Nature vs. Technology: Why Camp is Vital for Kids

The realities of camp(ing)

Camping (which shares many essential elements with camp) is not for the faint of heart. My friend, whose family went camping over spring break, testified to this. In the telling, she reminded me of all the challenges of camping:

On the first night, I woke up terrified to the sound of screeching raccoons looking for food on our campsite. [My husband] assured me that the cooler was safe in the bed of his truck (and that we were safe in our tent!) and I finally got back to sleep, only to be woken up by the kids for various reasons throughout the night. The next morning, I changed into clothes that were stiff and cold from the night air, trekked to the bathroom, and drank grainy, boiled coffee. When I went to look for our breakfast tortillas in the cooler, I discovered that the raccoons (whose muddy footprints were all over the lid) had hit paydirt after all! Ugh!

Why it’s worth it

But then the story changed. According to my friend, the personal inconveniences of camping melted away as she watched her three children (ages 3, 8 and 11) play outdoors for two days with a joy and abandon that are rarely matched in their playroom at home. They climbed trees, waded in the lake, rode bikes, roasted marshmallows, and explored the woods with flashlights and walkie-talkies.

Does it have to be nature vs. technology for camp directors? Learn about the camp technology that frees you up to get back to nature.

My friend understands that these experiences are important for kids (and good for her, too!), especially in light of these startling statistics:

  • More young children can open a web browser than can swim, and many learn to play computer games before learning to ride a bike.[1]
  • Only about 10 percent of American teens spend time outside every day.[2]
  • Eight to 18-year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).[3]

Technology: Camp’s greatest threat?

The digital fascination of this generation (parents included) not only impinges on outdoor experiences in general, but also on the value parents place on camp. The camp industry can’t afford to stay on the sidelines of the battle.

“The more high tech our lives become, the more nature we need,” says Richard Louv, author and founder of Children & Nature Network. “Few today would question the notion that every person, especially every young person, has a right to access the Internet. We should also have access to the natural world, because that connection is part of our humanity.” [4]

Resources camp directors can offer parents

Outdoor camps are perfectly poised to be the bridge CTA speak to a specialist naturebetween the modern world and nature, and the perfect partners for moms like my friend who don’t love the discomforts of the outdoors.

Louv’s new book, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, can be another resource for parents. Coming out April 16, Vitamin N offers hundreds of simple strategies for getting kids outside and inspiring them to become nature-lovers. Listed in Outside magazine,[5] here are some highlights from Louv’s book that inspired us. Perhaps they’ll also help you inspire parents as you promote your camps:

  • Teach hope: Paint a picture of hope for the future, and teach children to be a part of the solution. For example, come up with a way to beautify your own space, naturally. Research birds in your area, and hang a feeding station near your kitchen window. Indoor plants or pets can bring nature into your home. Imagine the possibilities with your kids—then do it!
  • Embrace nature wherever you are: Potted plants, nature walks, nature journals, and bike rides are simple ways to experience nature no matter where you live. Nature excursions are great, but it’s also important to teach kids to appreciate and observe nature all around them.
  • Become a weather warrior: Find ways to explore nature in every season. Make a rain gauge, or a homemade water wall. Keep snow gear on hand, even if it’s makeshift snow gear for a warmer climate. If there’s no snow, kids can go outside to watch their breath in the air or stomp around the yard, crunching frost.
  • Expand perimeters: Encourage kids to develop their own relationship with nature. They can discover favorite spots to sit outside, grow small gardens, or meet friends at the park. This is a great point for camps to promote! What could be better than camp to help kids have their own experiences in nature?

Getting the message out

Camp directors, we know you’re as concerned as we are about the lack of nature, exercise and outdoor play in children’s lives–and the excess of electronics in childhood–as we are. As you partner with parents and gear up for a busy season, we salute you and recommit to providing resources to help you change the world—one summer at a time, one camp at a time, one child at a time.

Please feel free to share these resources on your blog or in communications with your customers. If you don’t have a blog yet, here’s why you need a blog and a few tips for starting and maintaining one and you’ll find ten more tips here.

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[1] Psychology Today: Children’s Immersion in Technology is Shocking 

[2] National Geographic: This is Your Brain on Nature

[3] The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds

[4] Richard Louv: Ten Reasons Why Children and Adults Need Vitamin N

[5] Outside Online: 5 Ways to Get Kids Into Nature