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The Privilege of Play

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One of the things that I’ve loved year in and year out at Camp Alkulana is lifeguarding. We have a great lifeguarding staff; they arrive at camp a little bit early to go through the Red Cross training together, and then work hard to keep the campers safe during aquatics activities during summer camp. We do a lot of water activities: swimming and lessons in the swim hole, canoeing, a partially underwater cave, snorkeling, and so forth. These are some of the highlights of the summer for many kids.

One evening during each session we take the campers to local pools for a “pool party.” They always have a blast. This past summer I was lifeguarding for one of these groups, and I had an epiphany of sorts as I watched them play in the water and jump off the diving board: everywhere I looked in the pool, children were laughing and smiling, having fun, and completely uninhibited in their play. This moment was a snapshot of what childhood should be like. Children learn, grow, develop socially, and stay mentally and physically healthy through play. Play is the most important thing they do. Google “the importance of play” sometime. You’ll see. (By the way: play is important for grown-ups, too!)

And yet: it struck me that for so many children today, pure, uninhibited play is a rare privilege that few enjoy. Screen time, unsafe neighborhoods, homework constraints, lack of free time, less playground time at school, and other things all cut into children’s opportunities for free, self-directed, creative play. And yet children need opportunities for true, uninhibited play to grow and develop in healthy ways. As I watched the children playing in the pool, I saw no fighting, no arguing, no stress. They were simply doing what kids do best: thriving through playing. I’m so grateful that Camp Alkulana creates safe spaces for children to enjoy the privilege of play.

by Art Wright

Art has been involved with Camp Alkulana since 2003. He has been a counselor, a mentor, and (as the camp director’s husband) gets volunteered for any variety of duties each summer and throughout the year. He provides lifeguard training, leadership in many of our adventure activities, and loves to close out each day by leading a campfire sing-a-long with our campers. These days he spends most of his camp days chasing his own children around the camp.

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