A child’s early learning experiences occur both indoors and outdoors, and at Alleghany we focus on providing outdoor education and play for our campers. Outdoor play and nature build confidence, promote creativity and imagination, teach responsibility, encourage physical activity, improve concentration, and reduce stress and fatigue. ‘Ghany Girls embrace nature and grow from their time with us in the beautiful West Virginia Hills.
As a summer camp, outdoor education is our bread and butter; we not only believe in it but we live it, all summer, every summer. It may sound obvious – time outside is good for kids! But let’s dive deeper into the why…
So, What are the Benefits of Outdoor Education and Activities for Kids?
I could go on and on and on with reasons why outdoor play and learning benefit children, but I will narrow it down to six solid considerations.
- Better Physical Health: The benefits of physical activity for kids are numerous. When children are active, their bodies and minds are more vibrant. They feel better about themselves, their health improves and they are more likely to continue a healthy lifestyle as adults. Outdoor environments (like a summer camp) provide ample opportunity for exercise and play, which can lead to better physical health later in life. We do everything (even shower!) outside at camp, giving our campers all of the opportunities we can to be active and outside.
- Vitamin D Production: Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for healthy bones and muscles because it helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate from foods. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for children to get enough vitamin D from foods because it doesn’t exist in large quantities in common foods. Luckily, it is easy for children to produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun. And while we encourage using sunscreen and even offer it for free to our campers, time in the sun is a daily part of camping life here at ‘Ghany!
- Stress Relief: Time spent in nature can help children recover from stress. Spending time outdoors provides a temporary break from stress, but over time children can build resilience to stress by consistently spending time outdoors. We spend 3 weeks of consistent outdoor time in a stress-free environment, which is uncommon in the winter time or school year.
- Attention Span: Studies suggest that when children are allowed to play freely, their attention to school tasks increases. Outdoor free play offers many benefits that can make the time spent outdoors even more valuable–it reduces stress and promotes physical activity, which can help promote healthy body weight and muscle mass. The sensory stimulation from the different sights, sounds, and smells of nature also helps children develop their cognitive skills. Alleghany uses time in nature and time away from electronics to help connect our campers with nature.
- Creativity: Unstructured outdoor play promotes imagination and creativity in children. When left to their own devices, children can be incredibly inventive with whatever is in their environment. With the introduction of unstructured play outside, children are able to use their imaginations more freely. For example, natural loose materials such as sticks and stones can become tools for building a fort or castle. We find our campers come up with the most imaginative ways to play and explore outdoors, from singing to snails in the river to using the rain as an excuse to slide down the slip-and-slide!
- Stronger Verbal and Social Skills: Research suggests that outdoor play can encourage better impulse control and reduce anxiety in children, which leaves room for better social interactions and improved verbal skills. Part of the factors that affect a child’s social skills is exercise. By encouraging exercise through outdoor play, children are more easily able to interact with each other in constructive and collaborative ways, with reduced anxiety and increased happiness.
At Alleghany, we see these benefits in our campers each and every day. Campers often come to camp with some anxiety, stress, or fatigue and burnout from school and other daily life factors. As the summer progresses, our campers start to relax and settle into the Alleghany routine. Suddenly life outdoors is enjoyable, bugs are not so scary, the sun is not too hot, confidence is rising, and new friends are everywhere you look.
When there are so many options for childcare during the summer, we cannot stress enough the importance of choosing a place like Camp Alleghany where outdoor time and activities are at the forefront of programming. We hope you’ll join us this summer!