Guest post by Audrey Monke
In her best-selling book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee , Wendy Mogel discusses the importance of letting kids take healthy risks and allowing them to experience failure. Camp offers a great opportunity for kids to do exactly what Mogel recommends.
When a camper says they “can’t” or “don’t want to” do an activity, counselors encourage them to give the activity a try. Following are three of the reasons why we believe campers benefit from trying their least favorite camp activity.
Previous Negative Experience
One reason a camper may not want to try an activity is because they’ve had a previous negative experience with the activity, usually not at camp and not with experienced instructors. Falling off a horse, being dragged behind a ski boat and not getting up, or going on an excessively long hike, are all examples of negative experiences that make a person naturally inclined not to want to try again. Trying the activity at camp could lead to either a changed mind (and a new activity they like), or, at the very least, a not-as-negative experience to remember.
Fear of being humiliated. Fear of failure. Fear of heights. Fear of deep lake water. Fear of rocks. Fear of going to the bathroom in the woods. Fear of getting hurt. The list could go on.
If a camper doesn't want to do an activity because of fear, then trying the activity could be the most life-changing event that occurs for that camper during his or her camp stay. Overcoming fears, and challenging oneself to attempt something that seems impossible, can lead to great feelings of accomplishment and improved confidence. With the support and encouragement from cabin mates and counselors, campers feel on top of the world after successfully trying something they feared. The camp environment offers a supportive place for kids to learn how to overcome fears and accomplish things they didn't think were possible.
“I’m bad at that.”
Finally, another reason kids don't want to try an activity is because, based on their perception of themselves, they think they won't like it or be good at it.
A camper who sees himself as non-athletic and more adept at target sports may shy away from the more physical activities, yet trying and accomplishing them could change his perception of himself in a positive way. A camper who sees herself as a shopping-obsessed city girl and not an outdoorsy person may dread going on a backpacking trip. Yet, the experience of cooking and sleeping outdoors could lead to an appreciation for something new and a realization that she can have more than one aspect to her preferences and personality.
Sometimes, the activity a camper thought would be their least favorite becomes a favorite. So, when a camper tells us all the reasons why they "don't want to” or "can't" do an activity this summer, we will continue to encourage them to give it a try, because we know the hidden blessings in the least favorite activity.
Audrey Monke and her husband Steve have owned and directed Gold Arrow Camp (Lakeshore, California) for the past twenty-three years.They are raising their own five campers (ages 8–18) at home. Audrey writes about camp and parenting at sunshineparenting.wordpress.com .