“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”
In a world where, for many, efficiency and specialization has become the perceived pathway to success it is easy to forget that free play in a child’s life is essential in the healthy development of a child as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. Adult lives are scheduled; most of our minutes are accounted for of our life in order to meet the demands of our varied roles; parent, spouse, professional, athlete, philanthropist (the list goes on and on). A natural byproduct of this structure is that our children’s schedule begins to mimic our own. Between school, athletics, homework and other extra-curricular activities, children have very little unstructured time and even less time for unstructured imaginative play.
The beauty of children disappearing, into the backyard to build forts and create their own worlds where they imagine, explore and assert themselves is for many a faded memory. So too is the invaluable opportunities such play affords to solve a broad range of problems on their own that results in increased confidence and the development of important critical thinking skills in a broad set of mental processes.
Camp Winnebago is a place where we intentionally create the time and setting for imaginative play. Literally, every day campers have the open space to play and socialize within a safe/supervised yet unstructured time period. There is openness to this time that allows mixing of age groups and access to and incredibly broad range of activities. Campers create games, navigate social dynamics, interact with nature and explore their power and identity within the world as an individual. This unique experience allows boys to develop a deeper confidence in their ability to function autonomously. According to both alumni and parents, the experience has a profound and positive affect on campers that stay with them for a lifetime.