By Suzanne Koup-Larsen
While it’s not a medical diagnosis, child-advocacy expert Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the wide range of problems that people, especially children, experience when they don’t spend much time outdoors. Additional research suggests that physical activity and exposure to nature contribute to good health. Many camp programmers have this concept in mind as they design camp experiences for kids.
Camp is a great opportunity to shake up the normal summer routine because it breaks the all-too-common cycle of sitting around the house, spending too much time on electronic devices and snacking at will. Not only will kids be making lifelong memories at camp, campers will develop healthy habits for a lifetime as kids increase their physical activity, practice mindful eating and spend more time outdoors.
The American Camp Association reports that 70 percent of summer camps target physical activity in their programming and philosophy. Some camps even have sports as their primary focus. In general, sleep-away camps encourage lots of walking by design. Campers might have to walk from their bunk to another building to brush their teeth and take a shower and then walk across camp to the dining hall to eat. Under these circumstances, campers can’t help but move more throughout the day, which creates another benefit.
While most camps do offer kid favorites like pizza and fries, many camps do make a point to offer healthy alternatives, too. Having healthy options like a variety of fruits and salads may encourage kids to choose healthier foods than they may have chosen at home. Your child may even try something out of the ordinary for them, simply by seeing their peers making healthy choices. Another plus, is that having scheduled meal times will limit random snacking throughout the day.
Even spending time in fresh air has benefits. Of course, remember the sunscreen, bug repellent and stay hydrated!
Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.