Camp Woodland Blog

The Power of Play

Posted by on March 31, 2017

The Power of Play

The winter months are exciting as we prepare for the upcoming summer. Often we are asked, “so, what do you do in the off-season?” Believe it or not, this time of year can be just as busy as the summer months! We are meeting new and returning campers at camp fairs and open houses, putting together our staff team, checking out new program ideas and resources, and connecting with our camp family via various social media avenues. It is also a time of professional development as we take part in webinars and national and regional conferences so that we stay current with the latest trends in the industry.

One of the interesting themes we have noticed this year is talk around the power of playDr. Shimi Kang, a keynote speaker at the recent American Camp Association National Conference in Albuquerque and author of “The Self-Motivated Kid” talks about how play is directly linked to the development of the prefrontal cortex, which directs our highest levels of thinking and functioning. She goes on to say that play is so important to our survival that the impulse to play is just as fundamental as our impulse to sleep or eat. Play is also essential to the development of creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, the skills needed for success in the 21st century. (Kang, 2014)The quote, “Play is the work of children,” takes on various forms and is contributed to Piaget, Maria Montessori, Fred Rogers, and other youth development experts.  Play isn’t exactly a novel concept at Camp Woodland – Mr. Jordan was a huge proponent of the power of play at camp!  Here are some of the ways we foster play throughout the summer:

  • Taking advantage of the outdoor playground all around us! There are sticks, leaves, rocks, etc. that can provide hours of creative thought and play.
  • Opportunities for camper performances at weekly campfires, the annual Lip Sync Contest, and promotional skits at assembly are various “stages” for true colors to shine!
  • Tetherball and other pick-up games are available for free time where campers often collaborate and make up their own rules.

  • Cards and board games provide great fun for cabins during rest hour and at nighttime.
  • The Woodland Drama class uses their creativity and imagination to design props, sets, and costumes for drama productions.
  • Arts and Crafts classes provide starting materials for an idea; it is amazing how each camper develops them into a unique project.

  • Campers use innovation and resourcefulness to plan theme events for evening activities and Sunday’s. Gymnastics mats become elaborate mazes for Camper Council Night, a giant painted rock is the infamous “Mother Lode” for Gold Rush Day, and soccer goals turn into the “jail” for Woodland Fair.  “Minute-To-Win-It” games were a big hit in 2016!
  • Cabin night is another opportunity for campers and counselors to improvise fun things to do.  Jumping on the Aqua Tramp or getting involved in an game of tag always make for a good time!


“It’s happy talent to know how to play”

Ralph Waldo Emerson