In today’s digital, fast-moving, ultra-competitive world, raising kids who grow into happy, independent adults has become more challenging for parents. Gold Arrow Camp offers a traditional camp experience that many parents have found to benefit their child’s development of important … Continue reading
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“The study, released Feb. 12, found that behaviors associated with helicopter parenting have a negative impact on the college-aged adult’s feelings of autonomy, competency, and their relationship with their parents. Conventional wisdom in the field of psychology suggests that these … Continue reading
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“Each day comes bearing it’s own gifts. Untie the ribbons.” -Ruth Ann Schaback grat•i•tude: a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received; thankfulness Our theme for summer, 2012, is gratitude. All campers and staff will practice being … Continue reading
Watching the campers construct fishing poles out of sticks and lanyard string, I had a revelation. Kids rarely get a chance to play like this any more. And, boy, are they good at it when they are given the opportunity!
For the first time in many years, I went on a GAC backpacking trip last summer. Led by Kamau and Blitz, our experienced and fun backpacking instructors, Cabin 0 and I enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon and overnight at Indian Falls before returning to camp the following morning.
We drank our water and ate our special camp trail mix – a homemade concoction of granola and LOTS of chocolate. Since it was warm, our chocolate melted, making a gooey, cookie-like substance that tasted much better out on a trail than it ever would at home.
When we reached our destination, we weren’t overly tired (it’s about a two and a half mile trip), but we were hot and ready to go in the water. In the pool below Indian Falls, the kids swam, played in the waterfall, and explored. Three hours passed while the girls entertained themselves playing in and around the water. When Kit Kat (the group counselor) brought down lanyard string, several of the girls made fishing poles. I was struck by how naturally creative kids are when left to their own devices. And I was so thankful that our campers have the opportunity to just play, without adults providing all of the structure, all of the time.
I was also thankful that our children get to spend a night in an even more remote and natural setting than camp. Several of the girls were experienced GAC campers who were well versed in “nature peeing,” which is what is required when you’re out in the wilderness without toilets of any kind. One first-year camper proudly declared at campfire that she had done her first “nature pee.” I thought about how many kids (and people) don’t want to spend a night in the wilderness, because they can’t bear the thought of being without the comforts of home. These girls absolutely loved being there and felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment at carrying their belongings and learning to live outdoors. I know they are developing a love of the outdoors and am so glad they had the opportunity to backpack at Gold Arrow Camp.
Our dinner was grilled cheese and pesto sandwiches (pesto optional) and tasted delicious. Everything tastes better cooked over a campfire! We ate through two loaves of bread before we moved on to s’mores and a cookie concoction that was slightly charred on the outside but gooey and delicious on the inside.
The girls shared their highs and lows of the day around the campfire before we brushed our teeth using our water bottles and climbed into our sleeping bags to enjoy the night sky. I woke up several times and never quite found a comfortable position on the hard dirt, but the stars provided a great backdrop to a restless night of sleep. The campers, however, all declared in the morning how well they slept. Ah, the miracle of childhood!
We returned to camp with dirty faces, hands, and clothes, but we felt fantastic and had an experience all of us will remember forever.
Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder is a great book about the importance of getting our kids out in nature.
Let’s get our kids unplugged and show them how amazing, beautiful, and fun it is to be outside!
- The Blessing of the Least Favorite Activity (sunshineparenting.wordpress.com)
“Friendship is the gold of childhood.”
Michael Thompson’s statement stuck with me long after I attended his session on the social lives of millennial children at a recent American Camp Association conference. I would go even farther and say that friendship is not just the gold of childhood, but also of life. And, unfortunately, our culture is not currently supporting the development of healthy, solid friendships between kids. Friendship is more important than any academic subject or athletic skill, and yet the way our kids spend their time does not reflect this importance. For many kids, there simply isn’t time in their lives for developing strong, close friendships.
What are our kids learning about friendship in this Facebook and texting era of “friends?” Many boast hundreds, even thousands of “friends.” Yet some of those same kids don’t have one single person in their life who meets the criteria of a true and trusted friend. Face-to-face social skills, such as being able to read non-verbal cues, are learned through practice. If communication is primarily through media, then those skills are not being honed. And, unfortunately, kids will text or message something hurtful that they would never say face-to-face. Yet the hurt feelings on the other end are real.
Another cultural factor that is counter-productive to the development of solid friendships is the constant, high-stakes competition our children are constantly in with their peers. Who’s ranked higher at school? Who made the “A” team? Who’s more popular? Often, instead of being truly supportive and encouraging to each other, kids want their peers to fail. How sad.
“Friends are those rare people who ask how you are and then wait for an answer.”
Making friends, and being a good friend, doesn’t come naturally to all people. And, coupled with the crazy culture we’re in, it’s no surprise that many kids are struggling to form strong friendships.
“Friends are everything. They are always there if you have a problem or
if you get hurt, they can always help you up.”
-Patricio, Camper, Age 8
Friends are the reason campers and counselors return to Gold Arrow Camp year after year. At camp, there is time for friendship. Precious, relaxing time to get to know each other, spend time making memories, and communicating face-to-face. Our whole camp community is built around inclusion, respect, and kindness. There is no competition at camp, no “A” team or “popular” group. Just kids having fun together and learning to live and play with each other, work out disagreements, and become better friends to each other.
“A friend is someone you’re not afraid to be yourself with.”
-Hannah, Camper, Age 14
Counselors are trained to help kids connect from the moment they get on the bus until the last good bye. Long talks at meals, around the campfire, and under the stars in sleeping bags are uninterrupted by cell phones and other technological distractions. Campers can’t “tune out” by putting earphones in. They stay engaged with each other and learn to connect. Counselors gently coach campers who need to develop social skills in areas such as listening skills, initiating conversations, and understanding non-verbal cues.
“Friends are awesome, because they stand up for you, and they care for you.”
-Joey, Camper, age 11
At our final campfire one session last summer, the Randy Newman song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” came on during the slide show. A group of four twelve-year-old boys sitting on the bench in front of me spontaneously put their arms around each other and started swaying back and forth, singing along to the song. I will never forget that vivid picture of the power of camp friendships.
Resources: Best Friends, Worst Enemies, by Michael Thompson; Michael Thompson‘s February, 2011, session at the American Camp Association Conference about Community, Friendship, Social Power and Bullying in Childhood and Adolescence; Separation Anxiety, article in Stanford Magazine’s January/February issue.