Why Camp? Why Now? How Summer Camp Promotes Healthy Living
Teaching children how to make healthy choices, practice healthy behaviors, and to live healthy, active lifestyles are important parts of the camp experience.
The camp environment provides a safe place to engage in and learn from personal choices. By allowing campers to choose their activities and their own experiences, a child is a) empowered to make her own decision; b) open himself up to the experience—good or bad; c) be able to grow in the knowledge that “I made a good choice on my own…” or “Next time, I’m going to try something different.” This process is an essential life skill because it engenders responsibility and perseverance in a child.
At High Trails, campers sign-up for their in-camp program every Sunday evening. As the week progresses, a child might decide she wants to go hiking rather than play swimming games at the pool. All campers are given six “switch coupons” that allow them to switch from one activity to another during the course of the session. They are responsible for keeping track of these coupons and being very thoughtful about when they use them. This creates more commitment to the activity they originally signed up for—plus they are more intentional when they sign up for activities in the first place.
This increased personal responsibility helps campers both at camp and at home. Many parents tell us that the independence and confidence their children gain at camp allow them to “break out” of unhealthy peer groups, habits, and behavior patterns when they return home. Whining, apathy, and uncooperative attitudes in some children seem to vanish overnight after they live and play in an environment that “expects good” from them. The camp environment gives children the opportunity to see the benefit of healthy behaviors like patience, inclusion, empathy, joy, laughter, self-reflection, independent thinking, problem solving, and more.
The best part of learning these essential life skills at camp is that it is not a didactic experience—it is something the campers are DOING day in and day out. They learn to associate success and confidence with the physical movement of their bodies as they climb high mountain peaks. They enjoy the space and freedom of the outdoors while learning proper horsemanship techniques in the high valleys and Aspen groves of our 6,000 acre playground. They walk, hike, run, and share as they go to meals, play games, explore the natural world, and connect with other people and the world around them.
Campers associate food and eating with necessary nourishment after long days of exciting, active trips and activities, rather than something to do when they are bored. They take pride in their new found strength after hiking with full backpacks, and watch (and sometimes participate!) their counselors model the active lifestyle through daily runs, biking, yoga practice, and stretching before and after activities. These experiences create a foundation of health that can quickly become a lifestyle.
One camper, after a full summer of climbing fourteeners, being a successful participant in the 100-Mile hiking club, and gaining some basic rock climbing skills returned home and tried out for her Varsity field hockey team an was a starter by mid-season. She credits the outcome of her tryout to all of the confidence, hiking, and strength she gained at camp…she thought the altitude training probably helped her, too!
Camp is a whole body experience. By giving campers the opportunities to make their own choices in an environment that celebrates and models active, healthy living—the desire to experience growth and physical gains is almost universal. Each child is his/her own person, so that growth is completely unique—yet each child will walk away from the summer camp experience with an appreciation, respect, and passion for everything they have learned at summer camp in Colorado.