Why You Should Take Your Kids Camping
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Ah, camping! Few things have created joy and character-building in equal amounts as a good camping trip. Though not everyone enjoys spending time in the great outdoors, there are important life lessons youth can learn from campouts.
Many youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America, feature camping prominently and advocate the merits of spending time outdoors.
Camping provides lots of opportunities for wholesome, healthy exercise for kids who may ordinarily spend too much time sedentary and focused on digital devices. Getting kids outside forces them to move around, breathe fresh air and exert themselves by setting up tents, building campfire rings, going to fill up water containers, and performing other campsite chores. Though they may whine initially, they may quickly develop an appreciation of being responsible.
Secondly, this exercise-inducing responsibility requires teamwork, forcing kids on campouts to learn to work with others. Many camp tents are best set up by multiple people. Siblings, in order to set up their tent, will have to work together, perhaps learning teamwork skills they haven’t needed to learn at home.
In our pan-digital society, we are obsessed with being independent and able to accomplish tasks on our own with a plethora of apps and websites. Setting up a tent or cooking and cleaning up from a camp dinner requires interpersonal communication, delegation of tasks, and the ability to negotiate roles.
Camping Creates Character
It can be tough. The great outdoors can be too hot, too cold, full of bugs, thorns, and dirt, and possess great peril. To kids used to a life of indoor leisure, a healthy dose of camping can create a needed measure of toughness and character needed for maturity. Being presented with adversity and learning to overcome it is an important step in growing as a person.
While at home kids can adjust a thermostat, grab a flyswatter, take a shower or throw dirty clothes in the hamper, but at a remote campsite, these things are often not an option. Campers must learn to improvise, innovate, or just make do. These skills will help later in life, such as after leaving home, when easy answers to discomfort may not be available or affordable.
As an added bonus, the difficulty of the outdoor life can bring kids closer together through forced bonding. Disagreeable siblings who may have little better to do than arguing when in the comfort of home may bond when having to support each other through the rigors of a remote campout.
Much learning is done through camping which teaches unique skills. Camping-centric organizations like Scouting teach youth skills like knot-tying, learning flora and fauna, and first aid and emergency preparedness; skills usually not well-addressed in schools. Kids who never go camping may never learn how to tie knots, identify dangerous plants or animals, or render first aid.
These skills are important and are most often taught in outdoor settings, making camping an invaluable teaching tool for real-world knowledge. Other things better learned while camping than in the classroom includes using a pocketknife or multitool, simple cooking, and basic repairs. Without camping many kids would never learn how to use duct tape, stitch a patch onto a backpack or piece of clothing, or even use a repair kit.
Outdoor splendor cannot be replicated. Aside from the useful aspects of camping is the sheer aesthetics of the outdoors, providing children and adults with amazing views, beautiful vistas, and potent experiences that cannot be duplicated indoors.
Every kid should experience a mountain rainstorm, a canyon sunset, a sunrise over the plains, and a rural winter snowscape. How bland would life be if kids never camped and got to experience true nature?
What Camping Equipment Is Needed for Camping With Kids
Camping with kids is a great way to teach them all kinds of things about nature, safety, and survival; in addition, the memories made around a campfire can last forever. Besides the tent, a few necessities are needed when camping with children, along with a few fun things. Before setting out on your first adventure, do a trial run with a backyard camp-out or participate in a camping seminar offered through many states’ park programs.
Sleeping and Clothes
Depending on how experienced your child is with the outdoors and how old she is, the sleeping arrangements should be as comfortable as possible to ensure she gets a good night’s sleep. You don’t have to deck out the tent with air mattresses and home comforts — after all, camping is about roughing it.
However, a newbie to the camping scene might be uncomfortable with just a sleeping bag. Bring a foam mat and her favorite pillow to ease the bumpiness of the ground. Keep the temperatures in mind, too; a warm summer’s night could be too hot for a sleeping bag so bring a few sheets or a lighter-weight blanket.
The temperature also plays into clothing. Pack her several different layers because children can get cold much quicker than adults. The layers should be easy to take off and put on; think a t-shirt, light-weight hooded sweatshirt, and jacket.
Even if you’re staying at a camping resort, the opportunities for exploring will abound. Have a small backpack for him filled with kid-sized binoculars and a child-friendly field guide to help him learn about the nature around him.
The backpack can double as a holder for a water bottle during a family hike through the trails or paths at the campground. If collecting is allowed, pack a plastic jar for collecting leaves or a bug jar — just remember to let the bugs go before you leave!
Let’s face it, children are prone to scraped knees and boo-boos, especially when camping. A travel-size first-aid kit is a must for kids and adults alike, particularly if you’re camping in a primitive area or you’ll be exploring state or national parks, or you plan on day-packing. The first-aid kit should contain bandages, antiseptic spray, and antibiotic cream.
A whistle for children aged 4 and older is also a great idea if you plan on hiking. In general, the call for help or distress with a whistle is three blows. When hiking, always have her wear her backpack and make sure a bottle of water is inside. If you’re camping with more than one child, make sure each child has her own flashlight — the flashlight will come in handy for fun, as well.
Fun and Cooking Adventures
Cooking over a campfire delights children and adults alike, and cooking can be a fun experience for children. Bring hot dog sticks to roast your favorite dogs and marshmallows over the fire; a pudgy-pie maker is also a great idea. Use the flashlights at night to explore the campsite and see which creatures come out at night; you can also have fun with shadow puppets on the wall of the tent.