As New Jersey camps reopen and welcome children and teens for summer adventure in the great outdoors, there is a special opportunity to spend time building critical social and emotional skills among campers.

The long months of quarantine have taken a toll on our kids, and health professionals are raising concerns about their social and emotional well-being. Psychology Today recently reported:  “Research shows that children and adolescents are experiencing mental distress due to the disruptions of the closure of schools, activities, and maintaining social and physical distancing.”

While summer camps look slightly different this season with smaller groups, optional face masks and hand sanitizer stations, they still offer a unique environment where children can explore nature and connect with each other.

Sign Up for Barnegat/Waretown Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

When kids spend high-quality time outdoors, they thrive physically, emotionally, and intellectually. In an outdoor setting, they discover a strong sense of self, gain practical life skills and become resourceful problem solvers.

Summer camp provides a vital building block to support children’s growth and social-emotional development. It can be a life-changing experience as kids cultivate relationships and learn from their social interactions with new friends. Year after year, kids share that the best part of camp is making lasting friendships.

For families not comfortable sending their kids to outdoor day camps, there are plenty of virtual camp options that incorporate engaging online activities with other children. Girl Scouts, for example, is offering summer camp adventures at home with plenty of activities to complete away from a screen and open to all.

In this time of social distancing, we must remain committed to fostering healthy connections and supporting the social-emotional growth and learning of our children.

Eileen Higgins is CEO of Girls Scouts of the Jersey Shore, which serves 10,000 girls in Ocean and Monmouth counties. She oversees two outdoor day camps in central New Jersey: Camp Amity Acres in Waretown, Ocean County; and Camp Sacajawea in Farmingdale, Monmouth County, both accredited by the American Camping Association. She looks forward to welcoming campers starting July 13 and providing experiences to help them thrive in the great outdoors.