The Nature Conservancy's Nature Rocks program aims to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature for happier, healthier and smarter kids. Our mission is to make it easy for you to have fun in nature, and connect with others to do the same. We want all families to see for themselves how much Nature Rocks. Nature Rocks

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Why Nature May Be The Best Summer Camp Idea

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow recently, so we have six more weeks of skiing, sledding and snow days. As if on cue, our local new station began describing in detail the foot of snow that’s headed our way.

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But amidst all this winter fun, something else is top of mind in February: Summer camp. Last week, our mail carrier dropped off a camp catalog filled with images of smiling kids with sun hats through the door, where it landed on top of boots still clumped with snow.

There are so many kinds of camps for kids: Art, theater, sports, music, technology and more. Each one is beneficial and promotes development. But as you plan your child’s summer, consider setting aside some weeks for camps that are based in nature.

Why?

In addition to the outdoors being just plain fun, nature-based camps are a great way for kids to spend hours of lightly structured time outside, something that many kids just don’t do anymore–though they should. Studies repeatedly show that time spent outside in nature leads to better health and improvement in cognitive skills, from increased problem-solving and a reduction in symptoms of ADHD to a boost in creativity.

Clam digging

If you’re not sure where to begin, here are three places to get started:

  • Check out your state or municipal parks and recreation department: My son Ben’s favorite week of the summer is junior ranger camp at Walden Pond (yes, that Walden Pond!). Each day includes light hikes, swimming and a series of nature-themed activities, like ponding and plant identification.
  • Your local Audubon Chapter: These camps immerse kids in the plant and wildlife of the habitat around them, be it a beach, forest or pond. When my son and daughter spent two weeks at an Audubon-run day camp on the ocean, they were teaching me about marine life.
  • Your local YMCA: Don’t live close a preserve or other natural area? Try a YMCA camp; many include a daily visit to a local park for some outdoor play time.

What are your kids doing this summer?

Ben on the bridge

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