The Power of Play

When our kids were little, my husband and I used to weave our way through Mega Bloks, Magna-Tiles, toy trains, race cars, wooden puzzle pieces, stuffed animals and balls… so many balls… in pretty much every room of our house. When they were old enough to play unsupervised for longer stretches, we declared eminent domain over the first floor and moved most of their toys to the basement playroom. By this point, they’d graduated to intricate Lego sets, board games, costumes, action figures, football guys and hockey guys (aptly named Football Guys and Hockey Guys, respectively), and goofy rubber monsters in tiny plastic trash cans.

Birthdays and Chanukah were a no-brainer back then. There was no shortage of gift ideas… things that would keep their growing minds and bodies active and engaged. The best part was, they actually wanted the things we felt good about giving them.

Until they didn’t.

As soon as we gifted them with cell phones and an Xbox, our boys forgot how to play.

Their entire lives played out on those screens. No need to put holes in your pants playing knee hockey when you can play NHL ‘16, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19… (Seriously… why did they need a new one every year? Did the players slow down with age?) Not only did my kids stop playing… they stopped looking up. They could no longer entertain themselves. They needed constant stimulation and validation from their devices. I had to address them multiple times to get them to acknowledge me, yet they’d jump to attention at every, ping, ding and ring. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d tripped over a Beyblade and it made me sad.

Too old for recess? No. Too young to not play.

Home wasn’t the only place they’d stopped playing. In our town, there’s no recess after elementary school. It’s not that they don’t need it; research* shows that 15 minutes of running around just for fun reengergizes kids and enables them to be more focused when they return to class. There’s just no time built into their packed schedules because it’s not a priority. During the school year, if it weren’t for organized sports to give them a place to be, other kids to be with, and a reason to break a sweat, I’m pretty sure my kids would never get off the couch.

Want to get kids off the couch, off their devices, and outside playing every single day?  Send them to overnight camp.

And yet, none of this is an issue when they’re at camp. At Bauercrest, we know it’s just as important for the 17-year-olds to run around and play as it is for the 7-year-olds. Not just the organized sports. All of it. From the made-up games that have been played on the Hillside for generations to the games that have yet to be conceived, there’s often more opportunity packed into these seven weeks than in the other 45 weeks of the year combined. If 15 minutes of play can set your child up for a successful afternoon at school, just imagine what an entire summer can do. We see it all the time, and trust me… it’s amazing what these kids are capable of once they start looking up.

Camp is the best gift you can give your child.

If you find yourself getting caught up in the craziness of the holidays, just remember that giving kids what they want is not always the same as giving them what they need. The majority of kids who end up loving camp most were probably not begging to go beforehand. They went because their parents insisted on giving them an extraordinary gift from which they’d continue to benefit in every aspect of their lives.

Wishing you a Chanukah filled with love, light and laughter. See you in the New Year!


*This article on the power of play is really eye-opening and worth the read!

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Stacy Pollack

Stacy writes our popular Dear Camp Mom blog and works year-round to ensure that Bauercrest creates memorable experiences for parents and campers alike. She also creates photo montages inspired by songs most of our campers have never heard before but make the parents very nostalgic.

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