In today’s society we live in a world where it’s all about keeping up with the Joneses and owning the latest products. In general for males it might be owning the latest and biggest TV, game console, phone or car and women have the constant pressure of buying the latest brands in makeup and competing with the size zero models.
Some might say that over the years children’s expectations have also increased. As we approach the Christmas holiday’s parents everywhere are working overtime to ensure that their child can own the latest Xbox or Apple product. Children are also becoming more and more exposed to the ‘perfect image’ concept; social media sites have become less about holiday snaps and are now all about the selflies – with some newspapers and websites stating that over 90 million selfies are taken each day!
A majority of teenage girls now spend hours hidden away in their rooms watching the beauty bloggers and vloggers on how to produce the perfect look. It’s encouraging a lot of younger females to invest in vast amounts of makeup and clothing aimed at a much higher age group preventing the girls from enjoying their childhood. Interestingly it’s not just females who have become obsessed with the selfie and their image, it’s also a very popular topic with the males – making sure their hair is “on fleek”!
In my opinion children are no longer being children and instead are spending their time trying to be ‘grown up’. At Mountain Adventure Camps we take the kids back to basics and with a ‘no technology’ rule, the children are taken out of their comfort zones and are encouraged to make friends through communication and mutual hobbies, resulting in real friendships compared to 100’s of online ‘friends’.
We enable the kids to be kids, we want their experience to be different from home life but also make their time with us unique. We encourage getting messy and do activities such as mountain biking in the rain, including splashing through the muddy puddles. We also have an arts and crafts afternoon where we get them painting with their hands and faces, instead of confining their imaginations to colouring within the lines.
Equality is also essential at Mountain Adventure Camps. Children aren’t born materialistic, their backgrounds and family wealth are insignificant during their time with us. Instead of bonding over the new online game phenomenons, they spend their free time enjoying a competitive game of Uno or excitedly trying to create a record height in Jenga. By removing technology, we remove the need for children to prove themselves to the other campers.
To help with achieving equality among the children, we provide them with a bright orange t-shirt, which is to be worn during the adventure activities in the afternoon. This has a safety aspect as it enables us to spot the children when among crowds or up high in the trees during the high ropes course. It also helps create a neutral bond, as everyone looks the same!
During their stay we see many changes in the children’s attitudes and behavioural habits. Some of our female campers will arrive with a full face of make up and will worry about the activities ruining their ‘appearance’. After a few days at camp they no longer feel the need to wear their makeup masks, and stop worrying about what they look like and embrace the activities such as getting soaked during our rafting trips.
As well as building the children’s confidence both physically and mentally we help the kids achieve goals both as a team and individually. We keep our numbers small and with a maximum ratio of 5 kids per staff member we can pick up on any of the campers fears or worries as soon as they arise. We then reassure them and on completion of the activity they always feel a great sense of achievement, helping to build their confidence and improve their self-belief.
Alongside the staffs encouragement and trust we give the kids fancy dress items or get them to wear combat paints during some of the harder activities. This action again creates the solidarity and creates bonds among the children, getting the kids excited and helping them forget about their initial fears.
To help the children grow and prosper during the sessions we introduce individual and team responsibilities. Even simple things as daily room inspections teaches the children many transferable skills such as caring for their own and other people’s property. Some children have Nannies or Matrons who would normally make their beds. We find that they not only enjoy the task, but they feel proud that they have learnt a new skill and experience a sense of achievement.
Amongst other life skills, we introduce the concept that “you won’t always get every job you apply for”, and how to deal with the sense of loss. Each child has their strength and weakness and we teach them that it is okay to not be the best at everything, and although it’s good to be competitive it’s also okay to lose occasionally, as it helps them to become stronger and adds to character building.
We conclude their stay at Mountain Adventure Camps by getting the kids to sit and think about what they have learnt during the session. We get them to tell us something they have learnt about the person sat next to them, what they have individually learnt and what will they take back home with them. Some of the answers have brought tears to myself and the team, including discovering that they enjoy the simple things like having meal times at a dining table with others, and they want to reinforce this rule once back at home with their parents and siblings.