Punxsutawney Phil the gopher saw his shadow this weekend, so we have six more weeks of skiing, sledding and snow days. And as if on cue, our local new station began describing in detail the foot of snow that’s headed our way.
But amidst all this winter fun, something else is top of mind in February: summer camp. Last week, our mail carrier dropped a camp catalog (complete with images of smiling kids with sun hats) through the door, where landed on top of gloves and boots still clumped with snow.
There are so many kinds of camps for kids: art, theater, sports, music, technology and more. And each one is beneficial and promotes development. But as you plan your child’s summer, consider setting aside some weeks for camps that are based in nature.
In addition to the outdoors being just plain fun, nature-based camps are a great way for kids to spend hours of lightly-structured time outside – something that today’s kids just don’t do anymore. And they should. Studies repeatedly show that time spent outside in nature leads to better health and improvement in cognitive skills, from improved ability to maintain a healthy weight to reduction in ADHD symptoms to a boost in creativity.
If you’re not sure where to begin, here are three places to get started:
1. Your state or municipal parks and recreation department: My son Ben’s favorite week of the summer is junior ranger camp at Walden Pond (yes, that Walden Pond!). Each day includes light hikes, swimming and a series of nature-themed activities, like ponding and plant identification.
2. Your local Audubon Chapter: These camps immerse kids in the plant and wildlife of the habitat around them, be it a beach, forest or pond. When my son and daughter spent two weeks at an Audubon-run day camp on the ocean, they were teaching me about marine life.
3. Your local YMCA: Don’t live close to a preserve or other natural area? Try a YMCA camp; many include a daily visit to a local park for some outdoor play time.
We’d love to know: what are your kids doing this summer?