Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? Scabby knees, sticky fingers, staying out until the streetlights came on and never wanting to head inside? A lot of kids these days are spending less and less time outdoors and more of their time in front of the computer screen or a video game. There is a need for kids to unplug, get outside and out of that squeaky clean bubble. It’s important to rediscover what it means to get back to nature, like wading into the cold water, squishing your toes into the mud or walking barefoot across the grass, tossing a Frisbee into the air, holding a slimy salamander, or feeling the dew drops inside a cave on a crisp morning. When multiple senses are stimulated the brain registers experiences to a greater degree and is better able to process and remember what is learned.
The “Hygiene Hypothesis”, as reported in Time Magazine, is the understanding that children who spend most of their time in sterile environments never build up the necessary immunities to common allergens. Therefore kids who are exposed to allergens and bacteria are more likely to grow up allergy and asthma free. So letting kids be kids, and playing in the dirt could save them from a lifetime of respiratory illness and allergies. Well, at Ways of the Woods one of the camper mottos is that “Dirt Doesn’t Hurt”, and campers will have no problem getting messy. From grass stains to puddles to tie-dye; the potential for grubbiness is endless! We like to remind parents that cleaning up is often pretty quick and painless, and the amount of dirt they’re sporting is often a direct reflection of how much fun has been had.
Helping these kids to be active and rediscover an appreciation for the outdoors and the nature around them, while having fun and meeting new friends is what camp is all about! Ways of the Woods Camps offer the unique experience of being able to visit some of Halton’s most beautiful and ecological parks. WOW Campers will be spend their days outside in the fresh air. They are physically active, and make lifelong memories with new friends. There is a wide range of activities available at each park including archery, boating, caving, biking and a brand new Low-Ropes Course. Kelso Park is where the majority of the camper’s time is spent, as it offers the majority of these activities.
A typical day for the Ways of the Woods campers involves a non-stop action adventure, and lots of opportunities to get good and grubby. Campers are taken caving at Mount Nemo during the week! Caving is definitely one of the favourite activities of a traditional camp week, and Mount Nemo is one of the most prevalent caving regions in Southern Ontario. There is a large volume of crevice caves and a few caves large enough to be lowered into and explore. After a nice lengthy hike along the trails the group is guided towards these mysterious caverns. These caves are every kids dream come true with the chance to safely climb and explore whatever their curious heart desires! Once again this is an activity that will get your child good and grimy (though it is almost guaranteed they won’t even notice) so appropriate clothing is essential. Crawling and climbing to examine the earth’s secrets makes for a fun morning.
Some might see these activities as dangerous for their child, but all of these programs and activities are entirely supervised and safe. The theory of “Risky Play” and its relation to “emotion regulation” is the notion that one of the major functions of play involves moderate risk. Risky play teaches young children how to regulate fear and anger in a healthy way: a key part of their emotional development. When a child is deprived of age-adequate risky play and experiences, the deprivation negatively affects their development in terms of appropriate emotional responses to their environment and social interaction. The activities at Ways of the Woods are all entirely safe and supervised, but still offer a sense of adventure and minor risks.
The staff and kids at Ways of the Woods are united in their love for camp and the great outdoors and Ways of the Woods is where it all comes together in a wild and wonderful experience. The WOW counselors are positive and energetic with a million and one fun ideas for their camp groups to see or do at the Conservation Parks. They’ve always got a new game or song to get the campers enthused between adventures. Even the campers who may be shy at first quickly open up through the ice breaker games and activities, story telling, laughing, singing, sharing and constant outdoor fun! When I asked a couple of junior campers to describe WOW camp in one word I got some pretty enthusiastic feedback. I heard words like terrific, awesome, crazy, and fun, with one little guy screaming “its rad!”
The fact of the matter is that getting messy and being free to learn, have fun and make mistakes is what being a kid is all about. At Ways of the Woods they celebrate being a kid by going on an adventure every day and allowing your child to grow by trying something new. At the end of the day a messy kid is quite often a happy kid, so I’d invite you to go ahead and get dirty!
You can sign up for a Ways of the Woods camp session online at https://secure.conservationhalton.net/wowreg/ or visit the Kelso/Glen Eden Visitor Centre to register in person. If you have any questions please call (905) 878-5011 extension 256. The Ways of the Woods are waiting for you!