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The Social and Emotional Long-Term Benefits of Summer Camp

 Summer camps help children to foster social relationships without the aid of a parent.

NEW YORK CITY - Children spend up to 180 days in school, not counting weekend functions, school-sponsored extra-curricular activities and socializing with friends. For most kids, it’s a huge part of their world.

Camp offers your child a different environment in which to grow their social skills and expand their friendship circle.

The primary feature of most camps is that they offer recreation and creativity in a structured environment.  That structure usually provides for downtime to just hang out.

Here, are a few of the many positive features of going to camp.

 

Another Opportunity to Develop Social Intelligence
According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, who coined the term, social intelligence is broken into two parts:

Social awareness is the ability to monitor our inner world — our thoughts and feelings. Social awareness refers to qualities including empathy, attunement to others and social cognition.

Social facility, on the other hand, refers to how we use our internal social awareness to interact with individuals and groups successfully, such as self-presentation, influence and concern for others.

Camp is a key opportunity for kids to develop both sides of their social intelligence by offering them a way to practice becoming adept at socializing by offering them access to many new people and environments.

The more children can practice their social intelligence, the more smoothly they can incorporate the skills for the rest of their lives.

Emotional Challenges
The structure of camp presents an ideal environment for children to build resilience. As I’ve mentioned before in my Mental Wellness column, resilience is having the ability to take failures in stride and retain a positive outlook on life and one’s abilities.

There are a myriad of examples where resilience can be fostered while at camp, whether it be on the losing side of an athletic competition, navigating the social waters of cliques and peer groups, or (in the case of sleep-away camp) not being able to lean on a parent’s intervention, thereby learning to “smooth” things out on one’s own.

Camp also allows children to experience the full range of emotions in relationships in a compressed time frame of several days to several months. Children get to experience the nervousness, excitement and, eventually, the sadness that comes from making new friends, connecting with those friends and then having to say goodbye at the end. This experience will repeat itself over and over again across one’s lifetime and it is a different experience from the cycle of the academic year.

Expanding the Definition of “Who I Am”
For good or for bad, we often times get labeled early in our lives as an athlete, an artist, musician, as gifted or talented, as a “brainiac,” or other, more derogatory, things.

After I finished graduate school, I worked at an academically-oriented summer program for high school kids, located on a major college campus. It was a very LGBT-friendly environment, and many of the LGBT students expressed that they felt most like themselves at this program. This was in stark contrast to their school experiences where they felt they had to “hide” their true selves, due to fear of judgment, ridicule or violence. The students were very grateful for this camp.

Like those LGBT teens, kids of all kinds can find a place to expand or change their label at the right camp.

In the age of specialized summer camps, children who excel or have an intense interest in a subject can spend their summers exclusively pursuing their passions. A secondary gain from this is that the other kids attending camp are also the ones labeled in the aforementioned ways back home. As a result, your child can be defined less by their passion, or what they “do,” and more by their character and the other traits that go into their “true” sense of self.

If the child has had negative experiences at school or in their neighborhood, they get exposure to a different world that may feel more accepting, walking away with a belief that there is a place for them in world.

The Investment
Sometimes summer camp can be a costly financial investment for parents, particularly when it comes to food and lodging and travel at camps such as sleep-aways.

But whether it's a free camp or a paid camp, a good one requires kids to invest in their experience, whether it's through their intention to build friendships or their willingness to push boundaries to the unknown.

If a child spends the summer growing their social network, building resilience, developing a positive sense of self which helps them be who they really are, then the money spent on summer camp is a priceless investment in your kid’s future.

Kids summer campEvery summer millions of children go to overnight summer camp. But Why? Oh sure, some parents just need day care. But the vast majority of parents that are thinking about sending their child to overnight summer camp, do not take this responsibility lightly. They do their research by: going to camp fairs, talking to friends, taking camp tours and chatting with references. Why do all this? Because when you select the right Overnight Summer Camp for your child, it will be a life changer and an experience they will want to repeat summer after summer. Maybe thats why children from all around the world come to USA Summer Camps

 

So how does summer camp change kids lives? Not every camp is the same, so I can only speak about our overnight summer camp. Swift Nature Camp is located in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We cater to children 6–15, with a leadership program for our 16 & 17 year old campers. Our small camp blends old-fashioned camp activities on land and water, with environmental and nature learning. Plus we have a camp zoo, where children who love animals can even adopt one while they are at camp.

 

Here are ways that children’s lives are changed because of camp:

1) Great Staff- When you get young people who are dedicated to kids full time, your child feels it. Camp counselors have boundless energy and enthusiasm- something parents often loose as they get older. It’s like having the best big sister or brother in the world who really cares about you. They want you to be your best. So children look up to these counselors and since they are role modeling positive values, your child will pick those up and bring them home.

 

2) Communal Living- Yes, your child will be living in a cabin with 5–8 other children of their own age, building new friendships and developing strong new social circles. For most children this is a new experience. When you live with others, you have to be a little less worried about yourself and be thinking more about others. That is part of the natural progression of kids from self to others. Camp pushes them a little further along this road.

 

3) Nature-This day and age we live our lives inside. There is a big beautiful world out there that children should learn about and they should not be afraid of. All of science is saying, humans need to be connected to their environment, enjoy the beauty of the simple things in life. That’s why at SNC, we often take our kids to the lake to quietly enjoy a sunset.

 

4) Independence- Today we have so many types of parents, and often we see loving parents that hold their children back, not intentionally. But, sometimes they just don’t see that kids need and want to get out on their own, make decisions on their own and try new things. A Nature Camp is a safe place to try things, make mistakes and move on. This is all part of growing up and camp is the safe and supervised place this takes place.

 

5) Play is an amazing tool. It helps children get exercise, loose weight and feel better. More important, Free Play can help children resolve conflict, problem solve and be creative. Daily, at camp have 1.5 hours dedicated to free play, where campers can do the activities they want to do. This is like the old days, when children could just go outside and play.

 

One thing we hear from parents every summer is “I wish I would have sent my child to Swift Nature Camp sooner” you see, childhood is a once-off thing. Too soon it’s over, and you can’t reclaim the years, but you can look back on incredible memories. That’s why summer camp is so important — it’s a fun, positive experience where children can simply be children and have the time of their lives. Overnight summer camp is a vital part of a child’s personal growth and development

It’s the small size and attention to detail that makes camp so successful at promote each child’s personal development. Sending your child to Swift Nature Camp is a gift, one your child will cherish for the rest of their life. Maybe that’s why 92% of our campers want to return each summer to this Wisconsin Summer Camp.

Winter time is upon us and many families have begun looking for the right priced summer camp. Learn How you can save money by planning ahead
YIKES, winter is still hear but many summer campsare filling up for the upcoming summer. Summer camp for many working parents holds two main concerns: 1) Finances and 2) Lodgistics. 

In a recent American Express Spending and Saving Tracker estimate was that average cost per-child summer spending on everything from travel to camp to child care hovered around $600, while affluent families spent $1,000 or more per week. Obviously, scout camps, church camps and even park district camps can cause far less. On the other side are more expensive camps, usually found out east, which can cost nearly $1500 per week (8wks)

Planning ahead often can help reduce the stress and the cost. Campers that return to camps often find that their camp offers a discount for returning campers. Others may offer an early registration discounts. If you’re able to pay up front, camps might offer an even larger discount. For those in a difficult financial situation many camps will offer “camperships” with various discounts.

Many private camps are often family-run small businesses, and might also be open to trading services for camp time. This could include, update a website, provide cords of wood for campfires, or resurface a tennis court. It never hurts to ask.

It is important to stay connected these days because many programs can fill fast. So mark your calendars with registration dates. E-mail all the places you might consider, science museums, theaters and village park districts to be put on their mailing lists, so nothing will pass you by. Often the most economical camps for young children fill up fast, as do the most desirable or those with limited offerings. 

Summer time does not need to be full, a little down time works as well for parents with flexible schedules and fond summer memories of biking and roaming the neighborhood. Working parents may not be as fortunate to have an open summer but by sending their child to an overnight camp, their child will experience days much like we did 30 years ago, outside and messing around with friends in a safe environment.

Many parents have made this commitment to their children to be more present, to be more purposeful, to be more intentional. One of the best ways to do this, is our second though committing to the logistics. This day an age we are used to getting what we want when we want it. Maybe we can learn from our parents plan ahead, if you can plan a family vacation, you’ll enjoy it more if everything else is in place to make the rest of your summer run smoothly. Plan now, and chances are you will be happier and more enjoy your summer.

One last thought all summer camps are not created equal so please do your homework when 
picking a summer camp.
So it is that time of the year again when parents start to wonder how to make their child’s summer fun but also educational. Summer camp has often been thought of taking care.....
So it is that time of the year again when parents start to wonder how to make their child’s summer fun but also educational. Summer camp has often been thought of taking care of the fun part of the summer but not necessarily enriching the child. Summer is the perfect time to stop worrying about grades and let your child socially develop with higher self esteem, greater leadership skills and how to make friends. Not all camps believe they enrich a child’s personal development so be sure to ask the director their goals before you rush to sign up for a camp that your family friend is attending. To Find The Best Summer Camp it is important to get the right information.
Summer camp and summer enrichment programs do come dearly, but it is important to realize that benefits your child will develop for the rest of their life. Be sure that when doing your investigation you chat with the Director to be sure you are both on the same page. Some summer enrichment camps are little more than a expensive vacation.

Camp activities that promote camper enrichment are important. But equally important is that children get an opportunity to use these skills daily. Does the camp have a well panned schedule? Or are the children just hanging out most of the day? Look at the stated benefits of a program and at the summer enrichment camp sessions offered. Do the activities match your child’s areas of interest? Will the instruction enhance your child’s personal development?

Staff training is a key. It is important to again chat with the camp director and find out the training his staff has. Do they have certifications in specialized areas like ropes course or archery? You may have hear the fact that often camps scramble at the last minute to get staff and sometimes use international staff. These staff are often more interested in seeing the world than seeing to campers needs.
We all know children do not want to go to school during the summer. Therefore it is important that staff do their best to incorporate learning in to games. When campers enjoy the process they learn alot more than behind a desk in school. Camp is about hands on learning. Learning socialization skills is a contact sport.

Again , it is important to understand that camp teach “Life Long Learnables” the things they just do not teach you in school. So when you hear “summer enrichment” its not all school. Camp benefits children by providing them with:Confidence, motivation and self-esteem, as well as their communication and leadership skills. These are the things that really help a child excel in life. 

So you have found the right place, How long should they stay? As a camp Director I believe that longer the better. However, many children have scheduling conflicts and maybe too expensive for many parents. The truth is the shorter the time the less impact a child will have. 


Finally, be sure to investigate your summer enrichment options thoroughly because sending your son or daughter to the right summer enrichment camp will offer long-term benefits for the entire family. As well as making the wrong choice on a sumer camp can have negative impact as well. Remember increased motivation and confidence can translate into better grades, and lead to new academic and personal interests.
Winter time is upon us and many families have begun looking for the right priced summer camp. Learn How you can save money by planning ahead
YIKES, winter is still hear but many summer camps are filling up for the upcoming summer. Summer camp for many working parents holds two main concerns: 1) Finances and 2) Lodgistics. 

In a recent American Express Spending and Saving Tracker estimate was that average cost per-child summer spending on everything from travel to camp to child care hovered around $600, while affluent families spent $1,000 or more per week. Obviously, scout camps, church camps and even park district camps can cause far less. On the other side are more expensive camps, usually found out east, which can cost nearly $1500 per week (8wks)

Planning ahead often can help reduce the stress and the cost. Campers that return to camps often find that their camp offers a discount for returning campers. Others may offer an early registration discounts. If you’re able to pay up front, camps might offer an even larger discount. For those in a difficult financial situation many camps will offer “camperships” with various discounts.

Many private camps are often family-run small businesses, and might also be open to trading services for camp time. This could include, update a website, provide cords of wood for campfires, or resurface a tennis court. It never hurts to ask.

It is important to stay connected these days because many programs can fill fast. So mark your calendars with registration dates. E-mail all the places you might consider, science museums, theaters and village park districts to be put on their mailing lists, so nothing will pass you by. Often the most economical camps for young children fill up fast, as do the most desirable or those with limited offerings. 

Summer time does not need to be full, a little down time works as well for parents with flexible schedules and fond summer memories of biking and roaming the neighborhood. Working parents may not be as fortunate to have an open summer but by sending their child to an overnight camp, their child will experience days much like we did 30 years ago, outside and messing around with friends in a safe environment.

Many parents have made this commitment to their children to be more present, to be more purposeful, to be more intentional. One of the best ways to do this, is our second though committing to the logistics. This day an age we are used to getting what we want when we want it. Maybe we can learn from our parents plan ahead, if you can plan a family vacation, you’ll enjoy it more if everything else is in place to make the rest of your summer run smoothly. Plan now, and chances are you will be happier and more enjoy your summer.

One last thought all summer camps are not created equal so please do your homework when 
picking a summer camp.
As camp Director along with my wife Lonnie at Swift Nature Camp we constantly are surprised by the wonderful world of summer camp. Each day we see the Benefits
As camp Director along with my wife Lonnie at Swift Nature Camp we constantly are surprised by the wonderful world of summer camp. Each day we see the Benefits of camp and wonder how much better the “real world” would be if only everyone acted like they were at camp. Here are a few attributes that the rest of the world could adopt:

1. Respect.


Daily we see campers from all over the nation and the world come together with mutual respect and understanding for each other. You might not see this on the first day but after a few trip where it is a cabin group versus nature you realize that everyone in your cabin has you back and is going to watch out for you and respect what you stand for.

 

2. Equality.


Camp provides an equal playing field for all. Makes no difference if your dad is the Ambassador to Guatemala or if your parents run a restaurant. At camp all children are equal. This goes for staff as well. Counselors receive their power from the friendships they make not from the authority of a “counselor”.

3. Real Communication.


In this world of texting and highspeed internet summer camp provides an oasis where adverting and pop culture have no impact. Being away from the “outside world.” only brought people closer together. Conversation were more real, more open leading to the development of better friendships, even closer than some friendships back home. Amazingly, each summer I hear children say “It will be hard with out my smart phone”, yet at the end of camp I hear”it was freeing not having to answer every text and be on call 24/7”.

4. Activity.


In a day and age when working out for children is placing 50 text message, summer camp activities of running jumping, swimming and just playing are a wonderful thing. At our camp we mostly compete against ourselves making camp a place where kids stress free about WINNING. It’s kinda old school to think kids can play outside in a safe child friendly place. The interaction between age groups is amazing older helping younger and Gals being the adopted Moms for the youngest boys. It’s like having one big family that get together every summer.

 

5. Encouragment.


Camp is a place to build each other up. It is a place where children are taught how important their actions are. They learn that one cranky word can bring down the whole cabin. This encouragement takes campers and staff far beyond what they thought they could do. Camp provides the opportunity for people to realize its ok to make a mistake, we all do it. Regroup , apologize wait for forgiveness and move on. When we get encouragement from those around us we are open to reinvent ourselves and better see how we want to be seen in the “real world”.

Camp is not of this world it is like living in a dream where we are each challenged to stretch and grow and be better than when we first arrived camp. Each summer I have staff and campers tell us how they wish the world was more like a camp... Maybe we all just need to try a little more. One last thing, do not assume that all camps are the same. It is important you look for a camp that promotes the values discussed earlier. This can only be done by talking with the director. Read more about this special place Summer Camp. I want to learn more bout How To Find A Summer Camp go Summer Camp Advice and learn more

So it is that time of the year again when parents start to wonder how to make their child’s summer fun but also educational. Summer camp has often been thought of taking care.....
So it is that time of the year again when parents start to wonder how to make their child’s summer fun but also educational. Summer camp has often been thought of taking care of the fun part of the summer but not necessarily enriching the child. Summer is the perfect time to stop worrying about grades and let your child socially develop with higher self esteem, greater leadership skills and how to make friends. Not all camps believe they enrich a child’s personal development so be sure to ask the director their goals before you rush to sign up for a camp that your family friend is attending. To Find The Best Summer Camp it is important to get the right information.
Summer camp and summer enrichment programs do come dearly, but it is important to realize that benefits your child will develop for the rest of their life. Be sure that when doing your investigation you chat with the Director to be sure you are both on the same page. Some summer enrichment camps are little more than a expensive vacation.
Camp activities that promote camper enrichment are important. But equally important is that children get an opportunity to use these skills daily. Does the camp have a well panned schedule? Or are the children just hanging out most of the day? Look at the stated benefits of a program and at the summer enrichment camp sessions offered. Do the activities match your child’s areas of interest? Will the instruction enhance your child’s personal development?

Staff training is a key. It is important to again chat with the camp director and find out the training his staff has. Do they have certifications in specialized areas like ropes course or archery? You may have hear the fact that often camps scramble at the last minute to get staff and sometimes use international staff. These staff are often more interested in seeing the world than seeing to campers needs.
We all know children do not want to go to school during the summer. Therefore it is important that staff do their best to incorporate learning in to games. When campers enjoy the process they learn alot more than behind a desk in school. Camp is about hands on learning. Learning socialization skills is a contact sport.

Again , it is important to understand that camp teach “Life Long Learnables” the things they just do not teach you in school. So when you hear “summer enrichment” its not all school. Camp benefits children by providing them with:Confidence, motivation and self-esteem, as well as their communication and leadership skills. These are the things that really help a child excel in life. 

So you have found the right place, How long should they stay? As a camp Director I believe that longer the better. However, many children have scheduling conflicts and maybe too expensive for many parents. The truth is the shorter the time the less impact a child will have. 

Finally, be sure to investigate your summer enrichment options thoroughly because sending your son or daughter to the right summer enrichment camp will offer long-term benefits for the entire family. As well as making the wrong choice on a sumer camp can have negative impact as well. Remember increased motivation and confidence can translate into better grades, and lead to new academic and personal interests.

  • Have you heard of vitamin N? It has been part of humanity forever. Yet, today fewer and fewer families are getting enough. Here is a list of ideas that will improve health, cognitive and creative benefits and help your child succeed in school and throughout life.
  • Invite native flora and fauna into your life. Maintain a birdbath. Replace part of your lawn with native plants. Build a bat house. For backyard suggestions, plus links to information about attracting wildlife to apartments and townhouses, see the National Audubon Society’s Invitation to a Healthy Yard. Make your yard a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Certified Wildlife Habitat.
  • Revive old traditions. Collect lightning bugs at dusk, release them at dawn. Make a leaf collection. Keep a terrarium or aquarium. Go crawdadding — tie a piece of liver or bacon to a string, drop it into a creek or pond, wait until a crawdad tugs. Put the garden hose to good use: make a mud hole. (Your kids will sleep well later.)
  • Help your child discover a hidden universe. Find a scrap board and place it on bare dirt. Come back in a day or two, carefully lift the board (watch for unfriendly critters), and see how many species have found shelter there. Identify these creatures with the help of a field guide. Return to this universe once a month, lift the board and discover who’s new.
  • Encourage your kids to go camping in the backyard. Buy them a tent or help them make a canvas tepee, and leave it up all summer. Join the NWF’s Great American Backyard Campout. (Pledge now to camp out on June 28.)
  • Take a hike. With younger children, choose easier, shorter routes and prepare to stop often. Or be a stroller explorer. “If you have an infant or toddler, consider organizing a neighborhood stroller group that meets for weekly nature walks,” suggests the National Audubon Society. The American Hiking Society offers good tips on how to hike with teenagers. Involve your teen in planning hikes; prepare yourselves physically for hikes, and stay within your limits (start with short day hikes); keep pack weight down. For more information, consult the American Hiking Society or a good hiking guide, such as John McKinney’s Joy of Hiking. In urban neighborhoods, put on daypacks and go on a mile hike to look for nature. You’ll find it — even if it’s in the cracks of a sidewalk.
  • Be a cloudspotter or build a backyard weather station. No special shoes or drive to the soccer field is required for “clouding.” A young person just needs a view of the sky (even if it’s from a bedroom window) and a guidebook. Cirrostratus, cumulonimbus, or lenticularis, shaped like flying saucers, “come to remind us that the clouds are Nature’s poetry, spoken in a whisper in the rarefied air between crest and crag,” writes Gavin Pretor-Pinney in his wonderful book The Cloudspotter’s Guide. To build a backyard weather station, read The Kid’s Book of Weather Forecasting, by Mark Breen, Kathleen Friestad, and Michael Kline.
  • Collect stones. Even the youngest children love gathering rocks, shells, and fossils. To polish stones, use an inexpensive lapidary machine-a rock tumbler. See Rock and Fossil Hunter, by Ben Morgan.
  • Encourage your kids to build a tree house, fort, or hut. You can provide the raw materials, including sticks, boards, blankets, boxes, ropes, and nails, but it’s best if kids are the architects and builders. The older the kids, the more complex the construction can be. For understanding and inspiration, read Children’s Special Places, by David Sobel. Treehouses and Playhouses You Can Build, by David and Jeanie Stiles describes how to erect sturdy structures, from simple platforms to multistory or multitree houses connected by rope bridges.
  • Plant a garden. If your children are little, choose seeds large enough for them to handle and that mature quickly, including vegetables. Whether teenagers or toddlers, young gardeners can help feed the family, and if your community has a farmers’ market, encourage them to sell their extra produce. Alternatively, share it with the neighbors or donate it to a food bank. If you live in an urban neighborhood, create a high-rise garden. A landing, deck, terrace, or flat roof typically can accommodate several large pots, and even trees can thrive in containers if given proper care.
  • Invent your own nature game. One mother’s suggestion: “We help our kids pay attention during longer hikes by playing ‘find ten critters’—mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, snails, other creatures. Finding a critter can also mean discovering footprints, mole holes, and other signs that an animal has passed by or lives there.” 
  • MUD-IS-GOOD-infographic

  • For more suggestions, in addition to Last Child in the Woods, a number of recent books offer great advice, including Fed Up with Frenzy, by C&NN’s Suz Lipman, I Love Dirt! by Jennifer Ward, The Nature Connection by Clare Walker Leslie, and the free booklet A Parent’s Guide to Nature Play by Ken Finch. Also, the classic Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell. Online, Nature Rocks is another good resource.
  • And of course visit the Children & Nature Network for more ideas for your family and community, including an action guide for change, toolkits to create a Family Nature Club or become a Natural Leader, resources for Natural Teachers and pediatricians  — as well as state and national news and the latest research. Connect with the grassroots campaigns and efforts of others around the world. And please tell us how your own family, school, organization, or community connects young people to nature.
  • Have you heard of vitamin N? It has been part of humanity forever. Yet, today fewer and fewer families are getting enough. Here is a list of ideas that will improve health, cognitive and creative benefits and help your child succeed in school and throughout life.
  • Invite native flora and fauna into your life.Maintain a birdbath. Replace part of your lawn with native plants. Build a bat house. For backyard suggestions, plus links to information about attracting wildlife to apartments and townhouses, see the National Audubon Society’s Invitation to a Healthy Yard. Make your yard a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Certified Wildlife Habitat.
  • Revive old traditions. Collect lightning bugs at dusk, release them at dawn. Make a leaf collection. Keep a terrarium or aquarium. Go crawdadding — tie a piece of liver or bacon to a string, drop it into a creek or pond, wait until a crawdad tugs. Put the garden hose to good use: make a mud hole. (Your kids will sleep well later.)
  • Help your child discover a hidden universe. Find a scrap board and place it on bare dirt. Come back in a day or two, carefully lift the board (watch for unfriendly critters), and see how many species have found shelter there. Identify these creatures with the help of a field guide. Return to this universe once a month, lift the board and discover who’s new.
  • Encourage your kids to go camping in the backyard. Buy them a tent or help them make a canvas tepee, and leave it up all summer. Join the NWF’s Great American Backyard Campout. (Pledge now to camp out on June 28.)
  • Take a hike. With younger children, choose easier, shorter routes and prepare to stop often. Or be a stroller explorer. “If you have an infant or toddler, consider organizing a neighborhood stroller group that meets for weekly nature walks,” suggests the National Audubon Society. The American Hiking Society offers good tips on how to hike with teenagers. Involve your teen in planning hikes; prepare yourselves physically for hikes, and stay within your limits (start with short day hikes); keep pack weight down. For more information, consult the American Hiking Society or a good hiking guide, such as John McKinney’s Joy of Hiking. In urban neighborhoods, put on daypacks and go on a mile hike to look for nature. You’ll find it — even if it’s in the cracks of a sidewalk.
  • Be a cloudspotter or build a backyard weather station. No special shoes or drive to the soccer field is required for “clouding.” A young person just needs a view of the sky (even if it’s from a bedroom window) and a guidebook. Cirrostratus, cumulonimbus, or lenticularis, shaped like flying saucers, “come to remind us that the clouds are Nature’s poetry, spoken in a whisper in the rarefied air between crest and crag,” writes Gavin Pretor-Pinney in his wonderful book The Cloudspotter’s Guide. To build a backyard weather station, read The Kid’s Book of Weather Forecasting, by Mark Breen, Kathleen Friestad, and Michael Kline.
  • Collect stones. Even the youngest children love gathering rocks, shells, and fossils. To polish stones, use an inexpensive lapidary machine-a rock tumbler. See Rock and Fossil Hunter, by Ben Morgan.
  • Encourage your kids to build a tree house, fort, or hut. You can provide the raw materials, including sticks, boards, blankets, boxes, ropes, and nails, but it’s best if kids are the architects and builders. The older the kids, the more complex the construction can be. For understanding and inspiration, read Children’s Special Places, by David Sobel. Treehouses and Playhouses You Can Build, by David and Jeanie Stiles describes how to erect sturdy structures, from simple platforms to multistory or multitree houses connected by rope bridges.
  • Plant a garden. If your children are little, choose seeds large enough for them to handle and that mature quickly, including vegetables. Whether teenagers or toddlers, young gardeners can help feed the family, and if your community has a farmers’ market, encourage them to sell their extra produce. Alternatively, share it with the neighbors or donate it to a food bank. If you live in an urban neighborhood, create a high-rise garden. A landing, deck, terrace, or flat roof typically can accommodate several large pots, and even trees can thrive in containers if given proper care.
  • Invent your own nature game. One mother’s suggestion: “We help our kids pay attention during longer hikes by playing ‘find ten critters’—mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, snails, other creatures. Finding a critter can also mean discovering footprints, mole holes, and other signs that an animal has passed by or lives there.” 
  • MUD-IS-GOOD-infographic

  • For more suggestions, in addition to Last Child in the Woods, a number of recent books offer great advice, including Fed Up with Frenzy, by C&NN’s Suz Lipman, I Love Dirt! by Jennifer Ward, The Nature Connection by Clare Walker Leslie, and the free booklet A Parent’s Guide to Nature Play by Ken Finch. Also, the classic Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell. Online, Nature Rocks is another good resource.
  • And of course visit the Children & Nature Network for more ideas for your family and community, including an action guide for change, toolkits to create a Family Nature Club or become a Natural Leader, resources for Natural Teachers and pediatricians  — as well as state and national news and the latest research. Connect with the grassroots campaigns and efforts of others around the world. And please tell us how your own family, school, organization, or community connects young people to nature.
As camp Director along with my wife Lonnie at Swift Nature Camp we constantly are surprised by the wonderful world of summer camp. Each day we see the Benefits of camp and wonder how much better the “real world” would be if only everyone acted like they were at camp. Here are a few attributes that the rest of the world could adopt:

1. Respect.

Daily we see campers from all over the nation and the world come together with mutual respect and understanding for each other. You might not see this on the first day but after a few trip where it is a cabin group versus nature you realize that everyone in your cabin has you back and is going to watch out for you and respect what you stand for.

 

2. Equality.

Camp provides an equal playing field for all. Makes no difference if your dad is the Ambassador to Guatemala or if your parents run a restaurant. At camp all children are equal. This goes for staff as well. Counselors receive their power from the friendships they make not from the authority of a “counselor”.

3. Real Communication.

In this world of texting and highspeed internet summer camp provides an oasis where adverting and pop culture have no impact. Being away from the “outside world.” only brought people closer together. Conversation were more real, more open leading to the development of better friendships, even closer than some friendships back home. Amazingly, each summer I hear children say “It will be hard with out my smart phone”, yet at the end of camp I hear”it was freeing not having to answer every text and be on call 24/7”.

4. Activity.

In a day and age when working out for children is placing 50 text message, summer camp activities of running jumping, swimming and just playing are a wonderful thing. At our camp we mostly compete against ourselves making camp a place where kids stress free about WINNING. It’s kinda old school to think kids can play outside in a safe child friendly place. The interaction between age groups is amazing older helping younger and Gals being the adopted Moms for the youngest boys. It’s like having one big family that get together every summer.

 

5. Encouragment.

Camp is a place to build each other up. It is a place where children are taught how important their actions are. They learn that one cranky word can bring down the whole cabin. This encouragement takes campers and staff far beyond what they thought they could do. Camp provides the opportunity for people to realize its ok to make a mistake, we all do it. Regroup , apologize wait for forgiveness and move on. When we get encouragement from those around us we are open to reinvent ourselves and better see how we want to be seen in the “real world”.

Camp is not of this world it is like living in a dream where we are each challenged to stretch and grow and be better than when we first arrived camp. Each summer I have staff and campers tell us how they wish the world was more like a camp... Maybe we all just need to try a little more. One last thing, do not assume that all camps are the same. It is important you look for a camp that promotes the values discussed earlier. This can only be done by talking with the director. Read more about this special place Summer Camp. I want to learn more bout How To Find A Summer Camp go Summer Camp Advice and learn more

Winter

25 Baybrook Ln.

Oak Brook, IL 60523

Phone: 630-654-8036

swiftcamp@aol.com

Camp

W7471 Ernie Swift Rd.

Minong, WI 54859

Phone: 715-466-5666

swiftcamp@aol.com