The Issues

Today’s youth are experiencing less free and unstructured outdoor playtime in nature than previous generations — devoting an average of just four to seven minutes a day in unstructured play time versus an average of seven and one-half hours each day in front of electronic media. Our children’s health is declining as obesity and attention deficit disorders are rising. Children are experiencing reduced mobility and less range for exploration, including a reduction in walking or riding a bike to school, a growing fear of strangers and nature itself, the dramatic rise in obesity, as well as vitamin D deficiency and other health issues. All of these may in part be related to low levels of outdoor activity and a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, our military readiness is declining as nearly one in four applicants to the military is rejected due to being overweight or obese. Those who do not spend time in nature are less likely to protect it — leaving our nation’s vast natural resources at risk.  And finally, few have recognized the value that alternative and expanded learning environments (such as the outdoors) can have in significantly improving academic achievement in reading, math, and science.

American Camp Association Position

The American Camp Association (ACA) believes that young people benefit emotionally, socially, physically, and spiritually from spending time in close contact with the natural world. This critical connection is essential to healthy development. ACA supports and actively participates in public and private partnerships and collaborations that make positive, nature-based opportunities available to children, youth, and families. Furthermore, ACA will advocate on behalf of and in cooperation with children and youth to develop and mobilize resources that introduce, educate, and personally connect children with the natural environment.

Young people today spend less time engaged in outdoor activity than any other generation in history, which takes a serious physical and mental toll on them at a critical time in their development. This bill provides tools for our state and local leaders to find new opportunities to promote active, healthy outdoor lifestyles to our kids. And by starting early in life, young people are more likely to care for their health and their natural surroundings as adults who will then pass those values on to future generations. — Congressman Ron Kind

The Solutions Presented in this Bill:

The Healthy Kids Outdoors Act of 2015 will:

  • Provide state-level incentives to develop five-year state strategies that connect children, youth, and families with the natural world. 
  • Require that each state’s strategies include partnering with non-governmental organizations (such as camps), especially those that serve children, youth, and families.
  • Require that each state provide opportunities for the public to be involved in the development and implementation of the strategies. These may include opportunities for camps and other youth-serving organizations to participate in the development of these strategies — and in the provision of outdoor opportunities for kids.
  • Support research documenting the health, conservation, and other benefits of active time spent outdoors in the natural world.
  • Direct the President of the United States to develop a similar strategy at the Federal level by bringing together federal agencies and national partners to create a national action plan.

Research has shown that childhood play and outdoor activity are critical for healthy physical, mental and emotional growth of our children. It's as important for parents to involve their children in nature-based experiences as it is to ensure they're in a great school or in the right after-school activities. — Commander Edward Walton, M.D., Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI 

Call to Action

The American Camp Association will be calling our community to action as these bills progress through their respective Committees in Congress. If you'd like to be one of the first to hear about our call to action, sign up for our RSS Feed.


Photo courtesy of Camp John Marc, Meridian, Texas.