Why you should take your kids camping
Camping. Getting outside, in the fresh air, and being one with nature. Sleeping under the stars either in a tent or just throwing up a hammock between two trees. For most of the country, spring is already upon us. Warmer temperatures and longer days make everyone want to get outside. And it makes me want to take my kids camping.
Camping with kids can seem like a daunting task. All the bugs, and snakes, and poisonous plants make it seem like a horrible idea to take your kids camping. But I am here to tell you that camping with your kids can not only be a fun activity but a great growth opportunity for your kids. Here is a full list of reasons you should take your kids camping.
You are showing your kids they don’t need a fancy hotel or condo to have fun
When we vacation my first thought is, “How much is a hotel going to cost me?”. We really don’t like staying in cheap hotels so we typically have to spend a little more money. But this way of traveling has instilled in my kids that you have to spend a lot of money on a hotel to have fun.
When camping you may only have to spend a fraction of the cost of a hotel or condo. A typical hotel can cost around $125 to $200 depending on the area. But a campsite can be as cheap as $20 for a basic site. And campsites can offer the same amenities as a hotel. I have been to several campsites that have pools, basketball courts, shower houses, and even restaurants.
Also, the money you save on the hotel or condo can go back into your trip budget. Maybe you can travel a little bit further or maybe you can go on an extra excursion like canoeing or a tour.
Teach them some basic (and not so basic) survival skills
Today most people have a device in their pocket that will tell them where they are and even give them directions to get to a location. But what happens when they are in a location and they are getting no service? Or if their battery is dead? In those cases, they need to know some basic directional skills and how to navigate back to safety.
You hope your kids will never get lost but what if they do? Maybe they are hiking and take a wrong turn and it gets late. It would be a good idea if they knew how to start a fire and maybe even cook some food on an open fire. They may also need to identify poisonous plants so they don’t actually touch poison ivy or poison oak which can lead to some nasty reactions.
Also if your kid has never fished before and you are camping by a lake this is a great opportunity to take them fishing. Who knows you might just catch enough to have for supper.
It gets your kids away from their devices
During the winter my kids will live on their devices (tablets, phones, consoles). It’s hard to tell them to go outside when it is below freezing. And even sometimes when the weather is nice they would rather plop down and watch some YouTube or Netflix than go outside and play.
Being on a device all day is a creativity killer. When my kids are outside it is amazing the games they come up with or the things that they pick up that become a sword or a wand or an alligator in a swamp. When you take your kids camping you leave your devices off or better yet don’t even let them bring them. This way they can expand their imagination and let their creativity fly.
Teaches them to be one with nature
Now I am not saying your kids need to gather berries and use leaves to wipe themselves or take baths in a lake. I am talking about making sure nature is preserved. Keeping our lands clean is a huge challenge. I get so disheartened by the amount of trash people leave everywhere when we go camping or hiking. When your kids learn the value of nature they will appreciate it even more as to why we need to keep it clean.
If you go on a hike ask your kids to be quiet and listen to the sounds around them. Hearing the birds chirp or the wind blow through the leaves in the trees. Having them be quiet and on the lookout, you may run across a chipmunk or even see a deer. And a side benefit is you get a few minutes of absolute peace and quiet at no charge.
Time to bond with a parent
When we go camping my wife will gladly stay home and sleep in her own bed. I don’t blame her and it is actually nice. It gives me great one on one time with my kids since I work full time and during school, I don’t get a lot of time at night before they have to go to bed.
Now that doesn’t mean my wife can’t come. Sometimes she will come out and visit us during the day and I am sure if we had a camper she would stay with us. She used to tent camp with us and it’s just not her favorite thing. And honestly the older I get the less I enjoy sleeping on the ground.
Take this time with your kids and make the most of it. It seems just like yesterday I was telling my oldest son to not play in the fire. And now he is graduated from college and will be married before I know it. Treasure these one-on-one moments while they last.
Chance to meet new friends
Just because you go camping doesn’t mean it has to be only time with you and your kids. At campsites, kids explore and almost always find other kids to play with. If you consistently camp in the same campground there is a good chance other families will be there often.
The show on Disney called Bluey has a great episode on camping. It features Bluey meeting a new friend named Jean-Luc who doesn’t speak English. Even though they can’t verbally understand each other they have a wonderful time playing and become great friends. In the end, Bluey is very upset because her friend had to leave early. But as time goes by you see them reunited when they are older.
And meeting new friends isn’t just for kids. As an adult, you might meet some friends and make it a yearly tradition to meet up and camp out with your newfound friends.
Teaches your kids to be minimalistic
When you wake up in your house on a Saturday morning, there is a good chance you have plenty of options to fix some breakfast. But when you are camping you are limited to what you brought. And sometimes when you forget things you can’t just find a substitute or run to a store so you have to improvise. Maybe you eat pancakes without syrup. Or maybe you can’t put cheese on your burger. Most likely your kids are so hungry they won’t even care.
The same goes for finding things to do. They won’t have all of their toys or video games or a tv to watch. They will have to find something basic like some sticks or some rocks to keep them entertained. Or maybe play a very simple game of hide and go seek with their siblings (or you).
Taking your kids camping creates memories
Camping is one of my most vivid memories from when I was growing up. I can remember going to a small lake about 40 minutes from our house that had a campground. We had tents set up and we fished and had an awesome campfire.
I can also remember camping near Shiloh Tennessee. There was nothing remarkable about the campground but I always remember that it stunk. Why? I think there was a paper factory or some other factory nearby that put off a really bad odor. But I will never forget that experience. It was also near a dam and we got to tour the dam which was really cool to learn how dams work.
I took my boys camping on Kentucky Lake. It wasn’t a far drive for us and we had been to Kentucky Lake dozens of other times. But every year after that my youngest son wants to go back and camp again at that same spot. He thought it was so cool that we could camp right next to the lake and get up and go fishing or swimming whenever we wanted to.
Teaches them how to cook in a fun way
Cooking over an open campfire is just pure joy to me. And my youngest son loves it. Does it make the food taste any better? Maybe. But to him it must because when it is remotely warm outside he wants to start a campfire and cook on it. Hot dogs, burgers, potatoes, S’mores. All of them are fair game.
When you go camping you can involve your kids in the cooking. You can start out by cooking some foil meals. Throw some hamburger and some potatoes and carrots with a little seasoning in some aluminum foil. Then cook it on a bed of hot coals in the fire. Be careful when pulling it out but wow oh wow is it good.
And what kid doesn’t like roasting marshmallows or hot dogs over an open campfire. Somehow the taste between a campfire roasted hot dog and one cooked on a stovetop is night and day. They are just so much better.
Opens them up to new experiences
For some, if you lived in the city your entire life you may have not had any experience hiking in nature or swimming in creeks and lakes. Taking your kid camping can open them up to new and unique experiences that they would not otherwise be able to have.
Seeing animals in their natural habitat is something that a lot of people don’t get to experience. Sure you can see some of these animals in zoos but it isn’t the same as seeing them out in nature.
Also if you go camping in the right locations you might be able to see some interesting and rare geological formations. Some campsites have access to hidden caves and beautiful natural arches. Or you can take in some breathtaking views on a mountainside that you just don’t see every day. Just remember to teach your kids to leave no trace. Don’t destroy nature and respect it so others can enjoy the experience long after you are gone.
It gets the kids moving
When camping there are lots of opportunities for your kids to get up and move around. From simple tasks like setting up the tent to collecting firewood to taking a hike. There are some great chances to get your kids up and moving.
If you camp near a lake or stream you can take the kids swimming or kayaking. Swimming is one of those activities my kids will do for hours and never complain once about being tired. Even though they are burning tons of calories. Just make sure to bring sunscreen.
Hiking is not only a great way for your kids to get moving but can burn some serious calories. Check out this info on how many calories you can burn while hiking for just 30 minutes. Imagine if you hiked for an hour or more how many more calories you can burn. Just remember to take plenty of water when hiking and maybe some snacks.
Makes them appreciate what they have even more
Today a lot of our kids take modern conveniences for granted. They just accept that having an air conditioner in the summer and heat during the winter is the way life is. But they don’t realize how hard you work to provide those things for them.
Even things like running water we take for granted. If you go camping in a really remote area you might not have clean drinking water. You may have to boil any water you find in a creek or lake before you can drink it.
After a few nights of sleeping without an air conditioner on a hot humid summer night on a sleeping bag, your kids will really appreciate all the comforts they have at home. My son usually always says he can’t wait to sleep in his own bed after a weekend of camping.
They may love the idea of not taking a shower or bath
Ok, mom might not like this idea. But the kids love it. Maybe not all kids but most kids I know that if they get an opportunity to skip taking a bath or shower they will take it.
It could lead to better sleep
Sleeping outdoors and using the daylight hours to determine your sleep cycle can help reset your circadian rhythm. At home, we let unnatural light or the light from our devices disturb our sleep patterns and then we wonder why we stay up all night or have trouble staying asleep.
A good night in the fresh air and using just the sun to tell you when to wake up can be a reset to your sleep cycle. I know from experience that after a weekend of camping I sleep so much better for at least a week. Sometimes this benefit carries on for even longer.
It can help relieve stress
Believe it or not, kids can be stressed. Sometimes it can be school or friends, and sometimes the stress can even be you as the parent. Something about being outside and in nature just instantly seems to relieve the stress you leave behind at home. When the kids get out and move around it reduces the levels of their body’s stress hormones.
This benefit is also not just for your kids. The fresh air of the outdoors. The smell of the fire can help reduce any stress you may be under. The sunshine also helps release serotonin which improves your overall mood.
Camping may seem like a daunting task. But really you can start in your backyard if you have to. Start out easy that way if things turn south and your kids want to be back in their bed you can always take them back inside.
But if they enjoy it I would suggest investing in some simple gear. Maybe a tent and some sleeping bags to start with. And as their love for camping grows you can add more gear to make the camping experience. And if your kids (or you) don’t like the idea of sleeping in a tent on the ground. Maybe borrow or rent a camper and give that a try. And remember to have fun and relax.
Do you have any stories of how camping benefited your kids? Drop us a comment or let us know on our Facebook page.