Greetings from Collingwood! This guest blog post is brought to you by Clarity Content Creation. My name is Kelly and I have had the pleasure of volunteering with Red Tailed Hawk’s Forest Camp program as it launched its first season this summer. My 4 year old daughter Audrey was also fortunate to attend this incredible outdoor summer camp program.
Based on our experiences throughout the two weeks that RTH Forest Camp was offered, here are 5 key components to the program that I would like to share with you while you consider camp programs for your child next summer!
1) Outdoor swimming lessons
The number one draw that I had to RTH camp is the fact that it offers outdoor swimming lessons on the same beautiful property as the camp. Swimming instructors from Funston Management were hired specifically because they offer an incredible intensive program that aims to have your child swimming in a week, or at the very least, much more comfortable and confident in the water. At four years old Audrey and I were reluctant to move away from using her Puddle Jumper in or around the water. By the end of her first week at RTH Forest Camp, she was swimming free from the instructor’s grip to the edge of the pool. I plan to keep encouraging her level of ability in the water and I really liked to observe how the instructors were positive and encouraging AND individually worked with each child’s comfort level in the water. They never once pushed a swimmer past their level of comfort. Mainly, they celebrated the progress of each little step towards comfortable swimming. I loved this approach!
2) Hikes & nature based exploration
The little hikers were amazing to watch daily at RTH Camp. They would set out daily onto trails connected to RTH property to explore plants and signs of life in the forest. I found that this fitness option was perfect for all ages and ability levels. After having lunch, the campers were keen to start a gradual activity that allowed them time to reset and appreciate their time in the woods. Even if it was a rainy day, campers really seemed to enjoy this activity. There were many “nature surprises” observed along the way. My personal favourite was when they discovered a nest of baby birds and were very excited to research and identify what type of bird they were. It was amazing to see them so excited to learn about an observation that they made on their own.
3) Nature inspired arts and crafts
The fact that RTH campers were encouraged to collect items from nature such as sticks to weave together or rocks to paint into pets really set this program apart for me. I would much rather see Audrey inspired by natural beauty than dump a pile of plastic beads in front of her at an indoor station. I watched her hone her artistic side all week with arts and crafts that she found in the woods. This was very cool for me to watch and her to experiment with.
4) Teamwork and time to be yourself
At RTH Forest Camp, children were divided into small groups. They had assigned leaders that they became very comfortable with. I absolutely love that all campers and counselors has “nature nicknames”. Audrey or “Blue Jay” spent a lot of time making friends and encouraging other campers who were not necessarily as outgoing was she is. It was incredible as a parent to watch as my child helped to encourage another younger camper rock climb up the climber. This is something that Blue Jay was hesitant to do last summer. I stood and listened quietly as she coaxed a younger little girl “Fawn” all the way to the top. That’s when it occurred to me how just being outside offers so many opportunities for skill development, team work and confidence building. Both campers were very proud of themselves when they reached the top!
5) Connecting with and respecting the earth and elements
Finally, I can’t under estimate the value in teaching our children to respect the earth and protect nature. From packing a litterless lunch to protecting animals in their natural habitats, I really value the opportunity to teach our children not to take their environment for granted. Nature conservation is a huge part of the program at RTH. Campers are encouraged to respect the earth and treat it as if they were treating a friend. In this era of environmental uncertainty, this in an invaluable lesson to pass along to their generation.
I would certainly recommend this program to any parents and welcome any questions you may have. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to speak parent to parent about this awesome program and address any questions you may have. Hope to meet you next summer at RTH Forest Camp!