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Wellness Article

Summer Camps and Free Range Kids

"...when a camp offers diversity, a good rule of thumb is to also consider the level of creative freedom your child receives as well."
By Harry Tournemille
Summer Camps and Free Range Kids

What to say about summer? The heat, the slightly-more manic schedules, the increased consumption of frozen goods. Kids delighting in longer days, shorter nights, and parents fielding the constant questions of “What are we going to do now?” For many, summer camps are a great option. Many parents have to work during the months when school’s out, and if school can’t occupy your children during the day, something else has to. Plus, we want our kids to have fun, to run headlong into summer with abandon, and discover something new and exciting outside of school. Do we not all have fond memories of our summers as children?

All parents have criteria for choosing camps: safety, types of activities, reputation of the camps, costs—and while we all place different emphasis on what matters most to us, my votes for most important critiera go with diversity and freedom. The reason is simple: camps that speak to a diverse range of interests, and at the same time provide children with the freedom to discover within this range, enable kids to grow as independent individuals.

Diversity is a broad term. It can mean a comprehensive scope of activities, or a theme that celebrates the uniqueness we find in the world around us. It fosters the idea of individual moving parts within a greater whole, and it’s a great way to nudge kids outside of their comfort zones. To be willing to take on a task outside of their usual interests, or see the world through a different perspective, is a valuable quality. Better yet, to interpret new perspectives as acceptable norms is even better.

My daughter’s summer camp this year offers art, eco-training, Spanish, and world music. Not all at once, mind you (and thank goodness), but in a dynamic, experiential way that broadens her immediate understanding. She moves seamlessly from one element to another, choosing what fascinates her, perhaps trying something she has not tried before. As a parent, it’s hard not to love that uncomplicated joy.

Within this diversity is a necessary freedom. Some camps can get a little over-structured with how they set up their days. I’ve experienced some where arts and crafts become theme-specific to the point where children have to create specific projects a certain way, or use pre-determined colours. It’s the “colour within the lines” idea, and unfortunately it doesn’t always benefit the child to have their play determined for them. In fact, one has to ask if it is even “play” at all?

So, when a camp offers diversity, a good rule of thumb is to also consider the level of creative freedom your child receives as well. Free-range kids! That’s what we want. Diversity and freedom. Kids that erupt with laughter and joy while they discover that perfect summer vibe.

When I look back at my own summer camp experiences, I remember feeling like I was a king. I felt like no matter where I was or what activity, I got to decide how it fit into my world, and how I would interact with it. This sort of freedom provides confidence and growth. It helps your child establish themselves as living individual beings, all part of a greater whole.

Harry Tournemille is a writer and OAC grant recipient living in St. Catharines with his wife and daughter. He writes on behalf of the award-winning Beyond Montessori School (BMS) located in downtown St. Catharines.

The BMS curriculum is enriched with world music, visual arts, French, phys ed, children’s yoga (Zooga), eco workshops, peace projects and so much more.

Visit BMS online at www.beyondmontessori.com or call 905.937.0700 for information on Fall Registration.

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