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Why one mom sends her kids to summer camp
A recent column in The Washington Post explores why time spent with nature is a crucial part of a good childhood. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
In the face of increasing pressure to sign her kids up for summer school and sports lessons, one mom dares to rebel. Laura Clydesdale of Berkeley, California, sends her kids to summer camp for two months because she thinks time in nature is more valuable than other activities, even those that look better on college applications.

Clydesdale explained her choice in a recent column for The Washington Post, arguing that sleep-away camp gives children "a competitive advantage in life."

"My kids have such intensely packed schedules full of sports, music, art classes, community service and technological stimulation through the school year," she wrote. "Summers provide a much-needed opportunity for my children to unplug, achieve focus and develop creative thought processes and connections."

Although adults may remember spending their summers riding bikes and playing in the park, many modern children spend June, July and August indoors due to the allure of video games, safety concerns or, as Clydesdale noted, academic projects.

"The average American child has just four to seven minutes of 'unstructured outdoor play' each day and spends more than seven hours staring at television, computer or phone screen," the Deseret News reported last year.

Experts worry about this shift toward indoor activities, noting that computer screens don't hold the same benefits as trees and flowers.

"The disconnect between kids and nature is one of the greatest crises of our time," said Scott Sampson, author of "How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature," to the Deseret News.

Summer camp, as well as less-structured outdoor time, enables young people to grow and learn, Clydesdale wrote.

"Studies over the past decade have shown outdoor programs stimulate the development of interpersonal competencies, enhance leadership skills and have positive effects on adolescents' sense of empowerment, self-control, independence, self-understanding, assertiveness, decision-making skills, self-esteem, leadership, academics, personality and interpersonal relations," she noted.

Time in nature also boosts confidence, promotes creativity and helps kids become more responsible, according to the Child Mind Institute.

"Nature may seem less stimulating than your son's violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses you can see, hear, smell and touch outdoor environments," the organization reported.
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