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Experts say that kids need outdoor play. They need to run through the woods, swim freely, scramble up hillsides, hide from and laugh with their friends—and soak up some vitamin D while they’re at it. But busy schedules and an abundance of technological distractions rarely leave time for activities that foster independent decision making skills, resilience, and creativity.

There is, however, an effective solution: summer camp. At camp, children have a blend of the best of both worlds. Camps, like Frost Valley YMCA, offers structured activities, during which they learn interpersonal skills and problem solving strategies that they can apply at home and at school. At Frost Valley, every child is guided by camp counselors that undergo world-class training in youth development to ensure that the time children spend at camp is productive for their growth.

For example, at Frost Valley YMCA’s Camp Wawayanda, younger children learn water safety through fun activities such as kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, or swimming in the lake. They gain confidence as their friends cheer them on in rock climbing, zip lining, and archery. They access their creativity in pottery, woodworking, and fiber arts. But these camp activities are just the tip of the iceberg – what campers really achieve is responsibility, competence, and strong character traits that will guide them through life.

Meanwhile, at Frost Valley’s older half of camp – Camp Henry Hird, teens develop independence and healthy risk taking by sleeping under the stars and spending multiple nights on the trails, engaging in team building and adventure courses led by experienced counselors who act as positive role models.

Experienced or aspiring equestrians can improve horsemanship skills during several of Frost Valley’s horse camps. From beginner to advanced, campers gain the leadership skills required to work with and care for their horses.

For middle and high schoolers with a love for exploring the outdoors, Frost Valley’s Adventure Trips offer excursions to places like Maine, New Hampshire, and West Virginia to learn outdoor skills such as hiking, rock climbing, backcountry camping, orienteering, and whitewater rafting.

Frost Valley is also home to the world’s first Bear Grylls Survival Academy Summer Camp, which teaches thrill-seeking young campers what it takes to survive and thrive in extreme outdoor situations. Guided by experienced counselors and outdoor experts, campers learn to forage for food, build a fire for cooking and warmth, create a shelter, rappel down a waterfall, and how to perform Bear’s signature methods of self-rescue – and they develop smart decision making skills, planning, and responsibility along the way.

Tailored to each child’s age and interest, the programs at Frost Valley YMCA are structured so that campers learn skills in a safe environment, but are also given the freedom that allows them to feel autonomy and empowerment. They will come home with new skills and a new sense of ownership over them.

The youth development professionals at Frost Valley will tell you that a camp experience is “a summer that last a lifetime” because the lessons children learn will carry them throughout their lives. Find out more at: http://frostvalley.org/camp/overnight-camps/

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Hudson Valley Magazine editorial staff.