by: Cade Bradshaw, guest blogger

At camp, people spontaneously burst into song, your name tag is your most valuable commodity, and dreams are shared around the campfire. Always creative and always fun, camp magic (what psychologists sometimes call “free play”) is real. Camp magic is about novel activities where new ideas, games, or products are created rather than consumed. This type of play might not have an end goal, like practicing an instrument or reading a book, but it is infinitely valuable for improving social awareness, communication, and persistence. Universities and K-12 educators are a-buzz to foster this type of learning, as they believe it useful training for the next generation of entrepreneurs.


Kids play this way all the time at camp, but we want you to keep the magic flowing year round. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Start a Quest. Instead of the traditional scavenger hunt, make a list of open ended projects surrounding a theme. You can take ideas from a story your child already loves. A fan of Harry Potter might set out to find (or create) her first wand. A budding scientist might venture into a local greenbelt to construct her secret operations base. The next step in the quest magically “appears” after the first task is complete. Get inspired by this former naval officer’s ingenious approach for his 12 kids.
  • Googling “4×8 corrugated cardboard sheets” will yield local hits for places to buy HUGE pieces of cardboard. Buy some, and pick up some tape and string while you’re out. Now, let your children build! You can (and should) help with cutting, folding, and tying, but whatever you do don’t tell them what to make. Forts, ships, castles, and battle armor will arise from this empowering project (asset #17: Creative Activities and asset #37: Personal Power).


  • Start your own curated collection, and hold exhibitions. Pick a topic broad enough to allow for a variety of interpretations. For example, the topic “sky” would allow someone to include a model airplane or kite, but also wind dispersed seeds, or the color blue. Your family will next find (or make) 3-5 objects to show. On exhibition night, prepare a special dinner, and have show and tell to develop critical thinking and communication skills. Hold these twice a year, or more frequently! (asset #2: Positive Family Communication, asset #11: Family Boundaries, asset #16: High Expectations, and asset #20: Time At Home)
  • Still need some ideas? Visit a Maker Faire in your city. Maker faires are basically advanced Show and Tells. There are activities for the whole family, ranging from 3D printing to virtual reality to contemporary art. The sponsors will have ideas on how to engage your son or daughter with the local “maker” community. There are upcoming events all over the world! Check one out!

Let us know how else you spread magic with your family by using the hashtag #createbuilddiscover. Let’s have some fun!


As a former (but forever) Lonehollow guide, our guest writer Cade Bradshaw is a partner in Bridge Projects. His new company leads creative workshops in kite making, installation art, and more. Visit to learn more, and see Cade’s personal portfolio at

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