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Summer Camp Primer: Exploring the Outdoors

BethUnderhillFitlife has a special treat for you! We have an amazingly talented GUEST BLOGGER today. We are thrilled to showcase her writing and helpful information. Please share the post with friends and family to help them get ready for Spring!

Let’s introduce her – I’m Anya Willis, chief educator at, a blog dedicated to educating parents on building fitness habits into their children. 

Spring’s just around the corner and it’s time for parents to start thinking about summer… Here’s a special guide for parents on encouraging safe and active outdoor explorations.

What kid isn’t attracted to mud puddles? Who doesn’t love rolling down a soft, grassy hill? Sure, it means breaking out the stain stick, but it’s a small sacrifice to make for encouraging activities critical to your child’s health and development.

Chances are, the clothes from summer camp won’t be useful for much besides playtime, so go ahead and start your outdoor explorations now—and don’t fear the dirt!

Why dirt is good

Experts know that dirt’s good for developing immune systems. Playing in the dirt also exposes your kid gradually to allergens in your area and facilitates her body’s ability to grow accustomed to them without overwhelming her system. Several studies even show that farm-raised kids suffer from fewer allergies and autoimmune conditions. A little immune conditioning from the microbes that live in soil will arm your kiddo with more protection from disease—and even mental health issues—later in life.

Explore now!

With summer camp season on the horizon, here are some ideas to get kids excited about the wonder and magic of nature and upcoming summer explorations. These experts share their favorite ways to get kids excited about nature.

  1. Challenge their inner artist with chunky sidewalk chalk. Draw a complicated maze. Create a crazy hopscotch board. Design abstract pictures or a race-track for remote-controlled car races.
  2. Encourage them to start a collection. Whether they like rocks or stones, shells or seeds, children are natural collectors.
  3. Try bird watching. There are all kinds of advantages to becoming a birder, both for your child and the pair of you. To start, it’s an opportunity to learn about your immediate environment: exactly what kinds of birds live there, the kinds of habitats they live in, why your area’s climate is ideal for them, and how different birds have adapted to the human presence.
  4. Visit a range of outdoor environments like the beach, the mountains, the local arboretum or botanical garden. Watch the tide go out and collect shells. Show children how to find and follow animal tracks of deer or racoons. Give your child a sketchbook or digital camera to record what she sees.
  5. Study the night sky. Greek, Roman, and Native American mythology have contributed wonderful stories for the constellations. Find a spot that’s dark, grab the bug spray, a blanket, and telescope or binoculars. Check out Sky & Telescope’s family sky-watching fun.

Keep it safe

Dress for the weather—wear layers so you can adjust to changing temperatures. Teach your children to:

  • Respect their environment and the critters who live there.
  • Be cautious when exploring under rocks, leaves, or in trees to find animals or insects.
  • Recognize poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak.
  • Know what dangerous critters (like brown recluse/violin/fiddleback or black widow spiders, scorpions, and poisonous snakes) live in your area and how to recognize them.

It’s tempting to hover, but try not to over-manage. When your child’s engrossed in an activity which you can supervise safely from a short distance, do so. If your child wanders too close to something—a backyard pond, for example—that isn’t safe, gently redirect her to a different activity.

Since the unexpected can happen when you’re outside in nature, create a small first aid kit with the basics. Does your family really like to roam? Outside offers a great list of essentials for adventuring families.

Prepping for camp

If your child’s going to sleepaway camp you’ll want to help him prepare. He might worry about being away from his support system or how to fit into the new group, so encourage him to share those concerns.

Research the camp with your child to learn about all the activities she’ll do. Whether it’s archery or wildcrafting, fishing, boating, and more, remind her that camp’s a wonderful opportunity for new adventures and friendships. has good suggestions, especially for first-time campers.

So, now that spring has officially sprung, shake off winter and challenge everyone to a game of tag or soccer, make mudpies, find a hill to climb, and get some vitamin D. Venturing out into the sunshine now will help get your kids (and you) ready for a successful summer camp season.

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