Play. It seems so simple and yet it is a disappearing feature of childhood, teen, and adult life. According to many sources, play is important for healthy brain development. Through play, children interact with their world and develop their imagination, creativity, and emotional strength. Physical play also gives youngsters an opportunity to develop dexterity and physical strength.
Some of these same benefits are obtained by teens (and adults) when they play. For young adults, play helps to develop problem-solving skills, independence, and perseverance as well as creativity. Additionally, in our very busy, often individualistic world, play offers an opportunity for engagement and has been shown to release endorphins. In other words, it is fun.
At Farm & Wilderness, we play in many ways. Some activities like “swamp ‘em” in our canoes and dressing up in flamboyant costumes are enjoyed at all of the camps. Some play is more camp specific. Indian Brook senior lodge Woodchuck Apprentices built a Gaga Pit first session and it is now constantly in use by groups of energetic campers. More familiar sports like soccer, frisbee, capture the flag, and badminton are also enjoyed at our camps. As is dance, like the contra dancing at the Barn Day Camp on Topsy Turvy Tuesday.
Some of our play is imaginative like Saltash Mountain Camp skits or fairy house construction, creatively involving people in other places and times. On other occasions, play is used as a teaching tool, like the brisk game of banana tag that had Flying Clouders buzzing around their clearing, learning fellow campers’ names by tagging them out. Sometimes the play is more spontaneous; Timberlake and Tamarack Farmers sliding down the soggy hills on the soccer field on mattresses in response to a sudden burst of rain a few weeks back, for example. And other times, it has the weight of ritual and involves intrigue and excitement, like the playing of Wild People at Saltash Mt. Camp or S-30 at Timberlake.
In many childrens’ lives out of camp, access to school recess is declining, and their afternoons (and evenings) are often filled with scheduled activities and/or homework. A summer at Farm & Wilderness flips that equation. Many studies are pointing to this decline in opportunities to play as coinciding (if not causing) a rise in anxiety and depression among youth. Which leads me to conclude that besides being incredibly fun, a good sprint down the hill in pursuit of a fellow camper, or a raucous game of Battleblanket, can also be good for you. 🙂