Kids and Healthy Lifestyles: Run, Jump, And . . . Eat Vegetables!

Run, Jump, and . . . Eat Vegetables!

With childhood obesity affecting one in five children, camps
play a vital role in turning back this national trend. Camps
are important partners for parents and children who want to make
positive changes that keep kids active and eating right all year

The Culprits

Health professionals agree that numerous environmental and social
factors are at play when it comes to the eating and exercise
behaviors of young people. The era of "walking uphill two miles to school every day" is long-gone
for most kids, and with the availability of buses and carpools, most children
no longer walk to school. Playing outside is also decreasing with children spending
much more time indoors than children ten or twenty years ago.

It's no surprise to concerned parents that many children
spend too much time with inactive technology, devoting as much
as three to five hours a day to TV or computer-related entertainment.
Almost everyone is familiar with the Food Guide Pyramid, but
not many people are as familiar with the Physical Activity Pyramid.
According to the Council for Physical Education for Children,
sixty minutes is the minimum amount of physical activity recommended
for children. Ideally, children should engage in flexibility
games and exercises as well as muscular fitness activities at
least three times a week, have active aerobics, active sports
and recreation activities be a part of each day's activities,
and gather many of the sixty minutes of moderate and vigorous
activities from outside play, games, walking, and other physical
exercise. Camps offer an optimal environment to encourage varying
levels of physical challenges, teach lifelong active recreational
pursuits, and establish opportunities to learn active lifestyle

A Healthy Attitude at Camp 

Camps and their staffs make sure that camp programs offer opportunities
for healthy and active living. If children begin to change some
of their food and activity habits at camp, they might be able
to transfer some of these behaviors when they return home.

How do camps help? For starters, camps continue doing what they
do best, which is focusing on the positive development of children.
Camp is, after all, for kids.

  • Camps can help children learn to like
    foods that are good for them by presenting good choices in
    a fun, safe environment.
  • Camps can provide older children and young
    adults as mentors for the children, to support positive, healthy
  • Camps can teach children that physical exercise
    is fun and can be an activity of choice over television and
    video games.
  • Camp environments can become the safest
    activity-oriented learning center outside the school system
    by working in tandem with education and nutrition.

Food and Nutrition at Camp

Many camps look for innovative, fun, tasty ways to provide healthy
choices and decision-making skills to their campers.

The following list includes some "tried-and-true" techniques
found at camps:

  • Teach children to alter food preferences
    by giving them good choices
  • Offer taste tests, expose children to new
  • Encourage eating breakfast
  • Offer new exercise/activity programs
  • Reduce "fast food" and junk food
    for snacks and side dishes (chips, cookies, candy, etc.), provide
    healthy options at the snack bar or camp store
  • Educate children about healthy eating and

    when to stop eating

Physical Activity at Camp

Most camp programs are synonymous with activity from walking
to field games, and the best camps challenge themselves every
year by offering fresh activities to draw in new campers and
excite returning campers.

What works

  • Physical fitness fun with contests and
  • Active role models at camp
  • Physical activity that doesn't require lots
    of equipment
  • Activity teams or "walking buddies" programs
  • Positive feedback on the process of doing
    your best, emphasizing participation rather than winning or
    being the best
  • A wide variety of new and traditional activities,
    sports, and games
  • Focus on fun and gaining a healthier lifestyle

Social Support

If young people see peers and adults they admire, like their
counselors and other campers, engaged in enjoyable active pursuits,
they will likely want to model a similar behavior. If your child's
favorite counselor routinely engages in games, swimming, hiking,
and other enjoyable activities, it's easy to imagine that
your child will follow suit. In the company of new and
old friends, these new adventures, as well as the shared, nutritious
meals are simply more rewarding.

Camps can play a vital role in contributing to lifelong patterns
of exercise and excellent nutrition. Camp is a great place to
offer good food, great activities, a positive environment, safe
and secure location, and most of all, fun.

Adapted from the article, "Kids and Healthy Lifestyles," by
Viki Kappel Spain; M. Deborah Bialeschki, Ph.D.; Karla A. Henderson,
Ph.D., published in the September/October 2005 issue of Camping
; Reprinted from CAMP by permission of the American Camp
Association; copyright 2006 American Camping Association, Inc.

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