I am always talking up going camping to local friends, especially when they seemed bogged down when they feel like their family needs a break from the stress and doldrums of daily work & school life. Many times families will complain that their kids are irritable, lethargic or just plain difficult… I always say one of the best cures for that is to go camping!
I decided that next time someone tells me “I can’t go camping,” or “We do the outdoors” I wanted to give them a list that they could reference that will give them at LEAST 10 good reasons why they should take their kiddos camping, and much of it is backed up by credible, scientific research!
One of my favorite parts of going camping is the fact that most campgrounds have virtually non-existent wifi connections. Sure, they may have a wifi network, but 99% of the time, their connection is spotty and not worth the effort. Given that a large portion of today’s younger generation spends a lot of time on screens, it’s incredibly refreshing to be able to tell them, oh well, there is no internet access, so get off your tablet and get on your bike! (And to be honest, I love this for myself, as well… it’s nice to be able to avoid emails for a few days and have a good reason for it!) Scientific studies have shown that screen time for children can become addictive and detrimental to healthy development.
When you are outdoors on a camping trip, there are unlimited educational opportunities available. Many science lessons can be taught with regards to biology, ecology and geology, just to name a few. Math lessons can be taught with regards to symmetry in flowers, Fibonacci sequences in flowers, or using math equations to determine the distance of a hike. Of course, many lessons in conservation just by teaching the rule of taking care of the space around you, and most importantly, social and emotional skills can be taught easily during free play opportunities while at the campground.
Camping fosters independence in our children. Generally, campgrounds are incredibly safe environments because they are contained environments with easily defined parameters. Many times, campsites can provide parents with a wide space and viewing area for children to play freely without much adult intervention. The availability of new spaces and territories also allow children to develop creative ideas and games without being prompted by adults, as often is the case at school and in extracurricular activities. Often, leaving children to their own imaginations can foster a sense of independence, but also help them develop important problem solving skills as well.
Recent articles and research have made significant cases against current school practices that require young children sitting upright in desks all day, thus preventing adequate development of their sensory systems. There has been a drastic increase in the amount of children developing SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and of children requiring Occupational Therapy due to underdeveloped sensory systems. The increase of screen usage and lack of adequate sensory input because of more time at a desk instead of at play has created a problem where children have no core strength, fall out of chairs, need frequent movement, and a load of other problems. Camping is an excellent way to easily, and naturally, increase much needed sensory input in children so that they can get a better sense of the spaces around them. Climbing trees, learning balance while bike riding, jumping in mud puddles, practicing parkour from rock to rock, and so much more are ways to help children gain the input needed. There is a reason why children are so well adjusted after going camping, and one of them is due to the increase in their sensory input.
Along the same lines as sensory input, another great health benefit for kids while camping is ample opportunity for physical activity. We all know that with the decrease of recess in schools, increase of screen time, and the increase in obesity in our country, that exercise is definitely a great benefit to our kids (and us!). Camping trips provide opportunities for bike riding, hiking, tree climbing, and so much more because the distractions of screens, television, etc. are not available. Because there is limited “indoor” space, kids have to entertain themselves outside! Of course, because they are out exploring all day, kids automatically increase their activity and then the next benefit occurs….
Camping and being in the great outdoors is always a recipe for great sleep for our kiddos. Our son always falls asleep quickly and deeply when we go camping and this is due to the first 5 reasons listed in this post. Between the increased sensory input, physical activity, free play, and developing social and emotional skills, childrens’ bodies and brains are tired and happy with the stimulation and increase in movement and we all know kids can benefit from a good night’s sleep to help them grow!
Going camping also shows kids that you can survive without everything at your fingertips. We don’t stock our camper with every little thing possible for survival, so sometimes we have to “make do” with what we have on hand. No BBQ grill, no worries, we will cook over the campfire! If it is getting chilly outside? Ok, well lets go source some firewood and then build a campfire, and while doing so, we’ll learn the key components of fire safety. While on a hike, you can teach children how to use a compass to find their direction and get back to safety. Going hiking and for walks can also be beneficial for showing them poisonous plants and berries as well and if they get stuck in a rut while riding bikes, encourage them to get out on their own!
Probably the most beneficial reason to take our kids camping is the mental & emotional benefits. Studies show that being in nature helps increase concentration, relax the mind, and help to recharge our brain and bodies to perform better in stressful situations. Spending time in nature can help our kids with ADHD, anxiety and even just the mental stress from life & school expectations. Also, being unplugged while camping with your family also opens the door to more emotional connections with our children, thus leading to a more balanced, loving relationship and experience with our kids.
Let’s just make it simple. Camping is FUN. Whether you are on bike rides, exploring a ravine, taking a hike, or even playing make believe, camping enriches the mind, the heart, and the soul of our children. It gives them freedom and an outlet to explore and make friends and to just have a good time.