Take time to…PLAY!

Illahee Campers On the Verge of a Water Fight

Since our last post, a new year has come and is quickly moving along. Apart from camp prep, this month has me deep in the throes of “toddler-dom”. Brook s, my spirited offspring, turned three on Christmas day. It was quite a day- also celebrating my mom, Laurie’s birthday, and most importantly our Risen King. By the end of the day, it felt like we had run a marathon.  Brooks is not the kid you see sitting quietly at church or playing solo off to the side in a crowded room. His natural stride is a high speed sprint, and he will do just about anything to get a game of “chase” going. He is a goofy, loving, strong-willed mess and his smile lights up a room. Although some days are marked by emotional frustration and silent expletives, I have to say “three” is pretty awesome.

I am amazed at the development of his thought process. From communicating his feelings, to showing me he may in fact grow into an empathetic thoughtful human.  My newest- found appreciation is for his incredible imagination. Brooks will spend hours “baking” with pots and pans or fighting off pirates with a stick. I mean forget the Tonka trucks, just give him a stick and he is content.  His practice of play is important in his life and also in every child’s life.

In last month’s ENEWS (for current camp parents) Laurie shared a link to an article that Dave passed along from the American Camp Association website– With the large presence of my imaginative toddler, and the continual creative planning of camp- the importance of “play” has been on my mind.  According to this study, “play” has four characteristics. First, it is self- directed or self-chosen by the child. It is not led by adults. This is so important! When kids have the freedom to play and direct on their own, fundamental skills such as compromise or recognizing the point of view of others, are developed. (AKA say goodbye to the narcissist). Secondly, “the means of play are more valued than the ends;” it’s about the journey, not the destination. We’ve all heard that one!) Play is a time for developing and practicing new skills and ways of doing things, without the pressure of failing! The third premise is that play is guided by mental rules and this is what provides the structure and shared understanding within relationships. Finally, play is imaginative! It is a way to foster new modes of thinking and develop creativity!

There has been an overall decline of “play” among kids in our society, which clings to structured schedules and leaves little room for pause. Imaginative play leads to the development of important social skills as well as other disciplines like problem solving and perseverance- among others! Camp may be one of the only places some kids can come and experience a life outside of school and structured pressures.  At Illahee, we do everything in our power to make this the safest and most fun environment for our girls, so that they can thrive and enjoy “just being girls”!

For the past few days, we camp directors have been brainstorming ways to give campers this time to pause and be with each other outside of the busy camp day during rest hour, choice period or in evening activities.  A time to play, whatever that may mean to each girl. It could be a time to build fairy houses in the woods, or wander down the white gravel, to win a card game, or lose a race. And maybe we should all take a lesson from a three year old…. Could Brooks lead “cooking with the imagination….?”

Until Next Time!