Children and teenagers are constantly surrounded by stimuli. They are easily overwhelmed with the sights and sounds that surround them, and often don’t have the skills to be fully present and limit distractions. This is why more and more teachers and professionals are incorporating mindfulness into their curriculum. And why America’s Finest Summer Camps have been doing it since the beginning.
Mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Campers all have the ability to be mindful, but there are proven techniques to help them perfect their skill. At camp, we incorporate these techniques into every day living to help campers improve their focus and concentration. It helps them be present in the moment and hyper-aware of their body, their space, and their surroundings.
Camp is a busy, noisy, active place. The energy on the campus is undeniable and can be felt from the moment you arrive. However, camp counselors and staff highly encourage campers to take periods of time throughout the day to relax, stay quiet, and unwind. Some campers choose to journal, write letters home, meditate, or even sleep during this time. This critical “down” time allows campers to stay in tune with their thoughts and feelings, and reflect on the activities of the day.
Meditation is a big part of the mindfulness initiative, but there are other ways campers can learn to be mindful. Campers may find themselves waiting to take their turn for different things throughout the day. Waiting is an excellent opportunity to tune in to their inner thoughts and feelings. A quick breathing exercise or an intentional appreciation for the space around them is a great way to practice mindfulness. For many people, listening intently and carefully is a challenge. Sometimes we are thinking more about our response than actually listening to what someone has to tell us. By focusing on being better listeners, campers can improve their communication skills and be mindful at the same time.
One of the things campers learn quickly is the power of connecting with nature. It’s always incredible what a quiet walk by the lake can do to clear your mind of negativity, anger, frustration, or fear. America’s Finest Summer Camps gives campers the unique opportunity to connect with nature. Observing the natural beauty that surrounds them can help campers feel calm and connected when things seem to be getting out of control. Learning the calming power of a nature hike at camp is a coping strategy campers take with them for the rest of their lives.
Camp may be a busy place with lots to see and do, but it also provides plenty of opportunities for campers and staff to get in tune with their thoughts and feelings. Teaching mindfulness is just another way America’s Finest Summer Camps fosters future leaders, builds character and promotes a healthy lifestyle.