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Kids Can’t Stay in Survival Mode Forever.

Tumbleweed Helps Move them from Surviving to Thriving.

When children went back to school in the fall of 2021, the signs of substantial academic learning

loss were already there. As a parent, I saw this with my own kids and their friends in their class. Weeks were spent on relearning how to just be in a classroom for my kindergartener – something that should have been learned months ago in preschool. Her class spent substantial time on relearning letters and numbers, trying to catch back up to where a typical, non-pandemic kinder should be. And, I’m sure you agree, the teachers are crushing it! They heard the S.O.S call of academic learning loss from last year and stepped up to the challenge. We as parents look to teachers as the experts in leading our children and supporting them in their academic learning – that is what they are Master Jedis in. So, when the mountains of data came rolling in showing that distance learning and the pandemic deepened the academic loss, teachers dug deep and focused in hard on helping our littles get back what they lost academically. However, academic learning loss is not all that kids are struggling with.

As most of you have probably noticed with your own children, our youth are suffering emotionally, mentally and socially. All that time spent apart from their peers has resulted in significant social-emotional learning loss. The New York Times recently surveyed over 1,300 therapists, and those that support children are seeing some troubling trends. “We’re seeing kids fist-fight, a lot of yelling at teachers. They don’t know how to be in a room with 25 other kids. They’re having difficulty relating to one another,” says Pooja Sharma, a clinical psychologist in Berkeley. While our teachers are trying to help our kids thrive academically, they cannot also help them thrive socially, emotionally, and mentally – though that is what is expected of them. We cannot expect someone to give 110% in multiple areas. As a parent, I know you have tried to do this as well! Whether it’s parenting plus running a business plus caring for an aging pet… When we spread ourselves too thin, we are barely surviving. And that is the position our kids are in right now. So what are we to do?

Just like we expect teachers to be the experts in academic learning, we have to turn to the

experts in social-emotional learning: traditional summer camps.

Traditional summer camps, like Tumbleweed Day Camp, have been the experts in social-emotional learning for over a century. Our complete essence is built on creating small, intense communities every summer. In order to build these communities, we have gotten really good at supporting social and emotional growth in our campers, focusing specifically on relationship building, mindfulness and being self-aware, curiosity, and optimism (just to name a few). The social-emotional learning that happens at camp is not only key to addressing the mental health crises we are seeing across the country, it is also necessary to help our kids with their academic learning as well. Traditional summer camps help our children move from barely

surviving in school, to thriving in life, and more importantly, being happy. Taking a look at how the experts at summer camps utilize these social and emotional learning tools will help you as a parent pick the best program for your child this summer.

Relationship Building

Relationship building is a fancy way for saying MAKING FRIENDS! Experts at traditional summer camps know how critical relationship building is in becoming successful, happy humans. Making friends and learning how to positively interact with other people involves many elements of social-emotional learning: communication, collaboration, civil disagreement, being a leader and learning how to be a good partner. When looking for a camp for this summer, making friends and building relationships should be the number one program focus of any expert-run establishment. When our children have more practice building relationships and maintaining friends, they will be able to take these skills into the classroom next year. When children feel connected and confident in their ability to make and sustain friendships, their anxiety and depression become lower and their self-esteem rises, trickling into all areas of their life.

Mindfulness and Being Self-Aware

Tons of research has been devoted to the positive effects of being present, or mindful, and those skills are critical in helping kids thrive in life. Learning how to be more mindful and present is built into all great summer camp programs. We give kids time to explore nature, daydream, and live creatively. Camps whose programs offer space and time for mindful play and lessons in being present should be at the top of your list when choosing a camp. When camps devote time and space to being more present, they are also providing opportunities for campers to practice being self-aware. Self-awareness is a life-long skill that children need to practice early. Traditional summer camps have the flexibility and a lower camper to staff ratio that enables us to take time to talk to kids about how they are feeling and how they can get to a different emotion. Summer camps like Tumbleweed intentionally take time to work with all campers on being self-aware, because the more we talk about how our emotions work, the better we are at controlling them and being the masters of our own happiness. Practicing self-awareness helps kids identify what makes them happy and then they are able to replicate that so that they are no longer constantly relying on adults to do that for them.


Curiosity is the key element in life-long learning. Since our schools have to focus so much energy on catching students up with their academic learning, there is not a lot of time that can be spent on wondering, experimenting, or being curious just for the sake of finding out something new. That’s where summer camp experts come in! Whether it’s figuring out which camp counselor is the silly character at the morning assembly, going for a scavenger hunt, or experimenting for the first time on the rock wall, camp is filled with opportunities to be curious. Great summer camp programs, like Tumbleweed, offer a variety of activities that give campers the opportunity to dabble. Camp experts intentionally provide new and different activities that campers may have never seen before, or may think that they don’t like. Giving campers opportunities to be curious helps them practice setting expectations, succeeding and failing, and most importantly building optimism.


Optimism is one of the single most important skills used to fight anxiety and depression. When you have something to look forward to or someone to look forward to seeing, you are less likely to feel hopeless and alone. One of the things that makes summer camp so special and magical-feeling is that we build up to many moments, including the first day of camp. The simple act of choosing a great summer camp for your child and putting it on the calendar can change the way they see the rest of the semester. It is the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, great camps are able to build this optimism because they create meaningful moments and intentional programs that help support social-emotional learning. They create something to be optimistic about! Camp experts know the power of special moments, that’s why we have special theme weeks, end of session celebrations, and ceremonies to look forward to. Having those experiences and practicing optimism at camp with social-emotional experts give kids the skills needed to intrinsically do that during the school year.

Life has not been easy for anyone these past few years, but our children have been impacted more than others. Let’s help set them up for success and get them the experts they need to support their social, mental, and emotional learning. We look to our teachers as the experts in academic learning so that we can help our children build back what they lost over the past few years. Our children are on the right path to survive whatever comes next, and by sending them to a traditional summer camp this year, you can help them move from surviving to thriving.

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