Mindful Summer Camps

Kids can enjoy hiking, swimming, and s’mores—and opt for yoga and meditation, too. Check out what’s available this summer.

Most summer camps are tech-free, but last year, Longacre Leadership camp in Pennsylvania tried something new: campers got their tech back after the first week.

Longacre’s director, Matt Smith, thought that the camp’s tech-free policy wasn’t helping kids in the long run. Instead, Smith and his colleagues thought giving campers a short break from their devices, and then allowing technology back, would help the kids reflect on their relationship with their devices.

The result? Below is a short video of the “tech experiment.” Campers talk about what it was like to take a digital break, and how they felt when they got their devices back. As Smith explains, many kids felt a sense of trepidation—not wanting to spoil their growing connection to nature, to each other, and to the camp experience:

“For every kid who was saying, oh, it’s so nice to have it back, I’m really happy to be able to talk to my friends, there’d be another kid who’s like, I’m really nervous because we’ve built this great thing in this first week, and I love this place, and I’m afraid that with our technology we’re going to ruin this experience.”

Longacre will continue the new tech policy this summer. And if you’re looking for more camps that are trying something mindful, like Longacre, here’s more information:

Teen Camp Omega

This year is Omega Institute’s 12th camping season in Holmes, New York, 90 minutes north of New York City. The camp runs from July 13 to August 16, with most teenagers coming for a two-week session. The staff includes 15 yoga and meditation teachers.

The video below gives you get a sense of the breadth of activities: from dancing, to yoga, to pottery classes. Some of the feedback from kids goes to show how giving them the space to be together and try new things is helping them with some of the struggles adolescents experience. As one camper says: “They don’t care about your past, they don’t care who you used to be, they care about who you are now.”

The Teen Camp Omega website has a domain for parents and one for teens, so you can both do your own exploring.

Tools for Peace

The 9th annual Tools for Peace summer teen camp takes place July 27 to August 2 on 475 acres in Tehachapi, California, outside Los Angeles. The camp accepts 30 applicants each year, who get to work with 10 trained facilitators, artists, and athletes. A Stop, Breathe & Think workshop teaches campers mindful techniques to cultivate compassion and become better communicators.

The camp has a scholarship option that you can apply for when you register. You can also check out a sample schedule of the week and hear what past campers have to say here. After the week with Tools for Peace, campers are invited to a reunion in the spring.

If you want to learn more, Tools for Peace just launched a meditation app called Stop, Breathe & Think that’s based on the camp’s mindfulness and meditation curriculum. The app is aimed at both youth and adults.

Ivy Child

The nonprofit organization Ivy Child runs a summer camp at the Boys & Girls Club in Worcester, Massachusetts, which has the capacity for 100 children per weeklong session in June and August. Before every program, organizers assess needs to determine what best suits the kids who have enrolled. Mindfulness is taught through yoga, meditation, music, and art.

Ivy Child describes their mindfulness approach as “Mindfulness-Based Learning.” From the Ivy Child website: “MBL is a form of complementary and primary health education that brings together mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, relaxation, creative yoga and the arts.”

Get a glimpse of the summer camp program in the video below:

Olympia Sports Camp

This sports-oriented camp for children age 9 through 18 is located in the Muskokas, north of Toronto. Weeklong camps run from June 29 to August 30. There are boys-only, girls-only, or co-ed camps. Olympia has partnered with Mindfulness Without Borders to offer a program that teaches simple breathing and body-awareness exercises to help kids reduce impulsivity and stress.

This web extra provides additional information related to an article titled, “Camped Out, Plugged In” and “Summer Camps With a Twist,” which appeared in the April 2014 issue of Mindful magazine.