Few family experiences provide such rich rewards as camping. Parents who have never tried it, often fear the unknown hazards. Actually, people are naturally equipped to live outdoors as they did for thousands of years. Spending a few days in a family camping tent will reacquaint you with natural skills and pleasures.
Nowadays children have less access to nature than in any previous generation. Research has shown that as we rely more on technology for entertainment, while visits to national parks have declined. Parents tend to be overprotective. Sometimes it is easier to keep the kids indoors than worry about any unforeseen dangers. All this amounts to a lack of experience within the natural world. Journalist Richard Louv argues that nature deficit contributes to contemporary childhood ailments such as obesity, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder and lack of creativity. Outdoor education may be able to help compensate.
Adults can also benefit from some outdoor education. The great thing about camping is it provides the whole family with a variety of new shared experiences. Imagine the beauty and excitement of waking up to a field of wildflowers just outside your campsite, or having a tribe of chickadees fly down and ask to share daytime snacks. This is not to say every campground visitor will be welcome, but some planning will ensure a safe and enjoyable vacation.
With a wide selection of potential adventures across the country, the best place to go is somewhere different. This might seem trivial, but the richest experience comes from trying something new and unfamiliar. If the children have not experienced streams and lakes before, these will provide endless opportunities for play and discovery. If you have never visited the mountains, now is your chance to hike and see breathtaking vistas. Just getting outside the city where you can see the night sky will provide an unforgettable memory.
Take advantage of interpretive activities in the parks. Naturalists will point out the most interesting places to visit and how to interact with the environment. Children will learn respect for the natural world, rather than experiencing wild animals and plants as pretty things on a computer screen.
It is never too early to take a young one into the outdoors. Early exposure will help children look forward to camping trips as they grow older. Establish boundaries by walking toddlers around the perimeter of the campsite. Near water, small children should wear life jackets whenever they are not within arm’s reach.
Choosing the right equipment is essential for both safety and pleasure. Many people will choose to sleep in a camper, but children love the novelty of sleeping in a camping tent, too. Besides being more economical, this provides more immediate contact with the outdoors. As children grow older they may prefer their own private tents for sleeping. However, large camping tents continue to provide common areas. In case of a rainy day, make sure to take cards, board games, books and craft materials to keep everyone busy.
A family camping tent can become a new home away from home. Children will look forward to a week or two spent outdoors every summer, more than any other time of year. This time together will provide some of your family’s most cherished memories.