For most people in this valley, daily outdoor activities are a critical aspect of a healthy well balanced lifestyle. However, for kids and families in crisis, this is an aspect of life that becomes less of a priority when taking care of the basic daily essentials and when dealing with challenging situations.
One of the ways we fulfill our mission to help children and families find their way to fulfilling and constructive lives, during the summertime, is to help the kids improve their sense of physical control, joy and belonging through outdoor activities. We make it a priority every day that the kids at the Van Vleck House participate in some form of physical activity in the out-of-doors. Youth Care Workers are integral in making this happen and are always looking for creative ways of motivating the kids to participate in new and fun adventures.
Activity highlights from this summer include what we like to call Student and Staff Olympics. This is a day of field games with teams of staff and students participating together in games such as tag, relays, “jousting” and a basketball/ultimate Frisbee/team handball hybrid called Versaball. The kids volunteered for a morning in exchange for time on the Snow King Ropes Course. This involved helping to spread bark chips on the pathways and culminated in several hours of high adventure. Each of the kids returned with stories of daring and excitement. Other outings have included fishing on the lakes, skateboarding at the skate park, tennis at the park and hiking.
Summertime at the Van Vleck House presents the staff and kids with a multitude of opportunities that aren’t normally available during the school year. Summer break allows us to spend more time with the kids and present them with some new activities and challenges. With the longer and warmer days we can travel further afield and get into activities which expose the kids to things they may have wanted to try but couldn’t or to activities that transform into a new interest. The increased time together also allows for a focus on therapeutic issues and an increase in attention to maladaptive behaviors. This is a time which enables us to more clearly identify what the issues are and gives ample time to practice and process new ways of thinking and trying out new behaviors. It is also a time to play, which as we know, allows for the residents to let their guard down and just be kids, which can be extremely healing. By trying new things, the kids are able to increase their self-confidence and resilience by challenging themselves to push the limits of their comfort zone. Trying new things in a fun and relaxed way increases kids’ ability and motivation to experiment with new behaviors in relation to their world view, family system and peer relations.