I would send my kids to this summer camp…

by on August 10, 2008 · 19 comments

… if I lived in the San Fran area. Gever Tulley’s “Tinkering School” encourages kids to play with pocket knives, power tools, and fire. It also requires that kids take apart various household appliances just to figure out how they work. And, my personal favorite — kids get to drive cars. (Our own Tim Lee will be tickled by the portion of the camp where the kids are encouraged to break the DMCA by learning how to rip and repackage music, although I can’t imagine they really need much encouragement from adults to do that!)

The reason I found this idea for a summer camp so refreshing when I heard about it on NPR this week is because I have spent the better part of the last few months signing endless liability waiver forms for my daughter’s summer camps, including the tennis camp she’s in right now. After all, don’t you know how dangerous flying tennis balls can be!! And my kids like to swim at a local pool that not only has endless waiver forms and rules, but also no high diving boards for fear of liability from scumbag trial lawyers.

We have become a nation of over-protective wusses. As Tulley points out in his great little lecture below on “5 dangerous things you should let your kids do,” we practically wrap our kids in bubble wrap before we send them out the door to play these days — assuming we let them out the door at all. It’s crazy. Our kids need to be experiencing life, the elements, and yes, a little danger. I have already started teaching my kids how to use power tools and they are both under the age of 8. One of my wussy yuppie friends stopped by one day to get something and saw my kids playing with hammers, nails and saws and he thought I was nuts. But it is he who is nuts for shielding his kids to the joys of learning to build something with their own hands (and for denying them the skills to actually do some honest to God manual labor when they get older).

Anyway, enjoy this video. If this guy starts a camp on the East Coast, I am putting my kids on the waiting list.

  • Jon L

    Amen to that. A related study in England actually said recently “…research shows that children need to experience challenging play in order to develop important life skills and to better manage risk and challenge in their daily lives,”

    The study talked about how children that are completely protected from things that might hurt them; are less capable of making smart risk assessments in their older years.

    Go climb a tree for crying out loud!

  • Jon L

    Amen to that. A related study in England actually said recently “…research shows that children need to experience challenging play in order to develop important life skills and to better manage risk and challenge in their daily lives,”

    The study talked about how children that are completely protected from things that might hurt them; are less capable of making smart risk assessments in their older years.

    Go climb a tree for crying out loud!

  • Adam Thierer

    Jon L… If you have a link for that study, please pass it along. I’d like to read it.

    And yes, tree-climbing is another of those incredible joys of childhood that is slowly disappearing. My best friends and I spent an entire summer building a great little tree house one year back in the late 70s. We still talk about the experience fondly 30 years later.

    Model rockets was another joy of my childhood. I must have built dozens of them. I’ve just bought my son his first Estes starter kit for his upcoming birthday. Only problem: It’s getting harder and harder to find a public park — even in the suburbs — that will let you launch them.

  • Adam Thierer

    Jon L… If you have a link for that study, please pass it along. I’d like to read it.

    And yes, tree-climbing is another of those incredible joys of childhood that is slowly disappearing. My best friends and I spent an entire summer building a great little tree house one year back in the late 70s. We still talk about the experience fondly 30 years later.

    Model rockets was another joy of my childhood. I must have built dozens of them. I’ve just bought my son his first Estes starter kit for his upcoming birthday. Only problem: It’s getting harder and harder to find a public park — even in the suburbs — that will let you launch them.

  • Bret Swanson

    Amen x 2.

    Last summer I sent my then-five-year old daughter to Camp Invention with my old Sony Stereo. Two weeks later she brought home some wheeled, pullied contraption build out of 1990s printed circuit boards and stereo knobs. Not very practical, but she got to see the inside of a “black box” and put the pieces into a new form. Plus they learned about Da Vinci, Edison, and other famous inventors.

    This summer, unfortunately, she did not return to Camp Invention because the theme was saving the earth from the global warming enviro-apocolypse. Her first-grade friends already question her “green cred” and her dad’s heresies. So instead I taught her how to build fires on the beach and release good old CO2 into the sky.

  • Bret Swanson

    Amen x 2.

    Last summer I sent my then-five-year old daughter to Camp Invention with my old Sony Stereo. Two weeks later she brought home some wheeled, pullied contraption build out of 1990s printed circuit boards and stereo knobs. Not very practical, but she got to see the inside of a “black box” and put the pieces into a new form. Plus they learned about Da Vinci, Edison, and other famous inventors.

    This summer, unfortunately, she did not return to Camp Invention because the theme was saving the earth from the global warming enviro-apocolypse. Her first-grade friends already question her “green cred” and her dad’s heresies. So instead I taught her how to build fires on the beach and release good old CO2 into the sky.

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