🤝 Partnering with Parents: The Summer of Fun!

Dear Manitou Parents,

Our mantra at Manitou has always been that the easy part of camp is giving kids good old-fashioned fun, but camp is a lot more than that. For this summer though, we may say otherwise. This summer we have decided that more than ever, we want to wholeheartedly embrace the foundation of what camp is meant to be – FUN.

Each year we write you a quick note about our thoughts for the summer. Past articles spoke about the power of camp in terms of building resilience. Almost 12 years ago we wrote that we were seeing an increase in anxiety levels because of helicopter parenting, combined with social media stresses. Unfortunately, as it stands now due to COVID, anxiety levels are double of what they were just two years ago.

So, the theme of this short piece is much more basic and fundamental. It’s about “fun”. There is a book called “The Power of Fun” and we are proud to take from this book most of the messaging below.

Why concentrate this summer just on fun, and not the importance of inculcating core values and teaching kids to appreciate life, every day and to appreciate each single human being? Why not talk about the importance of giving back to others and truly making a difference in this world? Not to worry, we are still doing all these things, and below is an introduction of our speakers and theme for our Manitou Cares Programming for this summer. But after two years of COVID, we truly feel what these kids need is to be kids again. Not modern-day kids harnessed to their technology, but kids outdoors playing, being creative, being spontaneous, and laughing until their guts hurt.

Kids love camp. They will always say they love camp because its “fun”. But let’s take a closer look to what that truly means. True fun is restorative, it creates resilience, empathy, and community. It reduces competition and resentment. It allows people to connect by escaping from self-judgment while at the same time being fully present in the moment. In the past, we have talked about not over-programming kids and leaving time for purposeless play. Programming kids to build their resume at age 12 in our humble view is not always the best approach to creating healthy kids. Sometimes we fall into this trap because we want them to succeed.

The pandemic forced most of us to rely even more heavily on screens and to try to re-create virtually what was no longer available in person. Most aspects of our lives went online as technology became essential to our everyday functioning. Now we feel it’s time to go back to basics. Last summer at camp it was the perfect time to start the “reset” and we know it was not easy for many of our population to adapt to camp, at first.

It’s been proven scientifically that all these technology buzzes, from video games to social media exposure create a dopamine hit. You become addicted to your technology and to satisfy that addiction you must increase your technology use. What happens is that formally enjoyable “fun” activities with friends feel less stimulating and are too much effort to create that natural high. Even binge watching a fabulous TV show is enjoyable but it’s not fun in the true sense of the word. True fun is when you laugh and connect with another human being in person over some shared experience.

What is even more concerning is that recent scientific studies have shown that when we are constantly using technology, the dopamine created as a result causes a heightened state of anxiety. This is because the cortisol levels remain high in the body over a long period of time. In fact, recent studies have shown that this anxiety we all are experiencing is a physical chemical reaction to our technology use.

True fun heals us. According to the founder of the National Institute of Play (yes can you believe there is such a thing -only a camp director would know about that!) “The times we feel most alive are those moments …. of play”

It’s intuitive and proven with study after study, that what makes a good life, are healthy “relationships”. In turn it’s healthy relationships where true fun occurs. That natural connection with people known as “collective effervescence” is all about when fun spreads throughout a group and how that is so healthy for your mind and body. That is exactly what camp is and gives to our campers as well as our staff each summer!

When we look out at camp from the camp house porch and see the kids from afar, we see more people laughing and smiling than any time and place in our lives. People who laugh more often have been found to have lower risks of serious disease, from heart conditions to cancer. Whether you truly believe this or not, we all can agree it feels so good to laugh. Children laugh far easier than adults because their brains have not been rewired over years of exposure to technology the way ours have.

Let’s all think about having fun this summer, true fun. Summer is a great time to get away from binge watching TV shows and checking our phones all day. Let’s use the summer to rejuvenate and do something spontaneous, something a little off the wall. Maybe it is a trip you’ve always wanted to take or something that will get you out into nature. Perhaps a fun bike ride, a game of tennis with a friend you’ve been putting off or a simple hike in a nearby park? Let’s all just get off the couch, away from our phones, and try to experience what your kids will experience this summer which is fun in the truest and simplest form.

CLICK HERE to read about our ManitouCares speakers coming up to camp the summer.

Leave a Reply