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Lessons from Camp: Balancing Structure and Downtime

Written By: happycamper

What we can learn from sleep away camp that can help bring structure and balance to our kids days at home.

Spending the summer at sleep away camp is like being with family.

When reveille blows at summer camp the day begins. The days are long yet fly by very quickly. Camps know how to program the kids for the day to keep a great balance between structure and downtime. Parents can learn from this using these helpful tips:

Kids brushing their teeth
Get up and get ready!

-Get personal hygiene out of the way. Wake up, wash up, brush your teeth and get dressed. Starting your day clean and refreshed is important for yourself and the rest of your camp family.

-Eat on schedule. Meals are at scheduled times. Typical we eat breakfast by 8:15, Lunch at 12:30 and Dinner at 6:00 with three snacks in the day. Kids love the predictability of meal time and quickly get used to the routine of eating. Eating together as a cabin, bunk or family is part of the enjoyment. Make sure everyone is sitting for meals together to promote socialization. Don’t rush to clear the table. Meal time is a great for social connection and even some fun games.

-Clean up! Get the chores done in the morning before heading into the more active part of the day. Go back and make your bed, put clothing in a hamper and whatever chores you have been assigned. We make something called a job wheel at camp which helps rotate assignments so they don’t get too boring. Try blaming some clean up music so that everyone can dance and sing along.

Scheduling chores for kids
Schedule chores for kids early in the day

-Morning Activities. At camp we break up the day into activity periods. Some activities the kids are assigned and some they get to choose. Take the school requirement and sprinkle in some options for the kids. Try some of the activities at happycamperlive.com like martial arts, guitar, singing, or dancing. We like to mix things up at camp. Kids trying activities for the first time helps them discover their passions.

-Eat Lunch. Lunch is the fun meal of the day. Eating outside, on the porch or in the grass in the backyard is a great way to get some fresh air and eat in a more relaxed setting.

-Rest Hour. Take a break. Not a recess run around and get your energy break but a chill relax nap or quietly read or play games break. This is the unstructured time that is so important for resetting.

Fun activities for kids
Explore new fun activities

-Afternoon Activity Periods. More activities in the afternoon also sprinkled with some choice. Perhaps trying a magic trick or learning how to play the ukulele.

-Shower Hour. Clean up and get ready for dinner. This makes it easier to settle down for the night when kids are tired or cranky.

-Dinner Time. Gather around the dinner table and bring some fun. Make some popsicle conversation starters, share the highs of the day, mix up the seats at the table.

Family Activities
Have fun in the evenings with planned activities like Karaoke

-Evening Activities. At summer camp we plan for evening as much as the days. There is always something fun to do. Play a card game, sing some karaoke, or host a talent show. At happycamperlive.com we love when campers submit their talents to the world’s biggest campfire!

-Lights out. Choose a consistent time for lights out. Give your kids a flashlight and let them have 15 minutes or so of time to read a book or do some quiet writing or game in bed. Before long, your happy camper will be dozing off into a deep slumber.

Now it’s time for you. The duties never stop but our counselors make sure to use the time to refresh as well by reading, writing or chatting with their co-counselors. Parents take the time to do the same.

Camp provides a safe and healthy balance to help our campers stay happy all summer long. Taking these tips and applying them to your time at home with your children can be of great value.

Allison Corey Miller, Founder, Happy Camper Live

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