Summer camp unplugged

Many camps won't allow Nintendo, PlayStation, or Game Boy to be present at those evening campfires - or anywhere else, for that matter. How can a parent prepare a child for this? Start weaning your camper now, say the experts.

"It is absurd to think you can take your children from a day-to-day rhythm of electronic toys," says family counselor Carlton Kendrick, "and then send them to camp and say, 'Now, it's time to enjoy the world of nature!' "

Not that kids will go into withdrawal, he adds, but camp or no camp, it's important to set limits and offer more creative alternatives for down time.

As for those parents who ship Sammy off to camp hoping for some kind of Thoreau-like conversion, Kendrick says they are in for a surprise. "The first call home will be a request for the Game Boy," he says. "Just because they are making plastic-cast molds of deer tracks doesn't mean they will morph into Paul Bunyon!"

Of course, he adds, "there will be children who will smuggle the games in and create a clandestine underground."

As he sees it, the greatest danger is that a child who doesn't know how to be social will miss out on the chance to learn this.

"Camp is a wonderful opportunity to develop social skills," Kendrick says, "and to discover a world beyond electronics."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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