Why Kids Need Summer Camp More Than Ever

Connect. Engage. Encourage. These three action words guide my experiences whenever I work with children, especially adolescents in their tenuous stage of development.

As a mom and a public school teacher (and former camp counselor), I know firsthand how important it is for young people to be encouraged and emotionally supported by positive adult role models. 

Today’s Pandemic Generation—as they are referred to by researchers, teachers, and mental health professionals—continue to struggle with gaps in emotional-social development, increased media consumption, and less time spent outdoors being physically active. 

Kids need summer camp! At Evergreen East Dirt Camps, kids enjoy maximize time on their mountain bikes. // Photos courtesy Evergreen East

Current mental health statistics are daunting. According to “Five-Year Trends in US Children’s Health and Well-being, 2016–2020,” a research study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics, there have been significant increases in diagnosed mental health conditions—27% for anxiety and 24% for depression. Survey data also revealed an 18% decrease in children’s physical activity. 

Inland NW Summer Adventure Camp Guide
Inland NW Summer Adventure Camp Guide

This makes summer camps for kids more important than ever. Camps provide a welcoming, safe, and supportive community. Time spent away from home forces children and teens to unplug from media, and it teaches independence, responsibility, and resilience. Camps can also help develop their communication, participation, and leadership skills. 

Strengthening personal competencies, like self-identity, self-worth, and self-respect, also builds confidence and courage. This, in turn, breeds hope and motivates goal-setting—all qualities important to positive mental health. 

Adrenaline-pumping thrills and age-appropriate risk-taking can be pivotal during childhood, especially for adolescents.

How so? Imagine the euphoria and pride after ziplining, making it to the top of a climbing wall, winning a canoe race with cabinmates, or landing a mountain-bike jump. 

Northwest mountains, forests, and lakes provide a setting primed for adventure, and our summer 2022 list of youth camps in Washington and Idaho will provide outdoor adventure opportunities while teaching specialized recreation and/or environmental stewardship and nature-based skills.

No matter a child’s age, just one week of camp will improve their well-being and create lifelong memories. And don’t be surprised if you hear that it was the best week of their summer. 

Summer camp high adventure at Camp Spalding: The Blob (top left), ziplining (upper right), archery (mid-right), and rappelling. // Photos courtesy Camp Spalding.

Wondering which camp program would be best for your child? Here’s some help: “Choosing the Right Summer Camp For Your Kid.”

Find more stories about recreation, activities, and outdoor lifestyle topics in the Outdoor Family archives.

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