KidSport Summer Camps keep youth campers moving
Walk past Elbel Field during the summer, and you’ll hear the sounds of excited kids running around playing games and participating in sport-related activities.
Welcome to the School of Kinesiology’s KidSport Summer Camps, a summer program promoting fun physical activities for kids of all ages and abilities. According to Kerry Winkelseth, clinical assistant professor of Applied Exercise Science and director of KidSport Summer Camps, 2022 marked the camp’s 32nd year. It began in 1989.
“KidSport provides a variety of games and activities, which are so important for children’s health, wellness, and development, in addition to the invaluable social and emotional learning that takes place when kids get the opportunity to play and interact with each other,” Winkelseth said.
KidSport had 976 registrations this summer.
Morning sessions, featuring 4- to 12-year-old campers, focus on a variety of structured activities designed to target specific areas of physical education, such as game rules, motor skills, team-building, coordination, manipulative skills, fitness, and rhythm.
After lunchtime, the afternoon transforms into KidSport Athletics for the 7- to 12-year-olds. Each week features different sport-specific activities and fitness components that teach the basic, fundamental skills of the sport as well as game rules, team-building, and sportsmanship.
The 4- to 6-year-old campers attend KidSport Summer Fun, which features a different theme each week filled with age-appropriate games, physical activities, and crafts.
Winkelseth tries to make KidSport Summer Camps as accessible as possible based on parents’/guardians' needs. Children can be signed up for just one week or all nine weeks and can attend either a morning, afternoon, or full-day program. She also noted their staff typically consists of area teachers, past campers, and college students. This past summer’s staff saw four Kinesiology students participate in internships.
Families find this camp very attractive, according to Winkelseth. One mother told Winkelseth she liked KidSport because it’s “outside through the School of Kinesiology and the University of Michigan.”
“We do our best to provide a great, well thought-out, well planned experience for kids, so they get opportunities to move in a lot of different fun ways and explore different sports and activities that encourage physical activity for a lifetime,” Winkelseth said.
Throughout the years, different U-M departments have worked with KidSport on research studies.
This summer, Dr. Haylie Miller, assistant professor of Movement Science, has been collaborating with KidSport. She and her Motor & Visual Development Lab team members have assessed the balance, motor skills, and vision of neurodivergent and neurotypical children attending the camp. Families volunteered to participate in a research study comparing the motor skills and vision of neurodivergent KidSport campers of three different groups: neurotypical KidSport campers, neurodivergent athletes from the Special Olympics of Michigan, and neurodivergent and neurotypical children in the community who haven’t been involved in a structured physical activity program.
According to Miller, the motor skills of neurodivergent children can vary within a single diagnostic group (for example, autism); some have typical motor skills, while others either have motor problems across the board or only under specific circumstances. Motor skills can also vary across diagnostic groups (for example, autism versus intellectual disability).
“What we are trying to understand, with our work, is whether there are patterns of motor problems within or across the spectrum of neurodivergence that could inform the way we approach intervention and accommodation,” Miller said. “We need to look at motor skills in a way that is functional and person-centered instead of saying, ‘Oh, they’re just clumsy’ or making assumptions based on their diagnosis.”
Miller said that Winkelseth made it extremely easy for her group to come in and work with the research volunteers.
“This was one of the best experiences I have had partnering with a leader of an existing activity. Kerry opened every door for us and was so supportive. She was already doing a great job integrating neurodivergent kids individually, and we’re now collaboratively building two specific weeks of KidSport 2023 designed for kids with higher support needs so that they can access this activity too,” Miller said. “Inclusive and accommodative summer activities are in short supply in the community, and KidSport is in the perfect position to address this critical need.”