By Anna Bilton, Summer Camp Director
Our scheduled free time period at camp is more valuable than ever in today’s world. Children tend to have full schedules of school, recreation and family commitments, and just like many of us they are often constantly engaged online.
Now, there’s a lot on offer to do at camp as well. Between the wide variety of skill-based activities on offer, swim time, cabin activity and non-stop evening program fun, we are busy! And that is a good thing for most of the day – it means campers can try many things, hone their skills and learn to work together as a group. However, there is also enormous value in unstructured free time for children. Let’s delve into how free time at camp gives kids room to grow.
What is free time at camp?
First of all, you probably want to know what free time is and when it happens. Most days there is a free time period each day before dinner. It’s around 50 minutes long and gives campers the opportunity to do what they like for a time. Various program areas are open for kids to drop into such as arts and crafts, the swimming pool, climbing wall, garden and sports courts. The camp store is open for campers to buy ice pops and more. Kids can also sit and talk to friends, play cards and relax. It’s entirely up to them. Our team supervises each area with care to make sure everyone is accounted for and is safe.
Sometimes we run special free time events and competitions for campers who want to participate. They are always optional and fun, relaxed offers.
Free time fosters independence
It’s important for campers of all ages to have some autonomy over how they spend their time at camp. Kids can choose what they want to do, for how long, with who and when they do it. (Camp staff are always on hand to intervene if needed or to buddy up with a camper who is looking for company.) It’s good for kids to feel confident in their decision making and make independent choices. These are powerful life skills that make for healthy happy kids and adults.
The benefits of boredom
While there is no shortage of things for campers to do during free time, they don’t have to anything at all if they don’t want to. And that’s no bad thing! We often see boredom in a negative light, but in truth it’s good for us to be bored sometimes. When kids have nothing specific to do and no agenda to complete they are able to be their most creative. Often the best and most interesting ideas come about when we have time to think.
In addition, kids need brain breaks. Sometimes they just need time to play and relax. Down time gives campers an opportunity to switch off, relieve stress and anxiety, and provides room for creative play.
A chance to reset and refocus
It takes a lot of energy to focus all day at camp on the instructions and directions for activities and events. Free time is when campers can stop and listen to their own bodies and needs. There’s room to try something new during free time, but we do notice many kids find something they are comfortable doing. It’s usually because they have been concentrating all day on their scheduled activities and need to recharge. For some campers, playing hockey does just that and for others it’s sitting on a bench to make friendship bracelets gives them a boost. When the period ends and it is time to return to the structure of the day, campers are recharged and ready to go!
Learning through play
Finally, we learn when we play. It’s when we practice how to win, lose and compromise. A pick up game of basketball or a competition in the gaga pit can be a great teacher! Campers will often revisit an activity they tried earlier that day or that week during free time. They have time to persevere and work through the challenges that come with learning a new skill.
Free time is the perfect time to play, to get creative and to try out new ideas. We notice that campers come up with the most interesting games and ideas during free time. It’s wonderful to see a group of campers play a new game together or come up to the director and share their ideas for theme day activities. Free time is when so much of this creativity comes to the forefront.
Free time fun this summer
Hopefully by now you too are sold on the value of free time at camp. We see the benefits of this unstructured time each day during the summer and campers look forward to it. Above all, free time is fun and we sure love to have fun at camp!
Register now to save your spot for Summer Camp.