I never went camping as a child and always felt like I was missing out on something exciting. Once I was old enough to go with my friends, I concluded I wasn’t. Sleeping in a tent wasn’t as fun as I’d imagined. When we had kids I decided to give camping another go, partly because I didn’t want them to feel like they were missing out, and partly because it was a cheap way to have a holiday. We all know holidays with kids aren’t really holidays so I had nothing to lose. The kids loved it from day one and I enjoyed seeing them happy so we carried on doing it and, once I’d worked out what I needed to take to make it a comfortable experience, I was fully onboard. I really think there are benefits of camping for kids, here are my top 5.
A Chance to be Free Range Kids
We’re keen to take a free range parenting approach and that’s much easier to do when you are camping than any other holiday, or indeed, when you are at home. How much freedom you give your kids depends on their age and your approach to parenting but the lack roads and the community feel makes most parents comfortable giving kids more freedom than they would get at home.
If you have preschoolers, it might just be letting them run around in the field your tent is on while you watch from your camping chair. If they are a bit older you might let them go off to the play area with the friends they make on site. If you have older children you might, like us, be happy to let them disappear with their friends for a couple of hours at a time.
If you’re keen to give them more freedom but are a bit nervous, then investing in walkie talkies is a great idea. They can allow your children to be further away but you can still check in from time to time.
A Chance to Practice their Social Skills
Making friends is a pretty important skill for kids and campsites can be a great place to practice. While some children make friends within 5 minutes of arriving at the playground, other children can take a bit longer and the fact that they will likely keep seeing the same children while you’re there can help those who need a bit more time.
For older children and tweens, camping can be an opportunity to try out a different personality than the one they have at home. If they are always considered the quiet one by their regular friends, they can experiment with being a leader. Making completely new friends allows them a blank slate to be whoever they want to be without the expectations of their regular friends.
An Opportunity to Appreciate the Luxuries of Home
As my Grandad would say, kids these days don’t know they’re born. Children in this country, almost exclusively, grow up in warm houses, with running water, food that is ready soon after they ask for it and a bathroom a few steps away. Camping can be an opportunity to point out that not everyone has these luxuries. There are countries where children have to go and fetch the water everyday of their lives, there are people who sleep outside without even the luxury of a tent to keep them warm. Talking about these things while you’re camping can help develop empathy.
A Break From The Screens
While we have screen time limits at home, my kids still spend more time than we would prefer, either gaming or watching tv. One of the key benefits of camping for kids is the lack of access to screens. We don’t don’t take their tablets camping, there is no games console and we only let them play games on our phones in case of dire weather conditions and only then when we’ve exhausted all of the non screen games. Having said that, if you have small children, they are likely to wake at the crack of dawn when you’re camping so you may want to allow some screens to keep them entertained until a more civilised hour!
The Number One Benefit of Camping for Kids: Being Independent
When we camp, our children have responsibilities. They need to fill the water bottle, collect the breakfast pastries and go to the shop when we need milk. They also go off and play without supervision, take themselves to the toilet block, go and brush their teeth by themselves and visit the arcade without us. These opportunities to practice independence in a relatively safe environment are great for preparing them for doing things without us as they get older, as well as generally building their confidence.
All in all, I think the benefits of camping for kids are entirely worth sleeping on a tent for. There are also benefits for the parents, namely some peace and quiet when your kids go off and play with the other campsite kids leaving you to enjoy your mug of tea-can of gin and tonic! If you’re still not quite sure about camping, why not try camping in the garden first and see how you get on?