Did you know that children who go camping in the great outdoors at least once a year are reportedly better at school, as well as being healthier and happier? These are the findings of a UK study carried out by the Institute of Education at Plymouth University and The Camping and Caravanning Club.
Camping with kids, especially little ones, is indeed a ton of work. But it is worth the effort as children get to learn many great lessons: loving and respecting nature, appreciating the small things, being good and responsible, and breaking out the daily routine.
Let’s say you agree and are already on the campsite, what will you do to keep yourselves busy and entertained? We have some ideas that your children will love:
1. Nature walk on an unnatural trail
Do it right and a walk through the woods can be a trip to remember. The dancing shades from trees, soft grass beneath your feet, birds singing, colors everywhere. All this beauty needs to be taken care of and kids need to learn about conservation and leaving nature unmarked.
For this activity you need to untraceably plant several small toys and some trash on a short trail nearby. Then ask kids to explore the trail and locate all of the things that feel unnatural to the woods, anything that doesn’t grow there naturally but is man-made.
This is something you can do wherever we go, there are always new birds to discover. Before you leave home, search for different guides to birds that are frequent in the area you’ll be exploring. This way you’ll know what to look for. Don’t forget kid-friendly binoculars and a bird book where you can write down the birds you saw, when and where you saw them, what the weather was like, etc.
3. Making a tree guide
Children will recognize trees by their leaves, bark, shape, and even seeds. To begin with, do some research of the trees that grow in your area. Focus on pictures and descriptions. When you are in the middle of nature, ask kids to collect leaves and seeds from the tree (maybe you’ll bring some bark rubbings with you). Constantly ask questions about the shape of the tree, the bark texture, whether the trees have flowers, fruits or nuts, and if there are any creatures using the trees and what for. By answering your questions, kids will document their guide.
4. Tell campfire stories
What would a camping trip be like without a campire, some marshmellows and storytelling? There is something in that dark sky full of stars, the warmth of the flickering fire and the silence that makes us want to share a good story. It can be anything from a legend to a spooky tale or a funny childhood story.
5. Have a scavenger hunt
An easy way to beat the boredom blues, if there is any. All you need to do is set up a list with stuff from nature (feathers, pine cones, smooth rocks, cups of spring water) and some ground rules for the hunt. Institute a buddy system so that nobody gets lost. For extra safety, each child should have a whistle or a cell phone.
6. Glow in the dark baseball
Probably the greatest game of baseball you’ll ever play. Just bring your baseball supplies, string glow stick bracelets through the wiffle ball holes and start playing as night falls. A perfect activity for any cold summer night.
Get your children out of the comfort of your homes, and into an environment where they can truly see and experience nature. And if they say it’s not that great or scary or daunting, do persevere. The spiders or forest animals that scared them on the first camping trip won’t be that frightening next time. But their love for nature will grow bigger and bigger each time.