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Getting into the great outdoors and communing with nature while going to camp are all fun experiences that kids can learn from and appreciate. Whether it’s a sports camp that teaches kids more about their favorite athletic activity or a scouting camp where kids learn the basics of survival in the wild, going to camp can be a super fun experience!

History of National Camp Day

The first organized American camping trip (at least the first that is known) took place in 1861 when Frederick and Abigail Gunn took the entire group of boys from their school on a two week camping trip in the state of Connecticut. The group of boys took a hike through the woods into the campsite and stayed there together, fishing, boating and even trapping. The trip was so successful that the tradition continued annually for the next dozen years.

By 1876, the North Mountain School of Physical Culture was founded in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where boys from the state came to stay for four months over the summer. This program was meant to teach boys the skills they needed to camp while helping them to grow in physical strength, increasing their health and learning a variety of practical skills.

In the next few decades camping had become fairly commonplace for students who wanted to pursue outdoor activities. By 1910, the Boy Scouts of America, Camp Fire USA and The American Camping Association were all started. The Girls Scouts of America were not far behind. These organizations continued to offer opportunities for young people to learn outdoor skills and participate in camps.

Since that time, summer camps have evolved from just doing outdoor activities to specialized camps that focus on specific activities. Horse-back riding camp, computer camp, math camp, cheerleading camp, and even video game camp are just a few of the many ways that kids and teens participate in summer activities.

Sometimes camps are overnight or away camps, while other times they may be organized as day camps, so that local kids come every day to learn and participate but they go home each night to sleep in their own homes.

The American Camp Association is the only national accrediting organization in the United States that works with directors and organizers to keep kids safe and keep the camp operating smoothly. The organization’s goal is to enrich the lives of children, students and adults alike through the experience of camp.

National Camp Day was founded to honor the idea and practice of going to camp.

National Camp Day Timeline

1855

A US Army officer creates an original canvas tent

The predecessor to today’s tents, the Sibley tent is similar to a teepee but uses canvas instead of buffalo hides.[1]

1874

YWCA establishes first camp

Catering to women only, the camp in Pennsylvania is called “Sea Rest”. [2]

1911

First Boy Scouts of America is founded

Starting near Whitehall, Michigan, this camp starts with simply digging a well and by the next year they have their first summer camp.[3]

1957

Coleman introduces the camping cooler

Replacing their previous galvanized cooler with a process for plastic coolers, Coleman makes big steps in keeping food cold.[4]

2008

Camp Rock is released

This Disney film has become a classic among youth stars the Jonas brothers and Demi Lovato.[5]

How to Celebrate National Camp Day

Enjoy and celebrate National Camp Day by implementing some of these ideas:

Go to Camp!

If you’re still a student then there is certainly still time to get involved with going to camp. And if you’re in college or are an adult, you don’t have to miss out. It’s still possible to volunteer or even get a job at a camp, as a counselor, lifeguard, cook, activities director or playing some other important role. According to the American Camp Association, seasonal, summer and year-round jobs can be found at accredited camps all throughout the country.

Send Your Kid to Camp 

Those who have kids or grand-kids in their lives might want to take this opportunity to prepare for sending their kids to camp the following summer. National Camp Day is the perfect time to start planning out the next summer’s schedule and get kids connected with and registered for the camps they might be interested in, before all of the slots fill up. Once they are registered for camp, get excited about the fun activities they will participate in and start packing their suitcases! 

Learn About the Skills Camp Provides 

Although the theme of the camp might change based on the child’s interests, the many different life skills that are learned often cross over. According to the YMCA, kids can learn and grow in all sorts of ways by attending camp, including:

  • Promoting Independence

    Experiences away from parents offer kids a safe place to learn to function on their own.

  • Engaging in Teamwork

    Camps are often created so that groups and teams work and play together. Whether grouped together for sports, activities, or crafts, kids at camp will engage in team activities that help them learn this important skill for life. 

  • Connecting with Nature.

    In a world of screens and pavement, camp is the time to get kids outside and into the wild, breathing fresh air and exploring in a fun, adventurous way!

Make a Donation to Help Kids Go to Camp

For those people who had a great experience at camp when they were younger – or who didn’t get to go to camp but sure wish they did – National Camp Day might be a time to consider helping pay for another kid to get that experience.

Look into local camps that are nearby where it might be possible to donate toward a “scholarship” to camp. Or find a national state or national organization through an online search that is happy to help facilitate getting as many kids as possible to camp. The American Camp Association, Kids In Camp

Send a Kid 2 Camp, and Fresh Air are all programs that offer kids the opportunity to go to camp, which can significantly impact a child or teen’s life for the better.

See What Some Kids Say About Going to Camp

Going to camp can offer a life-changing experience, especially for kids and youth who live in the city and have never spent time in the outdoors. For instance, from the kids from New York City who have attended a Fresh Air camp, 85% of them report that they feel more confident after participating in a recent summer program. Other interesting results from this same camp experience include:

  • 84% of youth who attended camp report that they feel better about meeting new people and making friends.
  • 90% of youth reported feeling active and healthy after participating in camp.
  • 86% of parents or guardians reported that their child is now more open to trying new things after going to camp.

National Camp Day FAQs

Is camping good for you?

Camping is good for both mind and body, including getting away from screens, breathing fresh air, reducing stress and increasing physical fitness. [1]

What are some ways to stay safe while camping?

Safety tips for camping include being careful with campfires, protecting yourself from insects and the sun, and knowing your surroundings. [2]

Is camping fun?

Many people find camping very fun, getting out into the great outdoors and spending time with friends. [3]

What should I bring camping?

Bring a tent, sleeping bags, flashlight or lantern, a knife or multi-tools, sunscreen and insect repellent. [4]

Can camping chairs get wet?

Yes, camping chairs are typically water resistant and should dry quickly and easily if they do get wet.[5]

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