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Liberty Lake Day Camp

by Andy Pritikin, Director, Liberty Lake Day Camp
Let Children Play
Liberty Lake Day Camp: The Best Summer, Every Summer

How many of you were literally forced out of your house as children, to play for two or three hours at a time? My guess would be most of you. My mother used to actually add the charming phrase, “I don’t care if you throw rocks at each other!” to make her point: my brothers and I were going outside, and there would be no discussion about it.

Today, how many of you grown-ups force your kiddies outside for two to three hours at a time with no specific play date or plans? My guess would be very, very few. Why is this? Play is something that we were meant to do; it’s totally natural. Just watch a bunch of children left on their own, or puppies for that matter. We were simply meant to play outside.

Last winter we had over 40 inches of snowfall in the Philadelphia area, yet in my cute little cul-de-sac, with school-aged children in most every house, I did not see one snowman. While I was shoveling my driveway outside, all the children in our neighborhood were inside watching TV, playing video games or on the Internet – including my own kids.

In the book “The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children”, author David Elkin outlines how childhood traditions are going the way of the dinosaur: hop scotch, jump rope, hide and seek, and other classic games we played as kids are being forgotten. At Liberty Lake Day Camp, some of the most popular activities are “old school” playground games like Wall Ball, GaGa (a form of dodgeball) and Four Square, because kids have never played them before!

Thirty percent of schools in the nation have fewer than 20 minutes of recess each day. In my children’s school, physical education is on a two-week rotation with computers, Spanish, art and health. And forget about after-school; with hours of homework, sports practices, karate, dance and music lessons, when is there even time to play?

We have created a society that limits play for our children. Reasons for this include: the loss of social skills in modern children; the loss of true neighborhoods in which neighbors actually know each other’s names; lack of time; over-scheduling of kids; and too much homework or pressures to achieve academically.

Too many parents have fears that their kids will get snatched outside, but according to Lenore Skenzay, author of “Free-Range Kids”, statistics show the world is actually a whole lot safer than it was back when we were kids. Another threat to free play is organized sports; just because children play sports, doesn’t mean they know how to play, or eventually work, with one another effectively.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study on “screen time” showed that children aged 8-18 years old spend an average of eight and a half hours exposed to media each day – that’s TV, movies, video games, computers and print. This translates to an average of more than 56 hours per week! And as we hear every day, a third of American children are considered obese. Perhaps if they played outside like we did, instead of video games and computers, this would be different.

In many ways, Summer Camp at Liberty Lake has become the antidote to modern society. Campers come to places like Liberty Lake so that parents know they are safe and so kids can flourish, learning real-life skills like creativity, collaboration, responsibility, leadership, critical thinking, communication, adaptability, flexibility and what it means to be a good friend. Places like Liberty Lake create an extraordinary world that inspires children to believe that anything is possible, and that their potential is limitless.

Summer camp at Liberty Lake is a step back in time: no cell phones or video games and where “social networking” involves actually speaking to people face to face. Camp is the real deal, and without parents around, children learn the kind of social independence that many kids won’t experience until they go away to college. Most of all, children learn to play, just like the old days. They get to enjoy their childhood doing things that children have done for thousands of years -- playing with one another…outside! We need to give our children as much sunshine as we can while they are young, because as we know, they are going to need it later!

Liberty Lake
1195 Florence Columbus Road, Bordentown
(609) 499-7820

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family’s High School Spring Sports Preview, January, 2012.
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