This is the last week of our Summer Series! Click here to catch up: Welcome to Camp Quarantine; your DIY Summer Camp at Home Guide!
The Summer Camp experience would not be complete without a little bit of mischief. Pranks, punks, and practical jokes are intertwined with the spirit of Summer Camp and, I believe, in the spirit of childhood in general! And I think I now realize why that is.
~Making Mischief with our kids~
Practical jokes of all kinds are a big deal at our house right now. Our son thinks that playing tricks on people is about the most hilarious thing in the world. You wouldn’t believe the parent points I earn by taking 15 seconds to put a pinecone in our son’s bed, or hide a toy dinosaur out in the garden. And watching him learn how to design and set up his own prank (usually unsuccessfully) has changed my perspective on mischief entirely. Where before I viewed pranks, punks, and practical jokes through a very neutral lens—as a fun, and more or less harmless aspect of growing up— I would now claim that such mischief has a much greater role in childhood than we give it credit for.
- Mischief facilitates Cognitive Development
Seeing how passionate our son is about subterfuge in general, and how carrying out a successful ruse challenges his mind, my stance on mischief as it relates to the brain has changed from “harmless” to “necessary” to even “beneficial.” Making mischief is quite the academic pursuit! From conceptualizing, to strategizing, to executing . . . pranks and practical jokes use a lot of brainpower for a little guy (or gal)! I guess you could say that making mischief is holistic education at work.
- Mischief creates Comradery
Ok . . . maybe not all mischief. But good-natured pranks and practical jokes should create a positive, character-building experience for all involved. Specifically for those who are in on the joke together, there is a bonding that takes place from being partners in crime. My husband and son often join forces to play jokes on me, and then my son plays the role of a double agent in helping me retaliate by playing pranks on Papa! There is a connection we have when we are playing jokes on each other that is unique unto itself.
- Mischief makes Life-Long Memories
I will never, ever forget the pranks I played on my mom growing up. My specialty was the good old rubber egg. I would store it away for months at a time until I was sure my mom had forgotten about it before popping it in the built-in egg storage in the fridge. Since we had chickens, there were always a lot of eggs in the fridge growing up, so sometimes it would take up to a week for my patience to pay off. But it was worth it! She fell for that dumb rubber egg every single time. I don’t know if anything in the world is as hilarious as watching your mom try to crack a rubber egg into pancake batter. It’s something we look back on laugh about to this day.
My husband was also into rubber ruses . . . but his were of the snake variety. I don’t think my husband ever laughs as loud as he does when he reenacts his grandma throwing her hands in the air and screaming as a rubber snake is tossed towards her. I want our son to be able to experience that same joy of telling his children one day the pranks he played on their grandma and grandpa when he was young.
All that to say, I would claim that mischief is not just a harmless and fun aspect of childhood, but a necessary developmental milestone, bonding and memory-building family endeavor, and overall a crucial rite of passage. Let’s move from “allowing” or “putting up with” a certain amount of mischief to seeing how we can better facilitate, cultivate, and (most importantly) participate in making mischief with our kids!
For some inspiration on adding camp-inspired mischief to our summer days, I went to the source and put in a call to the most mischievous (and hilarious) person I know . . . a truly legendary camp scamp . . . my dad.
“When I was at Boy Scout Camp one year, some of us guys took off down the road leaving camp one day and picked out a spot with lots of logs and debris. On the last day of camp we asked our bus driver if we could leave early. He agreed and a mile down the road we asked him to stop. We ran out at the spot we’d picked out and dragged all the logs and debris out behind our bus and made a roadblock for the other buses. After a few minutes the bus driver shouted ‘Ok! Ok! That’s enough!’ but he didn’t say anything else. We got back on the bus and went home.”
Note: If you are appalled that the bus driver let my dad and his friends get away with this . . . if you view a prank like this as terribly inconsiderate to the other bus drivers, campers, and parents whose schedules were undoubtedly disturbed, you are absolutely right! And you probably also never went to Summer Camp.
~MILK . . . SHAKE~
“When I was a counselor in training working at the commissary, my job was to make sure each kid had one carton of milk. So the kids would come by with their trays and I’d ask them: ‘Do you want milk or a milkshake?’ Every single kid looked up at me with big eyes and said ‘milkshake? I’d like the milkshake!’ I would nod, grab the milk carton, give it a nice shake, and place it on their tray.”
~ROCK & TROLL~
“One time we were hiking and this guy Scott thought he was pretty hot. He liked to brag and make a big deal of himself. So on the way up the summit, we kept sneaking rocks into his pack. When we got to the top, I said:
‘Hey, Scott! How’s your pack?”
He answered: ‘It’s pretty heavy!’
I said: ‘Oh, really? Here . . . you should take this rock out!’
I’ll never forget the look on his face. But we only did that cause he was being a hot shot. For the little guys, for the younger campers, we would hike to the top, dump our packs, and then hike back down and take the younger kids’ packs.”
Although this tale also stars my dad, it was my little brother who shared this story with me. It’s not really about a prank, and not even quite a practical joke . . . but more of a practical joke meets practical life lesson. Whatever camp it falls into, it’s too hilarious not to share, plus I think it’s an incredible example of using mischief in a very powerful way.
“My first year at Boy Scout Camp, Dad was the Fire Skills Instructor, and we called him Mr. Owl, which was his counselor name. One day for our fire training, there were ten of us and Dad told each of us to set up a fire for him to inspect before we lit them. We worked hard to set up the best fires we could, like we’d been taught to. It took us quite a while, maybe half an hour or more.
We were all really proud of our fire set ups and were excited to show them to . . . Mr. Owl. Then he comes by and announces ‘Oh, no! I forgot one little thing!’ Without another word, he dropped down to the ground on all fours and started growling and tearing around. Then he stood up and walked around our work area swinging his arms and grunting and knocking over everyone’s fire set ups. We all just stood there totally confused. Finally he stopped, shrugged, and said ‘Well! Bears gone.’ And then he walked off.
All the boys were so mad, including me. But we got back down and rebuilt our fire set ups. Next thing we know, here comes Mr. Owl with . . . a hose. Dad says ‘Oh no! Something else is going to happen now!’ and then he hosed down —completely drenching— all our fire set ups. Now all the boys were really mad. Some of them started complaining and yelling. But Mr. Owl just said “don’t be mad at me! Sometimes . . . it rains.”
We’d been making our fires for maybe two hours at this point and were completely filthy, exhausted, mad, and we were starting to think we would miss free time. We were all telling him there was no way we could actually light our fires now and were asking if we could just be done. Without a word, Dad —Mr. Owl— got down by one of our fires, took out his pocket knife and started whittling away on a drenched log. We all just watched silently as he stripped off all the wet bark and exposed perfectly dry wood underneath. Then, he started the fire.
It wasn’t a very fun morning, but it’s the thing I remember most from that year’s Boy Scout camp. It’s a lesson I will never forget.”
A few simple pranks, punks, and practical jokes to pull on your kids for the last two weeks of summer:
1.) Polar Bear Swim
Wake your kids up in the middle of the night for a good old-fashioned “Polar Bear Swim” —no lake required. Fill a kiddy pool with cold water in the back yard, or set up a sprinkler or Slip N’ Slide. They may not be too happy about it at the time, but I guarantee they will never, ever forget it.
2.) Rocks in Pack
This is a Summer Camp classic, and for good reason. It’s hilarious plus it builds strength of body, strength of willpower, and a forgiving sense of humor. Sneak some rocks into your kids’ pack or pocket on your next nature hike.
3.) Pinecone in the bed
4.) Rubber egg, rubber snake, rubber anything!
5.) Change the Wifi password and make the answer retrievable by scavenger hunt, puzzle, or math worksheet
6.) Switch something up in the kitchen . . . like salt for the sugar, or water in the milk carton
7.) Switch something up in the bathroom, salt the toothbrush, saran-wrap the toilet, or hide the hairbrush
8.) Take a tip from Elf on the Shelf and have a crazy family mascot that keeps popping up in hilarious spots
9.) Set up a “Booby Trap”
10.) And don’t forget the ever timeless classic: hide and scare the living crap out of someone
Now, go punk your kids!
Thanks for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~