“Play Is The Work Of Children. It’s Very Serious Stuff.”
Our title is a quote from Bob Keeshan (‘Captain Kangaroo’ for those who might remember!) and highlights our topic this week in our newest blog series, WeHaKee Wisdom! As you might imagine, play is the primary focus of the Camp WeHaKee program. But it is important to understand that play is so much more than just simply having fun. But fun is what makes play so enjoyably engaging for our campers!
To help us better understand the crucial nature of play as it relates to child and youth development, we thought we would take a look at the research of Dr. Peter Gray, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Boston College. Known for his deep interest in the areas of education, play, and child development, Dr. Gray has conducted extensive research on the role of play in learning and the impact of educational systems on children’s development.
His notable contributions include advocating for more student-directed and play-based approaches to education. He has written numerous articles and several books, including “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.” (2015, Basic Books). He emphasizes the importance of play in fostering cognitive, emotional, and social development.
Dr. Gray emphasizes the importance of play in child development and beyond. Here are some key benefits of play according to his research:
- Cognitive Development: Play stimulates a child’s cognitive abilities, including problem-solving, creativity, and the development of abstract thinking.
Example: Campers engaging in team-building activities or participating in educational and challenging workshops. These activities encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and intellectual growth.
- Social Skills: Play provides a natural setting for children to learn and practice social skills such as cooperation, negotiation, and communication.
Example: Campers living in close quarters and participating in group activities like cabin games or campfire discussions. This promotes teamwork, communication, and the development of lasting friendships.
- Emotional Regulation: Play helps children manage and express their emotions, teaching them how to deal with stress, frustration, and disappointment.
Example: Children navigating the ups and downs of camp life, from homesickness to the joy of making new friends. This environment provides opportunities for emotional expression and resilience-building.
- Physical Development: Active play contributes to physical health and development, promoting motor skills, coordination, and overall fitness.
Example: Campers participating in outdoor adventures such as hiking, swimming, or team sports. These activities contribute to physical fitness, coordination, and the development of gross motor skills.
- Curiosity and Exploration: Play encourages a child’s natural curiosity and the exploration of the world, fostering a love for learning.
Example: Campers exploring the natural surroundings, identifying flora and fauna during nature walks, or participating in outdoor science activities. Camp environments often encourage curiosity and hands-on learning.
- Resilience: Through play, children learn to cope with challenges and setbacks, developing resilience and a sense of adaptability.
Example: Campers facing challenges such as learning a new skill, overcoming obstacles in adventure activities, or adapting to a new routine. These experiences contribute to the development of resilience and adaptability.
- Creativity: Play provides an outlet for imagination and creativity, allowing children to invent, innovate, and express themselves in unique ways.
Example: Campers participating in arts and crafts, theater, or music activities. These creative outlets allow them to express themselves and explore their artistic abilities in a supportive and encouraging environment.
- Intrinsic Motivation: Play is often self-directed and intrinsically motivated, promoting a love for learning that comes from within the individual.
Example: Campers choosing and pursuing elective activities based on their personal interests, whether it’s photography, archery, or horseback riding. This self-directed engagement fosters intrinsic motivation.
- Stress Relief: Play serves as a natural outlet for stress relief, helping children relax and recharge.
Example: Campers engaging in fun and recreational activities, whether it’s a spirited game of capture the flag or a relaxing afternoon by the lake. Playful activities contribute to stress relief and a sense of joy.
- Sense of Identity: Play allows children to explore different roles and identities, contributing to the development of a strong sense of self.
Example: Campers participating in talent shows or themed events where they can showcase their unique skills and talents. This allows them to express their individuality and build a positive sense of identity within the camp community.
As we suggested earlier, play is integrated throughout the camp experience at Camp WeHaKee. We provide our campers a comprehensive, safe and fulfilling play experience. As a premier overnight camp for girls, we offer structured play through our nearly 40 activity choices including swimming, horseback riding, tennis, pottery & ceramics, photography, water skiing, sailing, bicycling, and many more. And we also offer unstructured or free play during our ‘Lazy Mornings’ and other special events. Campers get to create, explore and discover in a multitude of ways at Camp WeHaKee.
We thank you for joining us today and we hope this will inspire you to not only ensure your children have ample time to play, but to enjoy play time for yourself. It is a great way to relax, rejuvenate and continue to grow. So.. have a great day and go out and play!