When summer camps come up in conversation the focus is on a few things: that it is a great place to make friends, try new things, and make life-long memories. One of the things that is sometimes overlooked is the intrinsic health benefits that are associated with sending a child to camp. I recently visited the New York State Legislature in Albany. The trip was organized by the New York State Camp Director's Association and the aim was to have discussions with Assembly Members and State Senators about issues that are important to children and to accredited camps in New York state. The camp directors who were present were divided into groups based on different issues and assigned meetings with different politicians. My group was assigned a bill that would require the Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation to create a long term plan for how to get children in the outdoors and more active. Some of the facts and figures included in the bill got me thinking about the health benefits of camp and I wanted to go through some of those with you now:
- According to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, only 40% of US kids get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Children also spend half as much time outdoors as they did 30 years ago. During that same time period, childhood obesity has doubled and adolescent obseity has tripled. In a recent study of camps it was found that 80% of males and 73% of females met the required 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This physical activity is a part of all the activities that campers do from their sports and waterfront classes, to the walking that they do going to and from different locations on camp.
- Kids between the ages of 8-12 years now spend approximately 6 hours per day using different screens and devices, and kids between the ages of 13-18 spend 8 hours doing the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics has linked digital media use to lower quality sleep, reduced learning, problematic social behaviors, and obesity. Frost Valley YMCA doesn't allow personal electronic devices at camp during the summer. We also do surveys with all of our campers at the end of their time here. This past summer approximately 94% of campers said they had no trouble living without electronics for the time they were here and more than 90% reported an increase in their social skills.
- The average child in the US spends only 4-7 minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play. Outdoor play is something that is included in all aspects of the camp experience at Frost Valley and we give our campers numerous opportunities during the day for unstructured play or for choice in the activity they will be doing, including during our Waterfront, Specialties, and Hangout periods. The Frost Valley survey mentioned in the previous section found that more than 95% of our campers said they enjoyed being outdoors more and felt more connected to the natural environment.