I’m sitting in the mountains above Malibu, California, watching my six-year-old orchestrate a bear hunt with his friends while my three-year-old looks for rolly pollies on the soccer field. We’re at family camp for my daughter’s preschool, and we’ve never been happier.
Truth be told, I didn’t want to go. Despite going to summer camp as a kid, I’d forgotten just how much kids get out of unstructured play with nothing but the great outdoors as their playground. But by the time we left, the hubs and I vowed to send our kids to camp. There’s fun and learning to be had that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Here’s why.
There's no cell service. Whether a kid has a lot or a little TV time, they’re still looking at a screen a lot of the time. They’re even learning on iPads at school. But being in the mountains, without those kinds of distractions, is remarkable and fun.
Mum and dad aren’t hovering. We all try to give our kids space and swear we want them to be okay with struggle, but we still can’t help but calculate their every move in an effort to protect them from anything and everything. Camp is a safe environment to be unsupervised. Sure, there will be some skinned knees and poison oak, but that only comes from having a good time.
There's no homework. Everyone needs a break from work and since a kid’s work is school and homework, they need a break too. They’re still learning. It’s just a different kind of learning. Both are equally valuable. Camp is just messier!
They can walk everywhere. Our kids spend so much time in the car getting hauled to violin lessons then back across town to swim class. But at camp, they're just a stone’s throw from everything they need to do.
Nature is their iPad. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a kid who gets bored at camp, but at home with apps and games galore, kids are climbing the walls looking for more. At camp, there is more: More trees, more sports, and more fun.
Camp is dirty. At home, we want our kids to look (and smell!) presentable. But at camp, they get to be worry-free. Sure, that sometimes means shower free. But you’re not there, so you don’t have to smell them.
They can be reckless. Camp is a safe way to be a little bit wild and reckless. At home they’d never be allowed to play soccer without shoes or climb that tree that beckons them, but at camp it’s all okay.
They learn to be more tolerant. Siblings bicker at home over the slightest thing, but put a kid in camp and he’s sharing a room with 12 new best friends who may snore, have gas, or grind their teeth. By being exposed to all kinds of kids from all kinds of places, kids at camp (hopefully) learn to be more accepting of others.
Now, when do mums get to go to camp? Sounds fun!