Campers donning big, silly hats and oversized costumes can be found dancing and singing their hearts on stage at Camp Weequahic. You can see campers giggling in groups until they cry, and others transforming into super heroes and villains as their imaginations run wild. Even staff members get in on the action, letting their inner child emerge by singing, dancing and playing with the campers. Campers and counselors feel safe here, safe to be silly, to use their imaginations and to just “let go.” They learn right away that camp is a judgment free space, where they can be themselves and act like a kid. In a world where kids are exposed to adult themes in their TV shows, music and social media, it can be easy for them to lose the silly, magical, goofy part of themselves, in fear of looking “uncool” to their peers.
Camp Weequahic encourages campers to be silly in a variety of ways. Free time allows campers to explore the grounds and socialize with their friends in a way that is supervised, but not highly structured. This gives campers time to use their imaginations. Some campers like to put on skits or host a bunk or cabin comedy club. They are encouraged to do and say the silly, kid-like things that come so naturally to them.
During structured activities, kids are supported when they speak their minds, share their opinions and engage in discussions. They are taught to listen to and respect each other, which gives kids the green light to do and say silly things without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. By exploring this side of themselves, kids develop a sense of humor which helps them navigate other areas of their lives. A good sense of humor helps kids to be spontaneous, to see different sides of a situation, enjoy the playful parts of life, and not take themselves too seriously. These character traits are extremely helpful for kids who have a lot of stress and responsibility in school, sports and home life back in the real world. A good sense of humor also increases their self-esteem, which is always a bonus!
Counselors are counselors because they like kids, and they enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of children. They are fun and relatable, and are great at being silly. They know they are role models for the campers, so they make it a point to set a good example. When counselors can sing, dance, goof off and act silly, campers catch on quickly and begin to feel safe to do the same. They are also a good example of knowing a “time and place” to be silly. They model how to calm themselves down when it is time to be serious, and teach campers how to differentiate between a place where it’s okay to be silly (free time) and a time when being calm and focused is more productive (quiet time in the cabins.)
Kids are expected to be focused and serious for a large portion of their day in the “real world”, so it is important to foster their childlike wonder and silliness whenever possible. At Camp Weequahic, kids can feel safe to show off their silly side.