Monday, August 31, 2015

Camp Summertime!

September is upon us, and we're staring Labor Day right in the face.  Where did our Summer go?

Our family was lucky enough to be able to get away this year to our favorite Florida resort of beach houses and spend a long, relaxing week by the ocean.

I certainly hope you were able to take advantage of your summer this year!  But before we let it slip away completely, make sure to grab those last golden rays of summer sun before they're gone!  Labor Day barbecues, pool parties, ice cream socials, festivals, concerts, a last trip to the local amusement park, or one last weekend away before the busy fall season really hits.

Some of my most cherished childhood memories were of summer.  I was lucky enough to go to a summer day camp when I was young, where there was no shortage of activities to keep us busy from sunrise to sunset.  We did it all ...
  • We went to the pool every day and took swimming lessons (an indispensable skill in Florida).
  • We played tag, hide-and-seek, red-light/green-light, box ball, hot potato, i-spy, Simon Says, telephone, and an illicit game of spin-the-bottle here and there.
  • We played team sports such as softball, volleyball, soccer, basketball, kickball, touch football, water polo, even the infamous dodgeball.
  • We played shuffleboard, tetherball, hopscotch, chinese jump rope, horseshoes, bag toss, badminton and croquet.
  • We took lessons in archery and gymnastics, and golf and tennis lessons were also available.
  • We had rousing water balloon fights, sprayed each other with water pistols, even pillow fights ... all in good fun.
  • We had all kinds of races: sprints, relays, egg-and-spoon races, 3-legged races, sack races, and learned how to play leap frog.
  • We went bowling and competed in tournaments against other campers (I won a trophy for breaking 100), and slid across water-slick mats or ran through sprinklers.
  • We did arts and crafts such as ceramics, papier-mâché, tie-dying t-shirts, copper plate rubbings, paper lanterns, yarn pom poms, and how to make box braids with an abundant supply of plastic and leather lanyards (everyone had one hanging from their keychains, back in the day).
  • We went paddle boating, canoeing, and rode our bikes everywhere.
  • We learned silly kid things like how to do a few magic tricks, various patty cake or jump rope rhymes, hysterical kid jokes and puns, mastered our favorite songs, played Marco Polo, and ran around the car when stopped at a traffic light (okay, maybe that's really not such a great idea anymore).
  • On rainy days, we learned to play competitive ping pong, duck duck goose, make origami paper fortune tellers or paper airplanes and had distance competitions, played jacks or marbles, chess or checkers, board games, or entertained ourselves with mancala or dice games.
  • We had pizza parties, and were treated to ice cream once a week ... ice cream cones, ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, shakes, floats, sundaes and made banana splits.
  • And we took field trips to the Miami Seaquarium, the Serpentarium, Monkey Jungle, Parrot Jungle (now known as Jungle Island), and Pirates World, singing silly camp songs all the way there and back.
On the weekends, our parents would take us to the beach, amusement parks, Disney World and Epcot, Busch Gardens, St. Augustine, Key West, and on family road trips.  We had wonderful summers full of activity.  Really, we had the time of our lives!

Nowadays, with the popularity of video games, music videos, cable and reality tv, I wonder if kids have anything like the kind of summers we did.  I wonder if they're getting the same kind of exposure to this myriad of activities that we experienced when we were young.  They're certainly still there and available, but I wonder if some of the games and activities above will eventually go the way of the dinosaur and become obsolete in my lifetime.

There's a lot of emphasis on fitness, of course, and making sure that kids are getting enough physical activity and time spent outside.  That's crucial.  But what is also important is simply the exposure to a host of different games and activities, the chance to develop skills and talents they don't even know they have, the opportunity to get to know themselves and what kind of past-times and hobbies they really enjoy, and days packed full of fun.  Are their days jammed-packed with fun, or are they languishing around with their smart phones waiting for the next text or post?

It's a different world now, of course, but some of the old things still hold a tremendous amount of value.  Keeping kids active, busy and introduced to a wide variety of activities makes for happy, well-rounded human beings who can look back one day on a life filled with fun times and fantastic memories.  

And finally, I wonder, why aren't there summer camps for grown ups?  I would love to freshen up my ping pong game, and get in on a fast-paced game of water polo one of these days!

I hope you had a wonderful summer, and that you enjoy all the sunny days yet ahead with a jammed-packed assortment of activities.  Get your summer on before it's gone!

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