to care for themselves in terms of their basic needs: getting enough sleep, nutritious food, exercise, peace, solitude and socialization. This particular set of life skills can be life-changing.
Thanks to camp, there’s a generation of children who will soon practice wellness at a level that matches or exceeds the adults that surround them!
Photos courtesy of the following ACA Accredited Camps: Aloha Camp (Fairlee, VT), Camp Howe (Goshen, MA) & Camp Timanous (Raymond, ME)