Why Every Child Should Go Camping At Least Once (But Preferably All the Time)

Sometimes, I worry that today’s kids are overly connected– staring at their phones, requiring constant entertainment, especially in the city. When I ask my students what they did during the weekend, their answers usually include the words “Netflix” and “Snapchat” more often than “biking” or “play.” Last week, I took my students (city kids growing up in Chicago) on our 8th grade camping trip to a local overnight camp that we rented out for a few days.

When we first arrived at the camp, there were some discouraging moments. One student, Kelsey, saw a pile of dirt in the cabin and squealed, “WHAT IS THAT?!” When another student, Jabar, realized he wasn’t going to be able to charge his cell phone, he groaned and exclaimed that he wanted to go home. During choice time, when we let kids choose between basketball, kickball, and friendship bracelet making, many students chose instead to sit on the bleachers and text the whole time, whining that they were bored and wanted to go home. I felt like I was really in for a long couple of days…

Flash forward a few hours, once we got the activities under way. I was working with a group of fifteen students– fourteen were blindfolded, and one was trying to lead the rest of the group down a trail by giving verbal directions. Kids were laughing, screaming (with delight), and creating memories they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. And you know what? Their cell phones were nowhere to be found.

When it was time to do the rock climbing and zip lining activities, I was so unbelievably proud of one of my students, June, who was having some trouble getting to the top of the climbing wall. The counselor who was running the belay asked if she wanted to come down, and June’s response was, “NO! I want to keep trying!” What was particularly remarkable is that June was one of the students that was adamant that she wanted to go home, and that she was bored. I was so proud of that transformation we saw within just a few hours.

The rest of the trip was a breeze– kids roasting marshmallows by the campfire and telling stories, an early morning wakeup call, relay races and water balloon tosses, and one final game of capture the flag. When our buses came and it was time to leave, one of our most reluctant students shouted, “NOOOOOOO!”

So now, I’m feeling reassured about today’s kids. Their phones are important to them, but they will put them aside once we give them the chance to just… play.

And when I turn my attention to the amazing work that KIT does daily– improving the access of these invaluable opportunities to kids with disabilities to make sure no one misses out– I know that we are providing these character-building opportunities for more and more children across the world. And that is something to be proud of.

— Written by Elise, KIT Blog Writer and Editor

Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.