An example: a few days ago, I received as an insert with my daily Globe and Mail, the glossy Our Kids Go To Camp summer camp guide (also available online). It seems a bit odd to receive such a guide in January, when the temperature is minus 24 with the wind chill. But I suppose it makes a certain sense: during the season of SAD we're more likely to pore over the beautiful pictures, fantasizing fondly about mosquito infested woods and heatwaves that make you actually want to take a dip in a freezing northern lake. Plus, from a practical perspective, the camp guide, which lists most overnight and day camps in Ontario (and some in Quebec), allows parents to plan in advance to ensure that they pick the right camp for their child, and that they enroll him or her early to avoid disappointment.
This year's guide, like those of past years, is full of articles extolling the benefits of camp for kids. There are, for example, a series of mini-interviews in which prominent people—ranging from reporter Jane Taber to entrepreneur Seth Godin—talk about their camp experience. There are also short informative articles about the various ways in which camp benefits kids. One short piece in particular by Lisa Van de Ven caught my eye. Entitled "The Value of Play," it begins with a statement about today's play-deprived kids:
Kids just want to have fun—and they need more of it, too. Many children today simply don’t get enough of unstructured playtime. “If you look at time in school, time at home, time watching TV, those things have either stayed consistent or gone up,” says Michelle Brownrigg, chief executive of Active Healthy Kids Canada. “But active playtime has decreased.”No argument there. The article goes on to state:
Camp gives children the playtime they need while encouraging creativity and social engagement. “What’s really unique about the camp environment—whether it’s a day camp or an overnight camp—is the opportunity for kids to explore being active in creative ways that aren’t as adult-driven,” Brownrigg says.Here's where I disagree. In a piece I posted last summer entitled Camp-Keep-Me-Busy, I argued the exact opposite: i.e., that the problem with many camps today is, they offer the same kind of overly-structured days filled with adult-directed activities as kids experience the rest of the year. The only difference is the type of structured activities offered and—in some instances—the natural backdrop.
If you have a minute, read the camp post and let me know what you think.