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Imagination at Elmwood

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
― Pablo Picasso

In the summer of 2016, we let our imaginations soar at Elmwood! In fact, we had an entire day dedicated to the art of imagining with our special event: Day of Wonder. When our Leadership Team was brainstorming special event days last winter, we were hesitant when this idea was first shared. Could we really have a day where we just wondered and pondered? Was it not specific enough to let campers and staff dress up as any special, mystical, or unusual character? Could we design an entire day’s worth of programming around imagination? We decided that this day tied in perfectly to our Elmwood Ten: a set of goals we have for every camper. By encouraging children to use their imagination, they can try new things, work cooperatively, communicate effectively, accept themselves and others and develop independence. At Elmwood, we can help children work on these competencies by making it fun. Click here for more information about the Elmwood Ten: http://www.elmwooddaycamp.com/about-us/elmwood-10

The Day of Wonder’s storyline was about many mystical characters coming together after a villain and his henchmen stole their wonder. Characters included Tinkerbell, Ash and Charzard from Pokemon, a unicorn, Harry Potter and Hermione, and a Jedi. During each activity, all of the campers had to work collectively to figure out a clue that would eventually help the characters get their wonder back. They problem solved and used critical thinking skills all while pushing their imaginations to new limits.

Children need time for creative play. (Adults do too.) When kids have time for pretend play, they learn the concept of “theory of mind.” The basic principle is that even though the person you are playing with has different ideas, those ideas are equally as valid as your own. Our friends, future classmates, colleagues or partners are capable even though they may think differently.

Furthermore, when children use their imagination they gain the ability to be flexible in their thinking. For example, if one solution to a problem does not work, slight or significant adjustments may lead to a better solution. Better yet, by working collaboratively, they will come up with the best possible solution or learn that there are many ways to solve a problem. Too often children are presented with just black or white options; a Day of Wonder opened them up to infinite possibilities.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of encouraging imagination is that it increases children’s empathy. They learn to be more accepting and less self-conscience. “I can be silly because my counselors (my role models) are being silly!” In this way, our campers learn to judge less and be open to the “big tent” way of living and that everyone is welcome in our community. When kids accept others, they can be more accepting of themselves. Children now do not have to imagine a place where they can be fully accepted for who they are. They found it: it’s called Elmwood.

As we start planning 2017, we will keep in mind that camp must foster creativity and use of imagination. Every part of our program is intentional. In the end, our decision to go forward with Day of Wonder was truly WONDERful!