As you find yourself isolated and out of sync with your regular lives for the coming days and weeks, you may be thinking about how to manage such a long stretch of unstructured time for both you and your kids. Taking your cues from camp may give you some creative ideas and a formula for success that everyone can get on board with. Here are some things to consider when you run your own home-camp program (counselors, unfortunately, not included).
Set a schedule – Make it fun by basing it off of a typical day at camp. Discuss shared goals and expectations with the kids – as our campers do with their bunkmates on the first night of camp – and let them be part of the decision making process of what happens and when. Routine provides much-needed structure, which kids need to feel comfortable and reduce anxiety, especially in times of social disruption.
Make time for play – Playing has scientifically proven benefits on social and academic development. If your school curriculum doesn’t allow for enough recess, now is your chance to make it happen! Start the day by throwing a ball around, doing some jumping jacks, or shooting some hoops to get the juices flowing. This should help them focus when they sit down for school work. Schedule in playtime, art and music throughout the day to keep them alert and engaged. Hand-eye coordination, core body strength, and fine and gross motor skills are all developed through play. These are also the skills that help your children sit still in class, write legibly with a pencil, and avoid a dodgeball at camp this summer.
Let boredom happen – Unstructured play is an important component of childhood development, promotes problem-solving and creativity and builds tolerance. When the “I’m bored” chant begins, resist the urge to offer up solutions and let them figure it out.
Gamify your day – There are many ways to make the mundane elements of the day seem like a game. Make clean-up and inspection part of your daily schedule, and offer prizes for the cleanest room. Have a sock-matching race when sorting laundry. Make a scavenger hunt list to locate missing items (that’s how we find all the lost tennis balls at the end of the summer!). Get creative and you’ll get a lot done!
Practice self-care – There’s a chance this could be a marathon, not a sprint. You will be a better parent if you prioritize your own physical and emotional well-being. (Even our counselors get a day off once a week.) Make time for yourself each day, pause from the news cycle every now and then (find your tech-free time), and give yourself a break if it doesn’t look “perfect”. This is when tech time for the kids has its benefits.
Change your scenery – Just like Trip Day at camp, a visit to the park, a hike with the dog, or other outdoor activity will help with that stir-crazy feeling you may already be experiencing. Just stay a safe distance from other people!
This probably sounds familiar to those of you who went to camp, and maybe many of you already incorporate some of these practices. I will always say that the best training I received for being a parent was working as a camp counselor — and maybe, over the course of the next few weeks, some of these quarantine routines will become everyday traditions your family looks forward to.