A 2023 #KidDay Message from our National Youth Advisory Cabinet

Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® is only a few days away and we can’t let the holiday pass without talking about incredible the young people on our National Youth Advisory Cabinet (YAC).

Camp Fire’s YAC has 11 dedicated young people who give their experience, insight, and presence to Camp Fire National Headquarters leadership each month to ensure that youth voice is part of what we do at every level. YAC’s creativity, humor, candor, energy, and passion are such a gift to us and we are so grateful for them.

At our last meeting, we asked YAC what they thought young people needed to hear right now for #KidDay. This is what some of them shared:

“You are important! Your opinions and values matter, and you are worthy of attention, happiness, and love, so be kind to yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you different!”

– Bella Thornton

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Make time for yourself every day to relax and spend time doing things you love.!”

– Ella Sherlock

“Being yourself is powerful. Be honest with yourself and others! Let yourself enjoy life, continue to be honest with yourself, and let yourself be a powerful person.”

– Khalilah Wilson

Girl holding a skateboard
three girls smiling together
young boy smiling

Above all, they wanted young people to know they are loved and seen and celebrated.

“Keep pushing. Don’t give up. Your opinions matter.”

#KidDay is March 16th. Tell your words are powerful. Tell the young people in your life how amazing they are.

Spend time with children in nature for Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®

Guest post by Amelia Rhodeland, MPA, Content Production Manager, Children & Nature Network

For Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®, spend some time outdoors with the young people in your life. I can’t imagine a better way to show them that you care about them.

Research shows that families who spend time in nature develop strong bonds, better communication and incredible memories. At the Children & Nature Network, we support healthy, active families outdoors in a variety of ways, from large scale national partnerships, to working locally with community partners to reduce barriers to nature. These are values that we know Camp Fire believes in, too. 

Like Camp Fire says, “Growing up is hard,” and it seems to have gotten even trickier to navigate in recent years, with screen time at an all-time high, youth experiencing a national mental health crisis and climate change anxiety on the rise. Author and Children & Nature Network co-founder Richard Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the suite of symptoms that can stem from children’s lack of connection with nature today. 

But the same thing that young people are lacking can also be a comprehensive solution, helping young people to be healthier, happier and more capable — nature connection. Research tells us that regular time outdoors is essential for children’s development. If you’re looking to encourage and empower young people, time in nature is an excellent way to do so.

Sold on the benefits of nature connection but looking for easy ways to implement this strategy in everyday life? There are so many ways that caregivers can help their children and teens connect with nature. I’ve listed a few below. 

Spend some time on self-care in nature.

According to scientific studies, mindfully connecting with nature can produce a variety of health benefits, promoting physical, mental and social well-being. Integrate self-care into the daily routine for you and your little ones. You can do so by tuning into your five senses, regularly taking mini breaks for nature connection throughout the day, and practicing “earthing” — connecting directly to nature by walking or standing on grass, sand or dirt while barefoot. Check out this infographic for more on the ways that families can practice self-care in nature.

Photo of a really happy kid smiling im a kayak on the lake

Get inspired by Nature Activity Cards.

You’ve managed to get your kiddos dressed, fed and to the park. Now what? If you just need a little bit of guidance once you get outside, fear not. These Nature Activity Cards will help inspire all types of creative nature play! Cards are separated into two suggested age groups, 2-6 and 7-11 years old, with six themed packs for each age group. Choose from themes like reptiles, nature crafts, clouds, nocturnal urban animals, camping and winter-appropriate activities. Each themed pack has an assortment of age-appropriate activities, incorporating elements of play, environmental stewardship, storytelling and more. 

Dad and son playing outside - the son is jumping from a log into his dad's arms

Plant a garden. 

Scientists have found that gardening is good for the health and development of children and youth of all ages — not to mention the positive effects it can have on the environment. You can take baby steps by starting with just a few seeds in small pots indoors. Children love to track seedlings as they grow and change. You’ll find more inspiration in these true stories of schools promoting science equity, environmental literacy and healthy eating through their gardens. In Perú, an innovative approach called Tierra de Niños (TiNis), or Children’s Lands, gives children of all ages the opportunity to design, create and manage gardens of their own as a way of connecting with nature and empowering them to be agents of change. Read these resources for additional guidance on creating your own home garden with your favorite young people: “Little gardeners: Home-grown connections to the natural world” by Julie Cerny, and “20 ways to create a naturally restorative home and garden” by Richard Louv.

Take on the Vitamin N Challenge.

It’s easy to get sucked into a busy schedule of appointments, drop-offs and play dates, and find yourself skipping the nature connection time that’s essential for health and well-being. That’s where the Vitamin N Challenge can help, encouraging you and your family to commit to getting a regular dose of the all-important Vitamin N — Nature! Inspired by our co-founder Richard Louv’s book, “Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life,” the Vitamin N Challenge can take any shape or size that works for you. It’s all about setting and committing to a goal that will help you and your family get more Vitamin N. We run a big Vitamin N Challenge every summer, so mark your calendars! But any time is a great time to commit to getting more time outdoors, so check out the Vitamin N page for inspiration and resources to help you stay on track with your Vitamin N Challenge.

Find a nature hobby.

Gamifying the outdoors like a video game. Nature journaling. Hiking. Reading picture book pages while on a simple trail. Camping. Connecting with other families and caregivers through family hiking groups. Wildlife photography. Horseback riding. The Nordic custom of friluftsliv

These are just a few of the outdoor activities that families and caregivers can use to connect with nature — and each other. The options are endless. If you’re interested in exploring a new outdoor hobby, there are resources that can help you borrow needed equipment before you commit. Public libraries are increasingly building out gear libraries so that residents can check out outdoor gear for free. Many are also integrating gardens and other natural elements into their designs. Local clubs organized by groups like Hike it Baby may also lend out baby backpacks and slings to help caregivers find the right baby-wearing option for them and their child.

Toddler crawling in the grass with her mom behind her

Each of these activities empowers young people and helps them feel confident. And, while you’re enjoying quality time with your favorite young people, take a moment to let them know how much they are appreciated. The outdoors is a great place to do so.

Resources to help families connect with nature

Encourage and Recognize Military Youth on Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®

Photo of Daniel W. Hatcher (He/Him)
Blending Partnerships and Creative Content for Social Innovation

Guest post by Daniel W. Hatcher, MPH, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Today, there are over 2 million children of active-duty U.S. service members, National Guard Reserve, and military veterans. On average, military families move every two to three years. This means that by the time a military child graduates from high school, they may have moved ten or more times and attended anywhere from six to nine different schools.

Additionally, there are approximately 2.3 million children under the age of 18 living with a disabled veteran in communities across the U.S. Alliance for a Healthier Generation (Healthier Generation) is a proud member of the Hidden Helpers Coalition, a group of 80+ organizations who have pledged to support and uplift these young people.

That’s why we are using Camp Fire’s Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® as an important opportunity to identify, encourage, and recognize Hidden Helpers and all military youth in our communities. This day gives us an opportunity to honor and celebrate their unique resilience, strength, and character.

Below are three ideas from Healthier Generation and our partners at Blue Star Families. Try them on Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® in March and continue celebrating youth in your life through Month of the Military Child in April and beyond.

Photo of military family together smiling with blue paint cirlce behind them

Mapping Your Identity

Adults who give space for young people to share their identities can build more inclusive and connected learning environments at home, at school, and in the community. One way to do this is by using an identity map. An identity map is a graphic tool used to share, learn, and reflect on the aspects that shape who we are. It can include words, drawings, or photos that describe what makes each of us unique.

Download Healthier Generation’s free Identity Map Worksheet in English and Spanish.

Military mom

Getting the Conversation Started

Healthier Generation believes asking unique, engaging questions is just one of many ways we can better connect with each other, In collaboration with our partners at Blue Star Families, we developed a one-of-a-kind resource and learning activity, Quality Time in No Time. This 10-minute learning activity includes free printables, like Silly and Speedy Conversation Starters.

Here’s a conversation starter to try this Absolutely Incredible Kid Day®: What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Play Together in Nature

Nature-based activities are a great way to connect and sustain relationships with young people while supporting mental and physical health. Created in partnership with Blue Star Families, Nature BINGO includes 20+ activity ideas perfect for your Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® celebration. Two of our favorite BINGO squares include, “Host a neighborhood field day,” and “Try a new food and learn about its cultural significance.”

Which of these three ideas will you try? What would you add to the list? Share your experience and tag Healthier Generation on social using @healthiergen. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #KidDay2023!

Resources for Supporting Military Youth

Camp Fire’s People & Impact: 2021-2022

Over the past few years, as we’ve continued to navigate COVID-19 and its challenges, we served over 100,000 young people virtually, which is incredible. But now, as we’re able to operate programs in person (and we see growing waitlists for our programs), we’re again able to offer the kind of unique, safe spaces and intentional time that allows for deeper connections – with the outdoors, with others, and with self. That’s why these four core themes emerged as we looked at our program data from the past year across the Camp Fire network (Aug. 2021 – May 2022): relationships, belonging, professional development, and youth voice.

Each section of this report dives into these themes and why they matter. Here is a snapshot:


Cultivating connection is why Camp Fire exists and one of our core values. But specifically, developmental relationships—connections that help us learn, grow, give back and become our best selves—are fundamental to a thriving life. Research shows that young people who have strong developmental relationships are more engaged at school, have higher social-emotional learning skills and are less likely to participate in high-risk activities. We know that healthy webs of developmental relationships also benefit adults, our communities, and all of society.


We all want to belong. For Camp Fire, we see belonging intertwined with wholeness. As part of our definition of thriving, we say:

“For young people in particular, finding a place where they can simply be—where they can exist fully—can be very difficult, especially when who they are is challenged by society. That’s why Camp Fire designs identity-affirming, accessible environments in which youth can experience the relationships, fun, inspiration, acceptance, safety and support they need in order to thrive.”1

Professional Development

In order to support young people in developing strong, impactful relationships, we must invest in the adults who work with youth. Our philosophy is that to support a whole child, we must support the whole adult. We provide comprehensive learning opportunities for all staff and volunteers in the Camp Fire network. Child safety has been a big focus over the past few years and will continue to be an area of investment in the years to come.

Youth Voice

Camp Fire designs and implements programs that are intentionally aimed at elevating youth voice. Research tells us that by listening to youth, really listening, youth-serving organizations can promote young people’s sense of agency and support them in inciting change. Honoring the power of young people is one of our eight core values and something we put into action: see examples here.

In this report, you will find inspiring stories in each of the sections from a few of our 47 affiliates in 24 states, and what we’re focused on in the future.

Over the past six years, we’ve been able to serve more than 613,000 youth and families across 4,600+ program sites. We seek to grow this number as well as make our programs more accessible and affordable, because growing up is hard and young people are hungry for connection (aren’t we all?). Thank you for your support in this work and fulfilling our vision:

a world where all young people thrive and have equitable opportunities for self-discovery, community connection, and engagement with nature.

Looking ahead,

Greg Signature

Greg Zweber, President & CEO, Camp Fire National Headquarters

People & Impact: 2021-2022

Front cover of report