Exploring the Diversity of Summer Camp Offerings

Beach camp

Buzz Aldrin once attributed at least part of his desire to go into space to the “competition of summer camp”. For many Americans camp is a yearly tradition, filled with new friends, exciting activities and the chance to connect with nature. The appeal of camp is often linked to independence and adventure. More than 11 million children and adults go to camp every year, whether residential offerings (overnight) or day camps.

The real value of summer camps lie in their ability to encourage kids fitness in fun, interesting ways. According to the American Camp Association (ACA) most camps offer a range of fun activities including swimming (87%), team building (78%), climbing or rappelling (48%), or horseback riding (38%). Many also have activities such as community service, farming, ranching, or gardening, or wilderness trips.

Camps have also diversified to offer new types of activities and specialized programs to cater to specific needs and interests. Adventure camp programs are increasingly popular as are family camps which bring together parents and children. Nature or environmental education programs linked to camps are growing and so too are gardening programs, college planning programs, fitness camps, and cooking programs that draw on ingredients from camp gardens. The diversity caters to a range of children who might otherwise not want to attend camp, but who might consider specialized programs. Some camps have programs designed for those with disabilities.

The top five activities at camps, though, remain swimming, ropes and challenges, archery, arts and crafts, and other aquatic pursuits. These core activities are perfect for addressing the physical activity needs of children, especially since today’s generation is pending more time in front of screens — as much as seven and a half hours — and less time engaged in physical activity. Just over two thirds of children do not do any physical activity daily, despite CDC guidelines recommending that both children and adolescents exercise for at least an hour a day.

The fun, safe, team environment of summer camps can encourage children who are less inclined to exercise and offer an exciting way to approach physical activity that seems more like play and less like work. While summer camps offer a number of benefits, improving child fitness is surely one of the most important.

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