Swimming, canoeing, shooting a bow and arrow…these are all activities that our campers take part in every single day at Camp Fletcher. Even though our counselors and staff know how to control these situations and safety is always our #1 concern, there are risks that campers must take when they come to camp. We’re learning more and more, however, that taking positive risks can be really good for children, and we’re even finding out that playing outdoors less can be harmful. At Camp Fletcher, we support risk taking, because it allows our campers to discover their world, learn responsibility and experience new things.
This article by the Children & Nature Network does a really great job of explaining why keeping kids inside, away from nature, can do more harm than good. No parent or teacher wants to see kids get hurt, but refusing to let children explore their environment may lead to problems much bigger than a bruise or a scratch. Studies suggest that keeping kids from exploring their environment may cause them to have underdeveloped sensory and balance systems. The author states:
They need to climb, jump, run through the woods, pick up sticks, jump in mud puddles, and fall and get hurt on occasion. These are all natural and necessary experiences that will help develop a healthy sensory system–foundational to learning and accomplishing many of life’s goals.
At Camp Fletcher, we highly value climbing, jumping, and running because we know kids need to play and explore. However, we know all of these activities come with some risk. Our staff and counselors are highly trained and they know how to handle these risks. We’re extremely committed to safety, and we follow a few simple guidelines whenever our campers are engaging in positive risk.
- We know our campers: Our staff spends a lot of time with our campers, and they’re able to develop an understanding of their fears and concerns. When our counselors tell campers “it’s okay,” it really is okay. They know where your kid is coming from if they’re afraid to participate in the ropes course or shoot a bow and arrow, but they also know that trying new things can be one of the most rewarding experiences a camper will have all summer.
- We teach kids how to be in control: We give our campers all the instructions and supervision they need when they’re trying something new. We know that new experiences can be scary, so we equip our campers by telling them what to expect. This allows them to be more comfortable and to feel in control of the situation.
- We teach responsible decision making: When our campers complete a section of the ropes course or hit the bulls-eye in the archery range, we want them to feel a sense of accomplishment in that! Our campers begin to see the consequences of the decisions they make, and this allows them to develop an understanding of responsible decision making. When they work hard and encourage their team, they’ll get the positive results they’re looking for. Teaching kids how to make decisions, especially when it comes to risk taking, is so vital.
Even though risk taking might be new to our campers, we know they will gain so much from it. Increased confidence, improved reasoning and coping skills, and increased strength are just a few of the benefits of taking risks at camp. Safety will always be our #1 concern, but we know that taking risks isn’t inherently bad. When we’re able to teach campers to be in control and make good decisions, we’re giving them skills for the future.