Each year when school lets out for summer break, dance and yoga studios transition into weekly summer camps for kids. Many families travel throughout the summer making it difficult to commit to a weekly class, and with dual income households on the rise, finding affordable childcare can be difficult. Voila! The week-long summer camp is born!
The number one question I get when I mention summer camp is: WHAT DO YOU DO WITH LITTLE KIDS FOR THAT LONG?
Well, we do a lot of things.
Obviously, we dance and/or do yoga. We sing songs, do art projects, and eat snacks. That’s the basic stuff you can read about on a studio’s website.
But we’re learning a lot more than that…
We practice counting and colors, rhythm, tempo, levels, and work on basic locomotor skills. We practice both movement and stillness, and learn why each is important. We learn spatial awareness and how to navigate through space safely. As children progress, we learn to link movement together, and practice recall through games, songs, and movement sequences. All activities and exercised are designed specifically to meet where the students are developmentally.
But that’s not all…
We learn patience through taking turns, build confidence by sharing about ourselves, and practice respect by listening to others when it’s their turn to share. We work on our manners (even the 2-year-olds know to use the “magic word” if they want a shoe tied or juice box opened), and are energetically praised for each please and thank you. We learn to rephrase in ways that others will be more open and receptive – “Please keep your hands to yourself,” or “I’d like some space, please”, vs. “Don’t touch me!” to the kid reaching over for a new crayon.
But even THAT isn’t all…
We learn to identify and acknowledge our emotions without shame. Last week, a four-year-old burst into tears during our warm up because Lionel Richie’s song “Hello” (featured in the kid’s hit movie, Trolls) made her sad. We changed the song, but took time as a class to discover how music can make us feel different emotions – happy, sad, silly, scared, etc. We resolved that feeling sad is okay – and that we all have sad moments as well as the happy ones.
When another little boy had a meltdown because his art project didn’t look like everyone else’s, we took the time to talk about how each person is different and that’s a good thing! We are ALL special and bring different gifts to share – especially through our art. We then took turns presenting our art, and without prompt these beautiful, shining souls began to encourage one another with “oohs” and “ahhhs” over cotton ball cloud placement and colors chosen.
The kiddos aren’t the only ones learning. Working with children reminds me to check the energy I’m bringing into the room. When a little one is extra whiny and difficult, instead of getting irritated I remember that they’re usually either tired, lonely, or hungry (this is pretty accurate for adults too), give them a hug and remind them that we all have sad days. It’s amazing how being heard and feeling understood can alter one’s mood. My students have taught me to set boundaries in loving ways, watch my tone of voice, choose my words wisely, and avoid making reactionary decisions. They’re still teaching me to love freely, without inhibition, and to be okay verbalizing it. Vulnerability does not equate to weakness, it is a show of strength.
So that is what we do at summer camp. Or a short list, anyway.
We’re halfway through the summer, but if you’re interested in signing your kiddo up for yoga and/or dance camp you can find out more here.