The Benefits of an Unplugged Summer Camp Experience for your Child

May 11, 2018

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Yesterday I stretched out on the diving board by the Adirondack Woodcraft camp dock, head to head with my daughter Ellie. Her toes pointed to the breeze over the water and mine flexed to the sky above the beach. Grace and Sam played “who’s going in up to their belly button” (the water is still chilly at camp!) and Ellie and I watched the clouds move. “This is so great,” I thought out loud. “What?” Ellie asked. “Being together and doing nothing important,” I said. Ellie laughed “yeah” as she reached over her head to find me. Grace came squishing up the dock to us with Sam chasing behind her to report that I owed him a fresh batch of gooey butter cake (a promise I made for the first person to submerge their belly buttons) and we all took much longer to head back to the house than we needed to. Moments like these are such great gifts and the perfect antidote to the rush we feel as a family when we get ready for our campers here at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps. It is also the perfect reminder of one of the very important gifts we can give to our campers each summer: Time. Totally unplugged, totally stress-free, totally awesome, time.

During pre-season at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps we are busy bees getting ready for our 2018 summer campers. It’s an exciting time, filled with anticipation. Among the physical and administrative work it takes to get Woodcraft camp summer-ready, we have the privilege of speaking to parents about their children and their hopes for what summer camp will help them accomplish. We also talk about any concerns that may be brewing and there is a common one: “What about the no phones at camp?” “Are you really an unplugged camp?” “But my child uses their (insert device) for quiet time, what do you do about that?” “Is it hard for the campers?” “I agree with limiting screen time but do you have to take it away altogether?” “Do they experience withdrawal and how do you handle that?” 

I love all topics that concern themselves with the well-being of children and youth and this sure is a great one. As a guidance counselor, camp director and mother, I’ve experienced questions about this subject from all angles. Studies about how technology and the constant plugged-in habits of our children affect their moods, their sleep, their BMI, their ability to show empathy, their potential for being exposed to or engaging in behavior that puts them at risk are aplenty. Articles featuring well-meaning experts who tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, how much time is right or wrong, and whether you are an excellent or terrible parent for allowing this or that also abound. 

I prefer to focus on the positive. Rather than add to your “should and shouldn’t do” lists, let’s grow your “could” list and focus on the beneficial outcomes an unplugged summer camp experience at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps can offer your child, tween or teen. For that purpose, let me summarize and rephrase some of the above questions to:

What are the Benefits of an Unplugged Summer at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps?

  1. Reduced feelings of stress, anxiety and increased mindfulness. For summer campers of every age, the unplugged environment at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps creates extra time. Without the feelings of “needing” to play a favorite app or video game, “having” to respond to the 20 texts that just came in or like a picture their friend just posted, campers feel less anxious about keeping up and more able to expand into the space they are in. They worry less about what’s next and care more about what is now. The space our summer campers are in at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps happens to be wild and beautiful which adds to the peace and freedom Woodcrafters feel when they are here. The ability to be mindful increases because our campers feel content and able to slow down and be present to all that is in and around them. Unplugged campers? You bet. And more importantly: Totally connected to self, others and the world around them.
  2. Increased social bravery and empathy. Real time connections happen here. At Adirondack Woodcraft Camps, eye contact, dialogue, learning the subtle differences in your friends’ non verbal cues and understanding what messages you yourself are sending out in to the world are an enjoyable and natural part of the learning process that happens each summer at camp. Instead of phones to hide behind when a camper feels unsure, Adirondack Woodcraft Camps has a community of caring campers and skilled counselors who act as positive role models and encouragers to help with bravery when it comes to forging new bonds with others. It’s cool to reach out, help and be a great friend. Our summer campers build strong and meaningful connections to each other through shared, experiences, not virtual ones. Through those experiences our campers also broaden their understanding of the needs of others and grow in their ability to show compassion and care for camp friends of all ages.
  3. New patience, independence & creativity. At Adirondack Woodcraft Camps, we specialize in providing campers with fun opportunities to work out a challenge. Patience, practice, and perseverance replace Alexa’s and Google’s instantaneous answers to a given problem at hand. Learning to tune into your own instincts, using good common sense, trying and failing and trying again, collaborating and inventing fill the space of wanting to reach for electronics. When your camper comes home, you will most definitely hear about a challenge that was overcome individually or together. It may be: “You should have seen us! It started raining in the middle of our trip before we even set up camp, but we figured out how to build a shelter and collected enough dry wood to make a fire and I helped cook…” Or “I really wanted to earn my next archery badge so I spent my choice activities practicing with our archery counselor and look, I got it!” The types of victories will differ but the lesson our summer campers learn at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps is always the same: I am able.

The benefits of an unplugged summer camp experience at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps are numerous. If you are still wondering how our campers handle the transition to an unplugged summer at Woodcraft I can assure you they handle it well. I have worked at a number of unplugged summer camps over the years and although I have certainly heard chorus complaints of: “I wish I could use my phoooooone” before, the resounding echo is that campers truly enjoy their tech-free space. It’s almost sacred. Instead of FOMO (fear of missing out. Yes it’s a thing!) there’s a sense of JOMO (joy of missing out.) Our summer campers get to say goodbye to the pressures and demands of their often fast-paced lives, electronic devices included, and hello to that extra time and the friends they can connect with at their totally awesome, beautiful, unplugged camp. 

For more information about the benefits of a summer camp experience at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps, call or email 315-369-6031 or christina(at) For information about the benefits of camp in general, check out the American Camp Association's article on 5 Reasons Why Great Parents Send Their Kids To Camp. "Get Unplugged" made the list. 


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