Play Hard, Learn Hard
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” This is a quote from the popular TV personality Fred Rogers, and it couldn’t be any more accurate in my opinion, especially when it comes to summer camps. Many might see that and think, “How does summer camp have anything to do with learning?” Well, it has everything to do with learning, but not how you might think.
As a child, I attended several summer camps through the YMCA such as a horse camp, soccer camp, and summer day camp. I learned interesting things in these camps such as how to ride horses, different soccer techniques, fun games, etc., but I learned much more valuable things than that without realizing it. I gained social skills, gross and fine motor skills, problem solving skills, learned how to work with others, the list goes on and on. These are the type of skills that I have taken with me and use daily in both my professional and personal life.
I remember one time when I was a counselor, our directors set up an escape room for all of the kiddos. Each group would come up to the escape room and the kids and counselors would have to solve the puzzle in order to escape the room. We would have to connect numbers and words together that we found in the room to solve combinations locks and ultimately find a key to get out of the room. There was even a cardboard tunnel that the kids could climb through with a flashlight and find clues in. Kids of all ages absolutely loved this. I was the counselor for our youngest group where our youngest kids were in kindergarten, the counselors had to help a little more than they with the older kids, but the campers still had a blast.
This experience alone gave kids rich life skills, let alone all the other exciting things they did during camp. The kids and counselors had to work as a team while using communication and problem-solving skills. If we hadn’t used these skills and worked together, we would have been stuck in the room and wouldn’t have gotten the cool prize! It was great practice for the youngest camper to the oldest camper and is something that will stick with them forever, just like the life skills they practiced, but they don’t think about that they were simply just having fun.
As I have hinted at, summer camps are so much more than just play, even though it might not appear that way. Play is the way in which children learn, and summer day camps are so beneficial to children in this way. Summer day camps provide opportunities for children to work with other children through games and activities. They also provide time to practice core values such as responsibility, inclusiveness, respect, honesty, and being caring.
Throughout a summer day camp, day students will interact in various ways by doing different types of games and activities that support both physical and mental health, they will participate in different types of crafts, community service, and so much more. Children think that they are at summer camp having fun when in reality they are learning important life skills through each activity they do.
Summertime is often a time parents worry about their children losing out on important skills and lessons, but summer camps provide them with rich life experiences that work their brains and will last them a lifetime!
Amanda Stephens, Charles E. Lakin YMCA Youth & Family Manager
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