Values at Play: A Day in the Life…

What are the kids up to ALL day?

Here’s a sneak peek into life at Camp SMashBox…  

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Let’s start at 12:30PM, just after lunch, and we’ll fill you in on the morning in a minute. At 12:30, the question that takes over camp each afternoon has begun to make its way to leaders’ ears…

“Is it time for the snack shack?”

“When does the snack shack open?”

“Is that the bell for the snack shack?”

“How can I earn more bucks for the snack shack?”

It’s like kids don’t EVER get a treat at home. :o)


This time the question is being asked by a sweet little thing with a bob haircut and adorably crooked bangs. She has spent her morning at camp ice-breaking and team-building and rotating among activities that are designed to serve the whole child. The activities span from crafty to active to challenging to service-minded to just plain wild, wacky, and weird. She’s been hanging out with a group of 6-10 of her peers and a leader she looks up to who loves kids and loves fun. She has some ketchup on her nose so it’s evident she has eaten lunch – today the kitchen was churning out corn dogs.

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Her attention is diverted for just a moment as she turns her gaze to watch a group of 8 year old boys run wild across camp. They are shirtless, in swim trucks, with war paint on their cheeks and squirt guns in their hands. Their battle cries echo about the property as they dart to the creek to refuel their guns. One of them slips in the grass. He gets mud up his leg. He springs back up, barely taking notice, and is off again to catch up to his group. They are working together to defend their tee-pee fort by squirting ice-cold creek water at their leader, who is in hot pursuit.



The little girl, about waist high, looks back up with pleading eyes. It’s a warm day and when kids are playing this hard, they just gotta have that snow cone. Like, NOW. Two of her friends play ten feet away. They are about 6 years old and are ducking and hiding in painted and repurposed refrigerator sized cardboard boxes. They are surrounded by piles of other discarded cardboard. Pieces that have been used and then used again for obstacle courses, forts, art projects, and now, as shields against squirt gun assaults.


The cutie-pie with the bangs is met with eye to eye. “The Snack Shack will open in a few hours, so you have a little more time to decide what you want most,” she is told. She gives a huff and a puff because it’s hard to wait when you really want a treat and have been on your best behavior to earn your SMashBucks. She runs over to the cardboard hideout to relay the unfortunate information to her friends.

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Off to the right the eleven-year-old girls are chatting about life and trying to make sense of their world. They are wrapping string around nails that have been hammered into scraps of wood. They are making old things new. Most of them have been camping with SMashBox since it started. They look up and smile.

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In the dirt lot a group of campers are debating the “real” rules of Gaga ball. Their leader could settle it once and for all, but he stays silent. He lets the conversation play out and gives the kids a chance to work it out on their own. It’s problem solving. It’s conflict resolution. It’s good for them.


Out in the woods by the creek some campers are dragging a 2×4 down to the water to make a bridge, while others are stacking old tires so they can climb inside and hide. The leader down there is sitting back too – supervising, but not intervening. Some activities call for 100% leader engagement. Others don’t. In both instances, it’s intentional.

This is how the days go at SMashBox. The sun makes its slow march across the sky and kids spend their energy at camp like it grows on trees. They are living out a childhood of epic adventures. They are dreaming up big ideas. They are inventing, imagining, running, creating, building, and pretending. They are being moms and dads and kings and queens and warriors and bears, and through all this pretending to be someone they are not they are discovering who they really are.


The bell rings and “no, it is not time for the snack shack yet!” But it is time for today’s main event – the color games!

“Find your leader, reapply sunscreen, take some big gulps of water, and get your white on. Things are about to get colorful!” For the next two hours colored chaos ensues as various challenges and games are presented. Campers run and hide and strategize. They plot together and laugh and squeal and delight in the fact that they are allowed to be crazy and they are encouraged to get their leaders dirty and nobody is telling them to keep their shoes out of the mud or to wipe the ketchup off their face. If it not color its flour. Or water. Or shaving cream. Or dirt. Or spaghetti. Or lots and lots of repurposed cardboard. It’s whatever we can get our hands on that kids don’t get to play with on a daily basis.


Finally, it’s mid-afternoon and the snack shack is OPEN! Campers have treated each other with kindness and have participated in activities and have helped their leaders set up and clean up and now for all their hard work they get to make one of the hardest decisions of their day… do they want a root beer float? Or a popsicle?

But seriously, the decision does get tough when kids are invited to sacrifice some of their hard earned bucks and donate to those in need by Camping for a Cause.

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Once the treats are doled out the day starts to wind down. One last project is completed, one last game of gaga ball gets under way, a few more campers need help locating a towel or a water bottle or a shoe. Between 4 and 5 parents start filing in to pick up the little humans who belong to them. The child they find often barely resembles the person they dropped off that morning; we send campers home in dire need of a bath and ready for bed at 7, and we consider that a day well spent and a job well done.

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That, my friends, is a day in the life of a kiddo at camp. We sure hope they will join the bash. Until then, “when does the snack shack open?!”