IMG_1925If your child is like most children, he or she tweets their way through breakfast, texts at lunch, likes, comments and Snapchats through dinner, post selfies to Instagram before bedtime and wakes up to do it all again the next day. No wonder they stay up late and want to sleep until noon…  They’re busy.

Research shows kids spend up to 7.5 hours A DAY with their eyes glued to a screen and their fingers frantically pecking away at keyboards. Kids growing up in an age of widely accessible and socially acceptable technology can get lost in the sea of text messages and status updates. Social media can be a welcoming environment for bullies, as it’s easy to become detached from empathy and consequences when you’re behind a screen. Kids do and say things they wouldn’t normally do or say when they’re plugged in. When kids only speak their mind anonymously or try to be someone they aren’t to impress others, they’re lacking opportunities to develop self-confidence and character. They may have 1,000 friends or followers on social media, but are slowly losing the ability to walk up to someone and shake their hand or settle conflict in a responsible and socially acceptable way. Social media isn’t bad in itself, it’s a great tool to keep connected and learn about the world.  But, when we let it take the place of our child’s social development, we’re doing them a huge disservice.DSC_0124-2

Which is why, at Laurel South, we’re unplugged. Campers leave their cellphones at home and enjoy a summer without texting, emailing or using social media. At first, campers may consider this unfathomable, but as they dive deep into the activities that Laurel South offers, they will reevaluate their dependence on technology. They will interact with others in a meaningful way. They will improve their written communication skills by writing letters home to loved ones and feel the excitement of receiving a handwritten note from friends and family – a feeling you just don’t get when you check your inbox. Without a phone in their pocket to tempt them, they will be able to really focus and listen to what other campers are saying. In turn, when they’re sharing a story or experience, they won’t be talking to a group of friends preoccupied with their screens.

DSC_0222Campers who arrive shy and a little reserved will leave with new found  confidence based on their accomplishments over the summer. They’ll be able to look back on the summer when they learned to swim, conquered stage fright, made new friends and discovered their love for a new activity. Campers will be able to apply that self-confidence into their lives back home. They’ll no longer need to hide behind a screen in order to communicate with their peers.

As a parent, you can find comfort in the fact that while your child is away, they’ll be learning valuable life skills that don’t involve how many words they can text a minute, or how many likes they can get on their Instagram picture. The skills they learned while they are unplugged will stay with them for a lifetime, and that’s better than being retweeted by a celebrity.

Creativity at Camp

IMG_2398A wise old man named Albert with crazy hair and a mustache once said: “Creativity is contagious; pass it on.”

At Laurel South, we’re focused on following the advice of Mr. Einstein by fostering our campers’ love of and enthusiasm for creativity. By giving campers the opportunity to express themselves through art, music, dance and theatre, we’re uncovering hidden talents and gifts that all campers have – and many have no idea they have it.  In a world where kids are trying so hard to be “cool,” they can quickly lose their sense of wonder and imagination, and their creative side can be stunted. These days, as we know, younger children trade coloring books for iPads, or choose to create an Instagram account over choreographing a dance in the living room. What a plain and boring world we’d live in if the imagination and creativity of our children is not encouraged and embraced!

IMG_3866Laurel South gives campers a wide range of activities and options to explore their inner artist. Campers can try their hand at Studio Art or Arts and Crafts, or even Culinary Arts and Music. For those who have already discovered their creative strengths, experienced staff help campers hone their skills and allow them to spend time doing things they love. For campers who feel that they’ve never been good at a particular art form, camp is a safe place to try without fear of failure or embarrassment. It’s also great for children’s self-esteem to try something new and to succeed. There are many other forms of creative expression, such as Musical Theatre and Hip-Hop, Jazz or Modern Dance. These options combine music, physical movement and artistic expression, and allow campers to conquer stage fright by performing in front of an audience. Class clowns may find a creative outlet by trying improv and comedy, while the more “techy”, behind the scenes kids will enjoy working in lighting, costuming, make-up and stage construction and design. Each of these Inter-Arts activities combines the unique, personal and intimate aspects of creative arts, while also encouraging campers to work together as a team and as a support system for each other.

IMG_1900Regardless of how each camper expresses his or her self, there is a creative outlet at camp where campers may flourish.

When a camper makes something from nothing, whether it’s a ceramic mug, a work of art or a new dance, they gain self-confidence and feel a sense of empowerment that’s hard to find anywhere else. It’s possible that the strengths and gifts they discover within themselves at camp can launch them into a hobby or even a profession they might enjoy the rest of their lives. They also learn how to appreciate the unique creativity in other people, which results in more accepting, well-rounded and open minded individuals

Discovering, understanding and expressing creativity does wonders for the growing character and sense of self in a young camper. When campers realize that it’s cool to be creative and expressive, a whole world of opportunities is open to them. We can only hope that once campers tap into their own creative side, they pass it along to their friends and peers in the outside world, causing a chain reaction of imagination, artistic expression and creativity: just as good ol’ Albert suggested.