Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Recently Tinker and Jackie invited friends and family to live, work and play together in their camp style home. As the quintessential program director, Jackie assigns “staff” to programs, dish duty, and more while “campers” sign up for the different daily activities offered around the property.
We think this is a GREAT way to organize a large group of friends and family who are coming together to celebrate the holidays…and an economical one, too. You can take the mystery out of “what are we going to do today, Mom?” or the worry that, perhaps, the chosen activity for the day (say, bowling) may NOT be what your 93 year old great grandmother had in mind for her afternoon. Plus, you can share the cost of meal planning and preparation, gas, and—in some cases—you might even qualify for a group discount!
A few tips for creating an effective holiday family camp program:
1. Create variety: On a daily basis, have at least three activities to choose from that will take a similar amount of time but appeal to different age groups. A cookie decorating/baking party for the kids (followed with a costume dress-up “tea” afterwards); a “Last Minute Mall Crawl” for final holiday shopping (take your highest occupancy vehicle—or even consider renting a van for a few days); and a nature walk/bike ride/park excursion for high energy individuals (read: young boys) and others who just want to be outside. We recommend always having some sort of outdoor activity going on—this gets folks out of the house, reconnecting with nature and the elements, getting some fresh air and sunshine, and is a low-cost, no-cost activity. For ideas of what to do once you GET everyone outside, check out the 101 Nature Activities pdf.
2. Utilize your resources and share your gifts: have a number of family members who live in the same town? Find out what they can/want to offer as activity ideas. Perhaps you have a cousin who could take a group fly fishing for an afternoon, or a grandmother who is a docent at the local art museum, or your own child who wants to lead a tour of her favorite parts of the community zoo. Setting up a board game station or a “daily craft” table in the basement will also provide some activities to do during transitions or down time. If everyone is meeting in a unique location, send out a link to the town/city website and ask folks to find activities that look interesting to them...assign staff accordingly.
3. Make a job wheel: For families all coming together under one roof for a few days, a job wheel is a great way to assign tasks that will make the host/hostess feel less overwhelmed, and help the guests feel like they know what they “can do to help” without having to ask constantly.
The job wheel can either be designed for family groups (“Plan and prepare dinner” “Kitchen clean up and dishes” “Pick the movie for Movie Night” “Breakfast Buffet” “Put Out/Take Down the Sack Lunch Fixings” “Tidy Common Areas”) or for individuals (“Sweep Kitchen” “Toilets/Toilet Paper Monitor” (makes sure toilets are clean and all bathrooms have toilet paper on the rolls) “Eco-Freako” (last person out of the house who makes sure all the lights are off, heat is down, and doors are shut) “Trash & Recycle Fairy” (makes sure trash is emptied and recyclables end up in their proper containers) “Happy Hour Hostess” “Weatherman/Coat Patrol” (this person makes sure all little people have all the things they need for the day and are in the proper attire…this might need two slots on the job wheel.) A job wheel makes mundane tasks a little more fun, and a little less overwhelming!
4. Food, Outcamp and Able Waiters: This is what makes the holidays fun…and STRESSFUL. Utilize a job wheel (#3 above) and/or have simple breakfast/lunch spreads that can be “self-serve” or even packed “outcamp-style” with all of lunch for 8 packed in a crate to be served and eaten at the zoo/park/children’s museum/mall food court/hiking trail/etc..
For big dinners, consider trying out non-traditional holiday themes (“Candyland” was a big hit with the campers this summer…but probably wouldn’t work very well for your vegan, sugar-free sister-in-law) to provide opportunities for creativity, excitement and COSTUMES. At our house Thanksgiving means bringing and eating foods which we are thankful for—and pizza is ALWAYS on the menu. Antsy kids can take the job of “able waiters” who clear the table after meals—and they can be paid in “chits” for doing a good job. Chits can be redeemed for all sorts of great rewards (ice-cream party, “first-turn” privileges, “treasures” from a treasure chest, etc.) and provide a fun incentive to help all week/weekend long.
5. Big Evening Events: Pictionary games are legendary; a bag-skit night can be even more so. Create mixed age groups and give them a sack with an assortment of random things—each group then comes up with a skit in which everyone participates using ALL the items from their bag. Themes of “Our Favorite Part of the Week” or “Holiday Happenings” or “What Might Happen If…” will help family members overcome stage-fright and the dreaded “skit-block”. Sing-a-longs, a moon-lit night-hike around the neighborhood (or neighboring woods), and—of course--roasting marshmallows for s’mores in a backyard firepit, the fireplace, or even the fondue pot (FINALLY you get to use it for something!) are great family-friendly events that will create memories for years to come.
6. Create “Camp” Traditions: Family style dining, announcements, singing, costumes, celebrating the everyday, sharing in the successes of others, being grateful and thankful for your friends and family—sounds a little like the holidays, too, right? Make sure to give everyone ample opportunities to share “highs-lows” or their favorite part of the day or something they learned and who they learned it from. With camp-style activities, family members may not be together during the day, so it is important to reconvene and share stories, laughter, and thanks. A great treat is a “Praise Jar” where family members can leave notes of appreciation and thanks to each other—and at the end of the week/weekend, those notes are distributed to each person—a more meaningful gift than anything that could be purchased at the mall.
The most important thing to remember when planning a camp-style program of fun and adventure for your friends and family this holiday season is to be flexible—who hasn’t had the impromptu infirmary in their basement because cousin Alice suddenly came down with the chicken pox on Thanksgiving morning?—and to channel your inner camper. Kids rarely know how much preparation and work goes into a fun, nature-filled, activity-rich day at camp…they just know it was a great day. So don’t stress, let others help, and don’t let the “teachable moments” get lost in the desire to execute the plan. The kickball game at the park dissolves when the 7 year old outfielder discovers a wolf-spider den in the grass? See if you can catch the fly that brings him out of his lair.
And, no matter what happens, it will be a holiday celebration everyone will remember for YEARS to come. We hope the Hatfield’s have a fantastic holiday season at Camp Hatfield, and that your holiday season is as joyous and fun-filled as a day at camp!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Our narrator in Zen Shorts is Stillwater (a giant panda), who first tells a tale of a robber attempting to steal from his rather material-poor uncle. The uncle (a polar bear, of course) startles the robber when he offers up the clothes on his back—the robber takes the clothing and runs. Moments later, while looking up at a beautiful full moon, the uncle laments, “All I had to give him was my robe…I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”
The beauty of a camp experience is that kids actually DO get the moon…and the stars…and the trees…and an understanding, appreciation and wonder for the natural world. At camp, and in the outdoors, our days and actions are “stripped” to the necessary and the functional. There is not a great deal of material excess or concern, so campers and staff alike find it easier to begin to look outward: to connect with the natural world and with each other.
“There is something about Sanborn and the mountains that is unattainable anywhere else on earth. The greatness of the landscape humbles you and makes you grateful for life at the same time.”
Similarly, in the second tale, we learn of a farmer who seems to have both a great deal of both bad and good luck. His horses run off (bad), and eventually they return and bring back some wild horses (good luck); his son tries to ride one of the wild horses and breaks his leg (bad luck), and then the army recruiters arrive to enlist young men to fight in a war, but they see the son’s broken leg and pass him by (good luck). In each instance, a bevy of well meaning neighbors stop by to offer their sympathy (“Such bad luck!”) or celebration (“Such good luck!”) to the farmer who always replies, “Maybe.”
During the summer, it appears easy to see something like a missed summit or a conflict in the living community or getting lost on a hike as a failure—or just bad luck. In actuality, the missed summit builds anticipation, desire and strength for the next climb; the conflict allows us to look at our communication and group living skills; and being lost teaches us how to deal with adversity, anxiety, and a lack of control. The opportunity to work in environments so rich with diverse growth opportunities isn’t rare—it is just a matter of perspective. Unlike some potentially less forgiving environments, at camp when we think we have “the answer” there is both the vision and the challenge of “…maybe.”
“The mountains are a place where you can forget about the congestion and commotion of city life and focus on what life really has to offer.”
My favorite story is the last. Two monks are passing through a flooded town when they see a rather cross-looking woman who is waiting for her attendants to carry her across the water-filled street. The older monk quickly picks her up, carries her across, and sets her down—only to have her shove him away without a bit of thanks. The younger monk stews over this woman’s rude behavior for the rest of the afternoon and then finally berates the older monk for even picking her up because she was obviously such a terrible person…a statement to which the older monk replies, “I set that woman down hours ago, why are you still carrying her?”
So who are WE carrying today and why? A month may seem like a long time, but for our campers it passes like a heartbeat—and, no wonder, this place and the people here create their own energy and life rhythm. There isn’t time or space for holding on to slights or hurt feelings or drama—there IS time and space to work through those challenges in a healthy way and move on. Our campers and staff who understand that letting go of whatever hinders them (negative perceptions of themselves or others, bad choices in the past, family issues, etc.) are able to grow limitlessly during their time at camp.
“I am coming back to camp because I have more and better friends here than any other place on earth; each summer is an adventure, and each summer I push myself farther.”
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Today I was thinking about the children and nature movement. At camp, we know the benefit of taking children outdoors. There are authors writing books about children and nature. The media have focused a great deal of time promoting children going outside. The government has gotten involved creating bills to reconnect children with nature. Do you know what I found when I did a Google search today of “children and nature” blogs? More than 88 million people were talking about the significance of children and nature.
This is HUGE. It is important to learn about, understand, and discuss. Most of all, it is important to actually go OUTSIDE with your children! It is hard to find the time. We all have busy schedules. But, just think how much fun it was when you were a child to jump in piles of leaves, help your parents rake, or even just play in the yard after school. The payoff of spending a few minutes outside with your children is worth the few minutes it takes you away from cleaning the kitchen, sending one more email, making one quick phone call.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know we had snow last week, then a beautiful day Saturday. The changing weather made me enjoy being outside even more. The aspen leaves are almost completely yellow right now. I challenge everyone to go out and take in what’s around you. Let your children appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature. As the temperatures drop, it is harder to motivate to go outside. It takes effort to bundle up and be sure everyone has mittens and hats. However, if you get in the habit now of spending a little time outside and enjoying nature, it will be easier as the fall becomes winter.
How do your children connect with nature?