Memories of Summer Day Camp and Little League
I often talk about the value of unstructured, creative childhood play. I even posit that our shift from unstructured childhood play in neighborhoods to structured, organized activities on neutral fields of play has negative consequences on childhood development.
I think that it is important every now and then for me to clarify that this does not mean that I think that organized, structured play is bad. As with most things in life, a healthy balance between structure and creativity is good. I am only concerned that the amount of time that children spend participating in structured, organized activities today is leaving little room for creative, unstructured play. That’s my concern.
One memory that many of us share about structured activity is summer day camp. I went to the Marist Brothers Summer Day Camp in New York. I can still smell the box lunches with peanut butter and jelly or pimento loaf sandwiches. They were good days for the most part. We played baseball a lot, which was fun. We also played kickball and other classic childhood games. Each day at camp, there was also some activity like archery — an activity that you didn’t do regularly in the neighbourhood (at least not in the neighborhood I grew up in.)
All in all, summer day camp was a positive experience. But it never gave me that warm, secure feeling that I had when I was playing with friends in the neighborhood. I remember being intimidated by some of the kids I didn’t know on the bus. Kids who seemed very comfortable being away at camp. Kids who had been going to camp every year since they were five. Kids who talked loud and seemed to know it all — even though we were all just young kids and none of us knew much really.
Being part of a team can be a wonderful experience for young children if the parents and coaches don’t take themselves too seriously. Working together on a team to achieve something — and having fun together in the pursuit of those achievements can create wonderful experiences and memories. I know most of my friends who played Little League look back on those days with great affection. Today, it seems that parents get a bit over-involved with Little League and it all seems a bit stressful to me as an outsider. Too much focus on winning and not enough on having fun. Perhaps someone involved in Little League can assure me that I’m wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time that I was.
What are your memories of summer day camp? Were you a Little League kid? If so, do your children play Little League today? Has it changed from the time that you played?