Ep. 60: The Importance of Outdoor, Child-Directed Free Play with Andy Pritikin
Creativity is not (just) writing songs or painting a picture. It is figuring out what to do when you have a situation, which is not learned in structured play where adults tell kids what to do.
They need informal, intentional free play.
In Episode 60, I’m chatting with Andy Pritikin, camp owner-operator and past president of the American Camp Association of New York & New Jersey. We talk about the many benefits of camp programs for the growth and development of our youth.
- Allow kids to have unstructured, free play time and to just be outside.
- Summer camp is the ultimate learning environment for 21st Century Learning Skills, which involve collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking, and problem-solving. These skills are taught and reinforced at summer camp.
- Smartphones, air conditioning, cable TV and other technological advances have significantly altered the way kids play (inside) and how parents raise their children (constantly monitoring). Camp is a “digital detox” for kids and “forced detachment” for parents who are so involved in their kids’ lives.
- ACA studies show that kids who have gone to camp have better problem-solving skills and self-reliance.
- Instead of jumping in to solve kids’ problems, encourage them to figure out a solution or to find help on their own.
“My view of camp is that it’s an environment for kids to be gaining these skills: how to work together as a team; how to communicate; how to be independent away from home; how to make and keep friends. In this modern world, friendships turn into playdates, as opposed to that natural thing where kids would just go outside and play with whoever is there.” — Andy Pritikin
“Find a few like-minded families in your neighborhood or at school and come up with guidelines (for free play). People love camp so much because they want so much for their kids to have the experience of being with friends, being outdoors, and just playing. I feel like parents could figure out ways to recreate that at home, even if it’s just in their backyards.” — Audrey Monke
“We undersell what kids are capable of. We need to let kids do more on their own, trust them and give them opportunities to be responsible. Prepare them for life, adulthood, college, and career.” — Audrey Monke
American Camp Association research findings
Related Posts & Podcast Episodes
If you liked this episode, you might want to listen to Episode 54, where I interview Dr. Jim Sears about raising healthy kids with parenting tips from summer camp.