Camping & Outdoors | Three-quarters of children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates

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Three-quarters of children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates –

A couple of years ago Time Magazine published a study entitled, Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates.

The article in Time Magazine includes findings from a survey of 2,000 parents in United Kingdom: nearly three quarters of children are spending less than one hour outside every day. About 20% are not going outside at all on a regular basis. U.N. guidelines mandate that prisoners receive “at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily.”

“The truth is we are enclosing our children,” Mark Sears, an advocate for “wild play,” told the paper. “We are stifling their ability to be free, to be at their best as children and it is having significant impacts.”

Here in the United States, parents and pediatricians are concerned about screen time too. An article by the Center for Parenting Education suggests that, while the internet is beneficial for today’s children and teens, too much time in front of a screen comes with many unwelcome drawbacks. 

For over 80 years Camp Fire Central Coast has consistently provided quality outdoor experiences for children and teens. Through outdoor learning, leadership, community service, and creativity Camp Fire youth dig deep inside and discover their "Sparks," their personally defined nuggets of potential. Whether in the classroom or after school, we listen, we encourage, and we provide the opportunity to uncover each young person's unique interests. We help youth become the exceptional people they are destined to be, buoyant with potential to do anything they dream of doing.

Camp Fire encourages children to set down their electronic devises and discover the wonder of the outdoors. This year alone, we’ve brought more than a thousand children and youth to the outdoors. About 60 children and their families attended a weekend camp at Camp Cielo by Lopez Lake. 200 children attended Camp Tacanneko day camp at Camp Arroyo Grande. More than 800 children and families participated in Camp Natoma, our beloved summer camp. 40 youth and their families hiked the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains. Our weekend community hikes served approximately 70 families; and through our classroom youth leadership program, 40 at risk youth took their first hike.

One of Camp Fire’s at-risk teen participants shared, "I've never been on a hike before. I was afraid that I couldn't keep up, but I did!"

“I believe the outdoors is the best classroom for children and families.” says Ken Miles, Executive Director. “What better place is there to learn about the environment and oneself?”

A large percentage of Camp Fire opportunities occur in the outdoors each year. Helping a young person become who they want to be takes time and encouragement, as well as opportunities to grow and explore. It takes paying attention to what sparks a passion. Camping or just taking a hike can open the door of self-discovery.

Portland State University studies show children who have extensive outdoor experiences, especially English learning students, are more likely to show up to school, and afterward, are more confident at public speaking, more interested in volunteer opportunities, develop critical thinking skills and are more likely to use conflict resolution skills with their peers.

Friends of Camp Fire understand the power and awe of being outdoors. Here are some amazing ways the Camp Fire community has helped young people explore their environment:

   •  Through the generosity of many local individuals and businesses, $20,000 in camperships were donated for children and youth who could not afford to go to camp.

   •  This year, nearly 100 volunteers have given countless hours, time and energy. Many spent time working directly with youth during the school year or summer; others cleared brush and maintained camp facilities; still others offered their expertise for projects like a new solar system at Natoma, an eco-friendly “loo,” and countless projects- large and small; and others worked behind the scenes preparing for events and fundraisers including our Fireworks Fundraiser in July.

THANK YOU! You truly have made a difference in the lives of children and youth on the Central Coast.


Kenneth D. Miles, Executive Director