It’s the middle of the school year – our teachers and students have made their way out of winter break and back to school – although maybe just virtually – and camp feels both so close and too far away. Most of our campers have a full semester of school left before they make their way through the Runoia gates this summer.
During the school year, I tutor students in math. We learn so much together by practicing our multiplication tables, solving equations, and challenging ourselves – but each week when we’re together, we also play. I’ve seen games and play help anxious students open up, and even the best students to have fun and reinforce their skills. Play is often seen as the reward after the work, but play itself is a valuable tool for learning, de-stressing, and figuring out our world.
The power of play is clear to researchers, teachers, and camp professionals alike. Play is known to bust stress, foster imagination and creativity, increase physical activity, build confidence, resilience, and social skills, and much more.
But the power of play is not reserved for the youngest of our kids – you would have seen play often in my high-school classroom, too. Even my senior students – some as old as 18 – loved the simultaneous respite and excitement of the chance to play. It’s an honor as an adult to provide opportunities of play to the ‘too old’ kids, who may have learned that it’s embarrassing to play at their age. At Runoia, those walls come down and silliness reigns – and the best part is seeing our staff, CITs, and older campers set the example for our younger ones. Even our admin – especially our admin – can be some of the most enthusiastic partakers.
When I think of this, my mind goes immediately to some of our silliest EPs – evening programs – like Miss Tacky and Powder Faeries (if you know, you know!) In the case of Miss Tacky – perhaps the EP that our senior end campers get the most excited for – it’s amazing to see the creativity and imagination that our campers bring to the table with a simple prompt and the liberty to create.
While Runoia’s EP and program offerings provide more structured playtime, our schedule honors the all-important unstructured playtime as well. During sublime time, campers can be seen all over camp playing gaga, doing cartwheels on the grass, or making up games in the water. On trips, we often made up songs to get us through long paddles, played games while a meal was cooking, and built faerie houses.
In our current world – where we may fall in the trap of confusing screen time with playtime – it’s all the more vital to offer our kids, and ourselves, a space to unplug and safely play and explore. Here, I’m counting down the days until I can witness the power of play in our campers and tap into my own silliness and creativity once again.