The impact of the loss of free, undirected play in childhoo (and what camps can do about it)

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As wonderful as the cherished traditions and programmatic aspects of a camp may be, what we teach campers may not be the most important part of their summer experience. The most crucial and unexpected moments of a summer may be when children are left alone to engage in free, undirected play. For many campers, the experience of playing outside “alone” or with a group of friends may be a truly new and joyful one. The loss of time for free, undirected play in everyday life is one of the saddest facts of modern childhood.
As a school consultant, I have watched the growing phenomenon of the over-scheduled child, particularly in affluent suburbs, and in independent and international schools. As a camp consultant, I have observed how many campers’ parents monitor them extremely closely; one might say microscopically. Indeed, Ron Taffel, a psychologist in New York, reports that much of modern parenting involves meticulous time management of a child’s packed schedule. This is a source of sadness for me, and for many people who care about children. Every thoughtful educator and parent has worried that there is something missing in the lives of today’s children.

 By Michael Thompson, Ph.D.


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The Science Behind Time Management

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Focus on the little things you can control in this world.

The psychological starting point for time management goes like this: Although some of our reality happens outside of our awareness, we are consciously aware of some portion of our existence.

The universe, such as we experience it while we are awake, is divided into things we can control and things we cannot control.


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