In an article back in May, we explored the benefits of summer camps for children.
We looked at how camp develops their social skills and their emotional intelligence improves whilst also improving their confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills, amongst others.
This month we explore some of the hidden benefits of camp, and how these will affect your children as they grow up and enter adulthood.
At Altitude, we plan free time each day between 16:00 and 18:30. Some parents ask us “What do the children do in the free time?” as they have concerns that the children won’t know what to do with themselves, or they prefer them to be engaged in a more productive activity.
Following a typical camp day of participating in activities, ‘free time’ is included in our programme to provide a period of the day where children will think for themselves, plan, and make decisions in their peer groups. During this time, children will learn initiative, taking this time to shower, changing their clothes, to catch up with friends that they haven’t seen yet that day, whereas others will enjoy “quiet” time and may take a chance to read or partake in some arts and crafts. Some will start up a game, build a mountain or a theme park, using their imagination and creativity.
The time is relatively short and so children must learn to manage their time, ensuring that they can fit in what they want to do; working out their priorities and realising what is important to them. Of course, our staff are always present to offer support and a helping hand during these times.
Having this free time allows children to learn to just be a child, to play, to have fun and to day dream without the pressures of school, extracurricular activities or a busy home life. It teaches them to be content in their own company, without the need for permanent external stimulation.
Some studies also suggest that free time develops the parts of the brain responsible for critical thinking, creative thinking and problem solving. It allows children to discover, to innovate and to become self-reliant and responsible.
During our camp, we have a rule that children can only use electronics such as phones, iPad etc. during their free time. Although this is an extremely popular rule with most parents, it is sometimes less popular with the children! It can even sometimes be a struggle for our team to persuade the children to return their electronic items.
All too often, children now turn to electronics whenever they feel bored, whether by playing games, scrolling through Facebook or playing with the latest filter on Snapchat. Phones, laptops or iPads are increasingly becoming a main tool for communication for children.
We believe that ensuring social skills are still learned face-to-face, and in a multitude of environments that doesn’t only include home and school, is essential for later in life, when at work, and adulthood! We wish to offer each child the best opportunity to feel confident during meetings, appointments, when visiting clients or running future events. Even hosting a dinner party means you need to engage people, just in a different way. All these scenarios rely on talking to each other, engaging in conversation. Some jobs rely on the skill of the employee to be able to make small talk sound interesting, to be creative with words. When texting, how creative can you be in a short message?
If children are always communicating behind the comfort of the screen, it can lead to a lack of confidence especially in new and unfamiliar situations, causing children to grow up shy, perhaps a little insular and afraid of new environments.
By taking electronics away from children, we allow them the opportunity to develop these skills in an environment where everyone is in the same boat. Children all want to make friends; they all enter camp on the first day with that feeling of not knowing everyone there, a little unsure of their new surroundings, and not knowing what they will experience.
A positive camp experience; learning to cope in these new peer-driven situations and having fun at the same time can spur on this emotional and communicational development and make a positive change for their future. And if we can do that, we know we have done something right.