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When a child is at your camp are they on the go the whole time? Do they go from archery – to horses – to fishing – to lunch – to crafts – to cooking – to the ropes course – to home?

When do they get a chance to relax and make friends? When do they get a chance to connect with their counselors? When do they get a chance to bond with their cabin mates?

Hangin’ Out – Makin’ Friends

At resident camps there is a lot more opportunity for campers to socialize; rest time after lunch, right before the evening activity, right before bed, sometimes after lights out. Most day camps, however, are so structured with activities that campers have no real time to lounge around and make new friends.

At our camp we have specific times where the campers get to “hang out”. This is usually done at the beach area. There is no forced activity. The kids can play on the beach, lay out, make some friendship bracelets, skip rocks or throw around a ball. They can make sand castles, hunt for crabs, wade in the water or even read a book.

As I look around at the kids during this time I see most of them talking with fellow campers about everyday things. They are involving other campers that they feel comfortable with in their “projects” of sand castle making or crab hunting. They are talking about movies and music as they make friendship bracelets, finding similarities with each other.They are conversing with staff about a variety of subjects. And, yes, one or two will read a book, which ineveitably ends up with someone either stating they read that book or asking about it. Boom! Instant connection.

The Best Part of Camp

When I survey parents as to what they think our best camp activity is they usually talk about the kayaking, the nature programs, the bike rides, etc. When I survey the campers themselves they usually talk about beach time.

Camp should be a place where kids can connect with nature, learn new skills, try new activities, are positively influeced by staff, make new friends and strengthen current friendships.

I believe most camps do a great job with activities and do there best with hiring and training incredible staff. But do they do a great job at allowing down time to build relationships?

Next summer schedule a time where campers can just “hang out” at the waterfront area, on the field, in the woods or even in the dining hall. Have things for them to do IF they want to; games, crafts, sports equipment, etc. Then, just let them be (supervised, of course). If they want to talk with staff they can. If they want to get into a group and just talk with peers they can. If they want to participate in one of the activities they can. And if they want to be on their own and read a book they can. Let it happen.