Summer Camp?!

It’s almost here; summer vacation! That time of the year when school is out, kids stay home and play outside all day. When families go on picnics or camping all over the province and sit by the water’s edge, playing ball or Frisbee. Flying a kite is a skill that is practiced and mastered. Fishing, biking, hiking; all in a day’s work….. oh wait! That was my summer back in the ’60’s and 70’s (OK, you do the math!)

Summer “camp” was mostly in our family backyard. Mom was home and we were set free in the neighbourhood with our dog attached to a rope (no-one had a leash!) and we took off to the local creek to float sticks, wade in the water and “go exploring” as we called it. The summer adventure included jumping through the lawn sprinkler and blowing bubbles (home made). We built tents using all of Mom’s clothes pegs and an old bed sheet against the chain-link fence. We’d take our toys out there and play in the tent or lounge on a blanket in the shade of a great old tree with our latest book from the library. What great memories they are for my sister and me.

Summer “vacation” for most families is just not the same any more. Most parents are working full time, they get a few short weeks of holiday time; some are able to get away for a vacation somewhere in a cottage or tent, but most time is spent in the city. The art of leisure time for both children and adults has been slipping away.

Many of my friends stood in the long line of Camp Registration for their children to have some child care for their kids while they were at work for the summer. Alas, “summer camp” has taken on a whole new meaning though….. much of the time, children are at “camp” in a school gym or daycare centre, or recreation centre. Indoor time is the norm and outdoor camp is fading away. I’ve heard of Computer Camp, Soccer Camp, Hockey Camp, even Chess Camp!

How did the word “camp” get confused with these structured, indoor day care places?

The reason for this blog is to get you thinking…. about “summer camp”.

If you are a “camp” provider this summer, is there any way to bring back some of those great and adventurous days that we enjoyed “back in the day”?

Can you plan your camp around outdoor games that we all seem to have forgotten how to play. Something about water play, shade trees, balls and Popsicles might find their way into your plans. Helping children to appreciate nature and outdoor spaces is a gift we can give every day.

So, unplug some of those electronic, hypnotizing devices, put on the hose and get the kids outside to some version of that old summer that kids my age (yes, I still think of myself as a kid) still dream of. Find a way to make summer vacation that thing of beauty and wonder that children need and look forward to. If “summer camp” is just like going to school or “day care” it sort of loses is luster. Share the magic of insects (BUGS!), mud pies, sand castles, and some of the great summer memories that you might have. It will definitely be more fun for “the campers” and also, for you!

P.S. Don’t forget the hats and sunscreen!

Happy Summer!