Planning out fun activities and outings, and, let’s be honest, things to keep your children from fighting for the nine long weeks of summer vacation can be extremely daunting as a parent. For most of North America, summer also comes with the desire to be outside enjoying the fresh air and warm temperatures that have been missing for the past six months!
One activity that can check all of these boxes at once is a weekend camping trip with your family. Heading to your local campground or national park can be an incredible experience for your children - especially if they’re first-time campers! While the benefits are almost immeasurable, this list of ten is a pretty great start.
10 Budget Friendly Vacation
It’s no secret that raising kids is expensive. In many cases it takes two incomes to even make ends meet, let alone head out across the world on fancy family vacations. For this reason, camping is a realistic option to escape the everyday monotony, and take your children on an adventure, while sticking to a very minimal budget.
Accumulating the necessary supplies before your first trip can be a little costly, but as long as you purchase good quality equipment it should last you for many years to come!
9 Encourages Creativity
Sleeping under the stars and hiking through the woods can certainly have a calming effect on one’s soul, and can get yours and your kids’ creative juices flowing!
Drawing pictures in the sand, building chipmunk houses out of sticks, or writing beautiful journal entries are just a few of the ways you may find your children expressing their creativity while spending a few days in nature. Perhaps the trip will even turn your kid into a budding artist or writer before your eyes!
8 New Experiences
First time campers especially will benefit from copious amounts of new experiences while spending a night or two in the woods! Cooking dinner over the fire, roasting marshmallows, making s’mores, falling asleep with fresh air in their lungs, maybe even canoeing, hiking, or swimming in a lake!
Some of these simple pleasures are things that are easily taken for granted in recent years, because most parents did them regularly at summer camp, family cabins, and maybe even in their own backyards in the days before the suburbs. Sharing those experiences with your kids for the first time can be incredibly cathartic, and bring back all kinds of fond memories.
7 Creating Memories
On the topic of fond memories, that is one of the best things about taking your kids camping - making memories with them! Whether you pull out the camera at all, or make a Hollywood production-quality video of the experience, your children are going to remember those camping trips for years to come.
The smell of campfire, the feel of wet sand between their toes, the sound of the wind rustling through the trees, even 20 years later those familiar senses will take them right back to their childhood, and that is something that money can’t buy.
6 Fun With Less
Everywhere we look on the internet there are articles telling us that we need to unplug. Don’t watch TV in bed, it’ll affect your sleep, don’t check your emails first thing in the morning, it’ll affect your mental health, don’t sit on your smartphone while your kids play at the park, it prevents you from bonding.
If these things are all true for adults, what kind of effect are all the screens having on our kids? Taking your children out into the woods for a weekend with no tv, no iPads, and no big junky toys, may feel daunting, but it is also an opportunity for your kids to learn to have fun with less! Less gadgets, less electronics, and less toys. Let them be kids and play in the mud, ride bikes, and read books. If nothing else, they’ll appreciate all their stuff more when they get home!
Camping has an awesome way of building self-confidence in children who might not otherwise feel it. Out in nature there are no rules to play by, and no winning at the end of the day. Kids and adults alike will learn to step outside their comfort zones, learn new things, and take pride in their new skills.
Allowing children to help with tasks and learn on their feet is a great way to show them that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to, even without Google, Siri, or Alexa to answer questions along the way.
4 Survival Skills
Some of the new skills kids will learn while camping could actually be extremely helpful to them in the future. Having some basic survival skills in your tool belt is always a bonus, and camping is one of the best ways to develop them.
Starting a campfire for warmth and to cook by is great knowledge for anyone who spends any amount of time outdoors. With the high-tech, brightly colored, quick to assemble tents on the market now, it’s unlikely your child will learn to build a shelter in the original method, but they will be able to see what a good shelter needs to have to keep them safe. And cooking over an open flame is beneficial even for city dwellers, it’s just one step closer to your kids becoming the grill master at family parties.
3 Getting Dirty
Our world is so highly sanitized, scrubbed, and germ-free that kids are getting sick more frequently because their immune systems haven’t been properly built.
Going camping is a great way to get your child playing in the mud, playing with frogs and feeding chipmunks, and swimming in un-chlorinated bodies of water. All of these exposures can help build their immune systems, and sound like so much fun, don’t they?
2 Physical Activity
While your kids are exploring the great outdoors, having new experiences, and learning survival skills, they will also be getting a ton of physical activity. Leading experts recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and depending on the weather and your family schedule, this may or may not be entirely possible.
However, when you’re spending a night, a weekend, or maybe even a week or two outside in the woods, your children will definitely be able to meet that quota and then some!
1 Connection With Nature
Last but not least, fostering a connection with nature is one of the most important benefits of taking your children camping. With cities constantly expanding, and the suburbs losing more and more of their green spaces, kids are not getting a chance to explore nature in all of its glory, and truly feel a connection with the earth.
It seems like parents are always encouraging their children to grow up faster, to work hard, and to be safe, but what the kids really need is to be kids. Ample time outside to explore, physical activity, healthy foods, and quality time with their family should be their number one goals. So pack up your camping gear and hit the road. The summer isn’t going to last forever, and their childhoods won’t either.