Camp Woodland Blog

Play Matters

Posted by on July 6, 2021

Independence Day is quite a celebration around here!  The CIT’s helped us celebrate in style by hosting 4th of July Games, which this year was on the actual holiday (and not the Sunday before). Woodland alum will recognize perennial favorites such as the clothes relay down the Woodland Road, water balloon toss, lifesaver pass, shave a balloon, and water relay (just to name a few!).

In addition to a multitude of laughs and memories to recount later to friends and family, there is a LOT more embedded within an afternoon of fun and games than just meets the eye. I’m sure it is no surprise that there is a noticeable decline in the amount of time spent playing for both kids and adults. Busy schedules drive us from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until our head hits the pillow at night. The great news is that there is an abundance of play at Camp Woodland! Play is what we do!

In a TEDMED Talk Jill Vialet shares that, “It is easy to dismiss play as trivial and unimportant; however, there is nothing farther from the truth. Play is kids’ work in that it is a form of experiential learning that contributes directly to a person’s ability to handle failure, to work in teams, and to take risks.” (Jill sounds like she must have spent some time hanging out with Mr. and Mrs. Jordan at Woodland & Towering Pines!)

If a very large balloon covered in shaving cream pops during one of the games, then a camper is faced with an opportunity to gracefully handle the situation. Learning not to take things seriously and to laugh at oneself are good qualities to master for more challenging dilemmas later on. Being able to work with your teammates to toss water balloons down the line involves problem solving and collaboration. The awkwardness of passing a lifesaver from person to person is great practice being silly and not caring what other people think. Playing offers a multitude of little ways to step out of our comfort zones and make frequent deposits in our confidence banks. This will pay huge dividends later!


According to Jill Vialet, play matters because:

  1. it provides a brief respite from the tyranny of apparent purpose (I guarantee campers are not thinking about the final math test they took at the end of the semester during the water balloon toss!).
  2. it compels us to choose to say, “I care” and better come to know ourselves (Stuffing a giant marshmallow in your mouth is a great way to do just that!).
  3. people matter and it reminds us of our interdependence with others. It gives us a chance to see other people and in turn to be really and truly seen (There is a whole wide world out there, and it is a lot of fun to play with others!).

Of course, this fun afternoon of play was followed by the annual 4th of July Campfire at Towering Pines (another opportunity to play)!  

References: More Than Fun and Games – Play Matters by Nancy Brown (Huffington Post) and TEDMED Talk by Jill Vialet.

A special shout out to Bill Gonio, friend and former Towering Pines staff, for your inspiration in writing this blog!