5 tips to choose right summer camp

It’s time to start looking for right Summer Camp for your child.

Have you been to any summer camp as a child? If yes you would agree to what we are going to share here and if not, then get engage with your friend or child who has experienced it.

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Camps that get it right provide a safe haven away from parents in which children learn to stretch their wings and experience life with a different sort of autonomy.

 

1. Talk about expectation and objective

Before you begin your research to identify right camp, discuss idea of camping with your child and try to understand what he or she would like to do. What he would like to do? With whom she would like to go? What are his concern?

Also share your idea about camping. Do make them understand that to go beyond comfort zone is important for real fun as well as development. But make sure not to push beyond certain limits and make their first experience nightmare.

2. History of organization and experience of team

Second most important thing is background check of organization as well as team. Only no of years are not the proof for better organization, check their past record, read online reviews given by other parents, check background of team, check if anyone from your known circle have been to the camp and what was their experience etc.

3. Study Camp Brochure or Website

Carefully study camp brochure or website. This will not only help you understand camp details but also philosophy of the organization. Also let children go though these details and see pictures or videos of the program you are considering to register for.

4. Safety during the program

Do check what kind of measures have been taken for safety of the child. Beside physical safety also try to understand how are they taking care of emotional, social and intellectual safety.

5. Still not sure, begin with parent and child program

If you are very unsure if your child will be able to manage on its own or you are feel he or a child is not confident enough to go alone, you can begin with Parent and Child Camp. Such programs not only gives an opportunity to you to understand organizations way of conduction but also child get familiar with the facilitators and norms of camping. You can also keep safe distance and let your child manage on its own. Letting him or her sleep with other campers at night is also a great start.

 

Nature Trail & Trek : A Family Date

20191124_103713Today we trailed to Upper Kanheri at Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which is the lung of our metropolitan city of Mumbai. There were 10 participants right from the age of 8 years to 45 years. As per, google dictionary, trail means, “walk or move slowly or wearily”. And today that’s what exactly our group did. Special thanks to our curious participants as well as an excellent naturalist Nilesh Mane who guided us.

According to me like any facilitation, key to facilitating the trail is to be in the moment, be aware of what is present in the environment, simplify narration so that participants can easily connect, encourage their curiosity and seek for an opportunity of transference. WhatsApp Image 2019-11-24 at 8.57.40 PM

Now a days due to environmental hazards, bombardment of messages on social media and several awareness campaigns done by social activists, we all talk about saving the environment but hardly can contribute towards it. I feel one of the major reason for this to happen is absence of true motivation. Unless and until we don’t love our nature, urge to take an action to protect it will never rise. And to love something we have to spend time with it, hug it, listen to it, experience it, appreciate it. Which will never happen by moral talks or forwarding msg on social media. For that we would have to go on a date with nature. Once we experience it first hand, I am sure true change will begin. Because change doesn’t happen from mind but from heart. The problem is in our today’s lifestyle we have completely gotten disconnected with nature. We don’t even think before cutting trees, if they come our way. But I am sure once we will start dating with nature, it won’t be that easy to cut the trees.

WhatsApp Image 2019-11-24 at 8.57.47 PMOne more thing which Nilesh shared was how nature has been the motivation for so many innovations like Japan’s Bullet train. In Japan,the bullet train was having troubles with sound waves created due to its speed. This sound was so loud that it was affecting the surrounding environment as well as buildings by damaging their structures. Eiji Naktsu, a passionate bird watcher, general manager of the technical development department of bullet train found its solution by observing a kingfisher bird attacking its prey. He noticed that the shape of kingfisher’s beak is playing one of the major role’s in creating a surprise attack. Its beak helps the kingfisher in cutting through water with minimal noise and ripples. This is how he came up with the brilliant idea of restructuring the front shape of the bullet train…

He rightly said that we spend so many resources on experimenting for innovation but if we observe nature closely there are so many proven examples. Nature is experimenting, evolving for millions of years. There are so many examples of innovators who were motivated by some natural phenomena.

So whatever motivation we have, to connect with nature, going on trails is one of the best ways to spend your weekend with your family 20191124_092101

‘Lil’ moments of meaningfulness

JBCN1It took him plenty of courage in that already fearful state of mind, to cross over and go to the outer side of the rappelling wall. It is at this point that one is supposed to lean behind as an initial step to climbing down the wall. It is at this point that the fear reaches its peak. As one participant child told me, ‘It felt like I would fall down and the back of my head would hit the floor!’ Although all the safety harnesses are used, and the participants are aware of that, fear finds its way. This boy, around eleven years old, already seemed too scared – most participants are, children and adults alike, when they climb those stairs which feel like they are floating in the air, with no walls around them. This, coupled with the widely prevalent fear of heights, makes the activity even more challenging for many, especially the first timers!

The moment he got himself to the outer side of the wall, he almost freezed there.  The technical expert tried encouraging him to lean back and start rappelling down, but in vain. Just when I started telling the technical expert to get the boy back inside, I saw tears in his eyes. We got him inside. I told him to sit, breathe and relax; offered him some water. It seemed liked he wanted to be alone for some time. So I started attending to the other participants, while constantly aware of the boy and how he was feeling. After sometime, I sat beside him, and we began conversing.

We were looking at other participants doing the activity while we were talking. Almost everyone had that look of ‘I’m scared but I would like to be able to do it!’ on their face. I made him aware of how the initial part of leaning behind was scary for all of them, after which it got easier. He expressed his concerns and I explained to him how the safety gear that we use keeps us in total control and keeps them completely safe. Not once in the conversation did I ask him, ‘Would you like to try again?’ That didn’t feel right to ask at that moment. In fact, I told him that I’ll take him safely down the stairs if he wishes to do so. I reminded him that we had already decided earlier as a group that we would be following the principle of ‘Challenge by choice’* and no one would force him to complete the activity. I was quite surprised by the way I was dealing with the situation. It almost felt to me like I was being his ‘mum’ at that time, who was trying to make him feel safe and was trying to do the right thing for him at that moment.

A few minutes passed by while the other participants continued doing the activity. And then came that moment of magic! He told me that he wanted to do the activity, this time, with a lot more confidence in his voice. He got up. We helped him put on the safety harness. He crossed over to the outer side of the wall. No wonder he was scared! But this time, he did not freeze. With some encouragement from our side, he leaned behind and went down rappelling on the wall. I saw him from above when he reached the floor. With both his hands up in the air, he felt and expressed a strong sense of victory!

A few minutes later, almost the same story got replayed, with another participant. Only this time, when he finally reached the floor rappelling down the wall, he happened to say, ‘Hey, this was easy!’ – wondering, why was he so scared at all in the first place. Untitled-3While this was happening, one of the participants, who had mustard enough courage to climb those stairs after some initial hesitation, was standing there on the top for quite some time, looking at other participants doing the activity. She was the only one remaining.  I asked her, ‘Would you like to try?’ She said yes. And during that crucial moment when she had to lean back, she got highly scared and changed her mind. I told the technical expert to get her back inside. She almost rushed to go back down the stairs. I told her to wait, breathe and I accompanied her down the stairs. I tried telling her things like ‘It was quite brave of you to climb up those stairs and attempt the activity’. But I knew that nothing I would say would make her feel completely fine about the fact that she didn’t go ahead with it, while most others were able to do so. A few moments ago, when she was up there, on the outer side of the wall, I had a choice. I could force her down the wall (while ensuring her safety) and hope that it would help her overcome her fear and feel good about herself. But that would bring with it the risk of it becoming an experience that she would thereon associate with a state of ‘panic’, and may be, never ever attempt it at all. And this would not only defeat the entire purpose of the activity, but could also cause damage to her overall self-confidence.

The activity was over. I walked away from the wall with a lot of thoughts in my mind, but with an overall positive feeling in me, a feeling for which I haven’t yet found the exact word. A feeling that I would like to further explore in the years ahead. A feeling that may be the prime reason behind my current desire to be a part of more such experiences as a facilitator. A feeling that comes back to me every time I think of those moments – those ‘Lil’ moments of meaningfulness in which the power of ‘Challenge by choice’ came alive!

Nikhill (raahi)

* This experience was a part of the three-day camp for a school organized by ‘Kshitij – Redefining Fun’. At Kshitij, we try and add value to the lives of participants by using a methodology called ‘Experiential Education’. One of the key principles we follow is ‘Challenge by Choice’, wherein the participants themselves choose the way they want to participate in a particular activity and the level of challenge they would like to attempt. It has been observed that learning that happens in this way is more effective and ownable than in a situation where the participants are reluctantly made to do an activity on someone else’s terms.

 

A walk in the rain…

Finally the clouds have blessed the city, pouring down their showers on us. The cool breeze, freshness in the air, the sweet wet fragrance of the soil, children playing in the water filled potholes, paper boats, roasted corn and a cup of hot tea! What else can describe the season better???

Just the feel of it makes you want to go out in the wilderness, more close to nature, listen to those raindrops crackling on the dried leaves and see the forests changing color to a brighter shade of green! It indeed has a calming effect on your entire being. All the daily hassles are forgotten and replaced by a serene calmness. Does it really matter what age you are to be one with nature??? Guess, it doesn’t! Probably that is why when in woods, adults seem to become kids and kids seem to understand the philosophy of life! Such an irony and yet so true!!

At times we have no clue what nature has in store for us! We are blessed to see such bright, lively colors on flowers, insects, even the grasses!! Bond over again with your friends and family over a walk in the rain rather than a cup of coffee in a café and notice the difference it makes! Take that chance and walk! Talk to yourself, talk to each other, talk to nature!! You don’t need a holiday to plan this, a couple of hours on a random Sunday will be enough!! Kshitij is all set to take this walk in the rain! Are you???

Should I Be Sending My Children to Camp?

While the campers are messing about in the woods, many of their peers will be attending summer school or specialized skills programs. Their responsible, if sometimes Tiger-ish, moms and dads will be investing their money in their children’s future differently, sending them to one week sport and hobby classes, Entrance exam prep courses and unpaid internships designed to polish skills, boost scores and impress college admissions personnel. Instead of spending three weeks at an all-around camp, these children will be focused on skill-building, sometimes in three different specialized programs to which their parents drive them every day (allowing time for that all-important debrief in the car going home).

Which set of parents has it right? Or more to the point: Does an overnight camp experience still make sense in this competitive, resume-building world? From an analysts, point of view, the answer is a resounding YES. I believe that children develop in profound ways when they leave their parents’ house and join a camp community.

Learning to sleep away from home is, of course, a critical step on the way to independence. Part of the challenge is beating homesickness, which may be hard for some children, and which, by definition, your parents cannot help you do. Kids know they have to do this sooner or later. As a friend’s son once remarked with horror, “If you can’t learn to sleep away from home, you have to live with your parents for the rest of your life.” But beyond that, there are things that, as a parent, you cannot do for your children, as much as you might wish to. You cannot make them happy (if you try too hard they become whiners); you cannot give them self-esteem and confidence (those come from their own accomplishments); you cannot pick friends for them and micro-manage their social lives, and finally you cannot give them independence. The only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out. That’s what makes camp such a life-changing experience for children.

From the book, “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow,” I know that many young people do not really know how strong they are, how competent they are or even who they are until they get away from their parents and test themselves in a new and challenging environment. Many children told me the best thing about camp was, “I can really be myself here.” What do they mean by that? I am pretty sure I know the answer. When children are away from their parents, they do not have to view their own life and achievements through the lens of my-athlete-father-standing-on-the-sidelines-watching-me or my-mother-is-worried-that- I’ll fail. When a child is on his own, the experience is his alone, the satisfaction belongs only to him and he does not have to filter it through what his parents think and feel.

For the dedicated, loving and anxious parent, letting a child go can be tough. “Will she be happy at camp? Will he make friends? Will she be homesick?” But homesickness can often be confused with a parent’s child-sickness  The director of a girls’ camp in Mumbai tells me she has more and more parents of 9-year-olds calling to say, “Well, she’s ready for camp, but I’m not ready to have her leave.” If you want an independent child, you have to master your own child-sickness  Try remembering the sweetest moments from your own childhood. Most adults tell me that the sweetest, most memorable times of their childhood were when they were away from their parents, doing something with friends in the out-of-doors, taking a challenge or doing something a bit risky. That sounds like camp to me.

By the way, when college admissions officers were interviewed about how they view campers, they say that they think former campers are more likely to succeed in college because they have had successful experiences away from home, and they are always impressed by seniors who have been counselors looking after younger children. Camp helps build confidence and identity; it also builds leadership skills.