At the best summer camps, learning is stirred into play. Suveera Sharma looks into the benefits of a holiday well spent.
If ‘holiday’ was a person, he would surely be the most loved one on earth. He would be fun, sometimes engaging and sometimes lazy, but always welcome. For adults and kids alike, a break from the regular monotony of life is something to look forward to. Holidays bring images of excited kids and slow-paced, lazy afternoons, of reunions and celebrations with loved ones, and of distant or near travel.
That said, many of us DB families choose not to travel out, preferring to stay in the comfort of our homes for at least some of the summer holiday. And as much as we love the chatter and liveliness of children in the house, it sometimes does get difficult to keep them engaged constructively. Holidays should not mean a complete end to the structured day… which is where holiday camps come in. They serve to occupy kids for a couple of hours a day and provide some structure, and they then deliver them back to you having been well occupied for the few hours that they were away.
Connecting with the real world
Never was the line between real and virtual as blurred as it is now. These days, all our lives revolve around technology. Even schools are ‘smart schools’ with a lot of studies being done on computers or iPads. Children are constantly in front of screens. While it is the call of changing times and perhaps even required, it is so important to disconnect every once in a while. Many summer camps give kids an opportunity to escape the virtual and interact with real people and play games, using more than just their thumbs.
Last year, I enrolled my daughter Aarushi and son Soham in a sports camp. Not only did they both have fun, it also taught them team spirit and cooperation. They came back every evening tired but looking forward to the next day enthusiastically. It was time well spent, in a safe environment. At home, I would have let them succumb to the lure of the screen at some point.
Jessie Wright, another DB parent, sends her daughter Bella to holiday camps regularly. “It teaches her independence and responsibility. In the time away from home, where she is on her own, she learns to manage her belongings and emotions,” says Jessie. “Last year she enrolled in a dance camp. It helped her find an outlet for her emotions in a beautiful way while at the same time, it was a great exercise for her. Instead of being at home where at some point she would have picked up her iPad, she was engaging with the real world.”
DB mum Maya Eliasuf also believes in the benefits of summer camps for children, and enrolled her son Liad, who loves sports, in a four-day sports camp last year. “It was a win-win situation for both of us,” she says. “While he enjoyed the camp immensely, I got some extra time to complete my chores. The camp was a lovely mix of indoor and outdoor activities for the kids. In a world that is becoming virtual, it was nice to give him a break.”
Enhancing social skills
It is a well-known fact that children learn best when they are in a group learning together. It not only enhances their learning, but also gives them the opportunity to hone their social skills, which will have a lifelong impact on their relationships and personalities. Holiday camps provide a perfect environment for children to intermingle and learn.
Jessie remembers sending her daughter to a very unique environmental awareness camp. “The children had to get together in groups and make actual liveable huts out of recycled material,” she says. “They learnt how closely related the ecosystem is and how we cannot detach ourselves from it… how man is a social animal and can only prosper if there is an element of harmony in the environment. The kids learnt how to cooperate with each other and deliver results.”
Maya also says that summer camp really helped Liad’s social skills. “It was a mixed age-group camp, so his confidence improved greatly,” she says. “The older kids took care of the younger ones and felt responsible for them. While it taught the older ones responsibility, the younger kids were encouraged to go beyond their abilities and push their limits a bit.”
My children were recently part of a mixed-age cooking camp. It was good to see my daughter helping the younger kids with the slightly more complicated tasks, without being asked. My son, on the other hand, upped his game in trying to be as neat and well presented as the older children. It was nice to see the kids work with their peer groups as well, to come up with ideas and thoughts.
Learning new skills and stepping out of your comfort zone always broadens your horizon and opens new avenues. It is a known fact that all top achievers are lifelong learners. To constantly look for new insights and ideas and keep growing is the biggest and most important life lesson that we can teach our kids. Exposing them to novelty and challenging them physically and mentally will shape them to the best of their potential.
“One camp Bella went to had the motto of ‘No rules, but promises.’ It was a carefree environment where they worked on ideas and learnt to be responsible for their actions. It gave her a sense of purpose, hope and direction,” shares Jessie.
Maya recounts how Liad was so excited about the final day of a drama camp he attended recently. “The entire team of children had to give a performance at the end. It was nice to see them think and innovate, and work very hard to put on a great show.”
Equally, I know that sports camp challenged both my children every day. They were tired from all the physical exercise and would come home and have a full healthy meal, essential to nourish their bodies. They would wake up looking forward to their day with excitement and give it their best shot. They learnt to play within the rules and experienced the spirit of fair play. Through sports the children learnt discipline, problem solving and perseverance, which are much needed skills in life.
The benefits of holiday camps are indeed many. Fortunately, we live in a community which has a reputation for being family friendly. We have a plethora of options with ample open areas for sports and fitness. There are innumerable options to stay close to nature and be outdoors or stay indoors and perhaps try something different. No matter which camp we choose for our children, it is important to challenge them. If we push them to the outer boundaries of their abilities, we can then experience the joy as we watch their faces light up when they succeed.
As John A Shed wrote back in 1928, “A ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
For a list of summer camps in Lantau and wider Hong Kong this year, visit https://goo.gl/56TrRA.
Photos by Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.comTags: children, family, play, kids' summer camps, outdoor activities, social skills, benefits, games