Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1398, (21 - 27 June 2018)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1398, (21 - 27 June 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Empowering your child

Summer camps are great opportunities to develop children’s social skills, writes Ghada Abdel-Kader

Kids discuss ideas together

“A child with good social skills will be able to survive in the social jungle, but these important skills are too often still not taught in schools,” says Manar Hassan, an emotional freedom technique (EFT) coach who helps children to develop their social and other skills.  

Summer camps are great fun and leave memories children never forget, she adds. “They can set kids free to do anything they like and enable them to take a break from school, exams, studying, stress, anxiety and even their parents’ instructions.” 

Hassan has extensive experience working with children as a dentist, an EFT coach, and is the mother of two children. During her journey of discovery to reduce children’s fears of dentist visits and leave a positive impression behind them, “I found out about EFT. It has amazing results, and it has helped many children and adults to release negative emotions, fears, bad memories and beliefs that have kept them stuck in a cycle of reactivity,” she says.  

The Makani Camp (My Place) is one children’s camp that gives them real opportunities to improve and develop their social skills and learn new things in order to ease mutual understanding and interconnection between children, their parents, family and friends, she says. The idea came at a workshop called Real Mom in Cairo divided into 12 phases with a yearly plan. The workshop helps mothers to find positive techniques they can use both on themselves and on their children too.

The camp is based on psychological freedom and self-directed education. Main rules include respecting each other’s opinions and disagreeing with others respectfully, taking care of each other, keeping the campsite clean and maintaining tools and equipment. 

“I like to try new things,” said Ziad Mohamed, 13, a trainer at the camp. He makes sure that the children cooperate and obey the rules. At the end of each camp, he also writes a report about the discipline and behaviour of the campers. 

Children at the camp are free to choose the activities and workshops they want to participate in, including sports, art, music, handicrafts, comics, games, puzzles or cooking. They even decide the exact time for each activity. 

Lujain Mamdouh, nine years old and one of the campers, says “I love making new friends. I also love stretching and squishing with the fluffy slime we have at the camp. It’s really fun.” Malak Mazen, eight-and-a-half, is another camper who loves drawing and Zumba classes. Her colleague Hala, eight, prefers cooking and drawing.

During the camp, the children learn and practise over 25 social skills. They include skills like social intelligence, making new friends, fair play, respecting each other’s opinions even when they are different, handling rejection, setting boundaries, dealing with peer pressure, the art of assertiveness, negotiating, how to maintain good manners and reputation, and the art of how to be everyone’s favourite. 

Hassan believes children need to be loved by their families and others. “Children deserve respect and unconditional love,” she says. They also learn how to develop positive inner voices, how to define problems and suggest solutions, and how to communicate through body language. They learn how to use iMessage, and how to express their emotions to others.  

Kids discuss ideas together

“The children recognise the different names and meanings of positive and negative feelings through games and activities,” Hassan explains. 

Ghada Al-Qaed, the mother of Hala, admits that her daughter was unhappy in school and that this started to affect her grades. She is now attending the camp for the fifth time. “Luckily, the camp has had a positive impact on my daughter. She has become happier and has more self-confidence and resilience in school. Even her grades have improved,” she says.

Hassan stresses that these skills are practised through real problems during the camp and not only through explanation. After a problem has occurred, the children discuss it and suggest what needs to be done. “Acquiring skills needs practice in the long term,” Hassan says.

“My older daughter Lujain suffered from not knowing how to deal with negative peer pressure in school, such as violent behaviour and influences imposed by others,” Rania Gouda, the mother of Lujain and Yara, seven-and-a-half, both of whom attend the camp, says. 

“Lujain used to get angry easily and cry. But now she has learned to control herself and become more flexible. She has also trained herself to accept and respect different opinions,” Gouda says. “Yara used to be very shy, but now she has become more confident and bolder. She has her own opinion and expresses herself freely in front of others,” she adds.

This is the fourth round of the camp. Each takes place four times a month on Friday in school time, Hassan says. “It helps the children to release the pressure and stress of the week. It starts at 10am and continues until 6pm. In summer, the campers have full days and stay overnight.”

The children are allowed to explore anything they want if it is safe and secured, and the camp programme is designed for boys and girls aged from seven to 12 years old. “Campers have to be in the same age range to have similar interests,” Hassan notes. There is another progamme for preschoolers and kindergartners aged from four to six years old. “The activities are more fun and simple,” she adds. 

At the camp, the children typically learn how to prepare their sleeping mats and enjoy a light dinner while they watch a film and eat popcorn. At the end there is an open bazaar where the children can buy and sell products like food snacks, juices, accessories, stone-coloured mandalas, penholders, cute bookmark ideas, games, books, slime, journals, paintings, drawings and more. Most of these products are made by the children themselves. An open discussion then rounds things up Hassan has noticed throughout the acmp. 

Malak draw a butterfly on a shirt

Mazen sold her designs for a journal at the bazaar. “It’s designed to write down all the tasks to be done during the day. I am also drawing and painting labels to remind the children of the tasks they have to do,” she says.

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