Thursday, March 7, 2019

Self-Directed Play at Camp Foley: Adventure Playgrounds!

We know that play and structure are two aspects of childhood that are important for the growth and development of youth. With that being said, studies are also beginning to emerge that too much structure and control in a child's activities can hinder decision-making, behavior regulation, and the belief that they are in control of their own lives.

Kids involved in less-structured activities have shown an increase in self-directed executive function as mentioned in Education Week's study, Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children's Executive Functioning.  The study defined structured activities as being anything organized and supervised by adults. Being involved in less-structured activities would include free play where the child is in charge of making decisions about what they do.

Play has been declining since the 50's resulting in the side effects stated above and leading to a rise in anxiety and problems with attention. Peter Gray's article, All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed lays out why play is so important for our youth.

In defense of structure, it can be a very beneficial piece of our everyday lives. Repeatable and familiar events decrease anxiety and allow us to prepare for what is likely to happen. Structure can often times be confused with control, where there is an adult (or a "decider") determining what happens. Structure can be positive, and with the right limits and boundaries, it can spur creativity within those boundaries. What if there was a way to spur creativity, autonomy, self-directed play, self-guided interest, and decision-making skills within a structured system?

At Camp Foley, we strive for both - we focus on structure, and we allow time for play! We are a Summer Camp, after all! We are introducing a NEW idea this summer: Adventure Playgrounds! 

We will have designated spots around camp during our non-activity days that have clear limits and boundaries, and campers will be able to choose entirely as to what is done at that spot. Various camp supplies will be in these spots, and kids are free to use them in any way they like within the boundaries and limits established. The point is to have camper-driven spaces in camp that promote kids learning how to interact, play, and choose what they want to do. Think similarly to Free Swim; campers choose things to do based on what's written on our whiteboard. If they opt for Paddlemania, they decide from the items available to them with clear instructions (buddy system, wearing a lifejacket, one person on the swing at a time, etc.). There's a Water Swing, Corcls, Playaks, and Water Mats to choose from. This is a depiction of structure with room for decision-making, free play, and creativity that we have here at Foley.

We can't wait to have Adventure Playgrounds set up all around camp, just waiting for the camper's creativity to PLAY this summer. Be sure to Register Today to make Camp Foley part of your summer!

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