Lack of exercise and poor diet is contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States, becoming one of the leading causes of preventable death. Childhood obesity is also becoming increasingly prevalent. Processed and fast foods, too much screen time, over-eating and under-exercising contribute to the problem, increasing the chances of high blood pressure, diabetes, self-esteem and other health issues. Although the problem has not escalated nearly as much here as it has in the United States, it is still becoming something of concern in Canada as well.
Camps can play a huge role in changing those habits by providing healthy meals and nutritional education and by showing kids how important and fun physical activity is. If children can start to change their eating and activity habits while at camp, they might be able to carry some of these behaviors home to regular life.
What can camps do?
Education and Encouragement
Keep doing what you do best! Care for your campers, teach them new things, encourage new adventures and continue to contribute to their positive development! Here are some things you can do to specifically address physical activity and healthy eating:
- Teach your campers that physical activity is fun! Have your staff participate in the games and activities, showing campers that these things can be more enjoyable than TV or video games. Give them lots of encouragement throughout the activities.
- Show campers what kinds of foods are good for them and present healthy choices in a fun, safe environment.
- Make sure your camp staff is making healthy choices and encourage them to do the same. More veggie sticks and one less serving of Jello!
- Think of fun ways to present nutritious foods at meal times. For example, you could have your serving staff give nutritional facts about foods that are good for you. It seems silly but will be entertaining for the kids.
Jessica: Hey Kevin, what’s with the cape?
Kevin: Oh, I’m not Kevin. I’m the Caped Brocolli and I’m here to save the day.
Jessica: You’re...Caped Brocolli?
Kevin: Yeah, super FOOD – super HERO! Brocolli gives you a stronger heart, helps your body fight off colds and even helps your skin heal faster from cuts and scrapes.
Jessica: (picks up some broccoli)WOW! If you say so!
Kevin: Junk food is no match for the CAPED BROCOLLI! (flies out of the room)
Make Food and Nutrition Fun!
Make it a priority to purchase and prepare nutritious meals for your campers. Teach children to choose healthier things by offering choices like leafy greens, whole grain breads, lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. Try offering gravy and dressings on the side so they take just what is needed.
Find ways to expose your campers to new foods. You can have a “fruit of the day!” and highlight a special fruit each day at lunch, giving points to cabins with campers who eat take and try the fruit. You can even come up with kooky and strange ways to eat nutritious food like cutting them into fun shapes or having each cabin eat their peas with toothpicks.
Encourage your campers to have five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. You can have a chart put up in their cabin or on their table. Children can place a star by their name each time they have a serving of fruit or vegetable they get a star by their name. Cabins who have full stars get a special privilege or prize at the end of the day.
Physical Activity is Fun!
We have no problem keeping kids busy at camp! Think of additional ways to get those bodies moving and to show campers how fun and healthy it is to live an active lifestyle. Here are some ideas to increase physical activity at camp:
- Put activities or games on opposite ends of camp property so the kids have to walk to and from everything.
- Think of creative and unique wide games that the kids would not usually get to play at school.
- Create “waiting games” that will keep them moving while their waiting for their turn on the rock wall or zip line.
- Make sure to emphasize how much FUN it is to be active at all times, making sure your staff are being positive role models and good participants in the activities.
Camp is a great place to learn about living a healthy lifestyle and to start developing healthy habits that will transfer into regular life. They will be in a nurturing community, have access to healthy food choices, fun activities, positive environment and a whole lot of fun!