Written by monthly contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY.
A note from Jamie: This post first published on June 11, 2010. With many of us gearing up to make smores and set up tents at some point over the summer, it seems like a good time to revisit these thoughts from Renee.
Summer is a great time to be outdoors. A time to get away from it all, relax and play as a family.
One way to make the most of summer and to really enjoy nature together is to go camping.
Camping is a fun, affordable and memorable vacation for many families. It also presents excellent education opportunities.
So why not get out there and take advantage of the following things you’ll learn when camping.
1. Nature Study and Outdoors Appreciation
What better place to learn about plants, animals and natural history than in the actual outdoors?
You can take books along to help you identify different plants and animals. Or you can take photos and look it up at home.
Many state parks and campgrounds have rangers and environmental educators who offer educational talks. Some sites have interpretive centers featuring history, cultural studies and natural science.
At the very least you can often find a brochure and read up a bit on the area yourselves. Many of these offerings are free or relatively low cost.
Photo by Renee Tougas
2. Environmental Ethic
There is nothing like actually being in the outdoors to develop an environmental mindset.
Being in nature together – hiking through the woods, swimming in streams and sitting around the campfire at night helps children and adults alike want to preserve outdoor spaces.
Maybe your family likes lean-tos in the back country and follows a strict leave no trace philosophy. Or maybe you prefer to pull a trailer to your favorite campground and make sure to leave the site better than when you arrived.
However you enjoy camping you should always aim to leave the outdoors a better place than when you found it. Imagine the environmental impact if we lived by this principle in our everyday lives, not just when camping.
Photo by Renee Tougas
3. Dealing with Discomfort
Camping and getting outdoors pushes many of us outside our comfort zones.
You might be sharing a small tent space (little kids usually love this part), the weather may be crummy, or the physical activity of it all may tire you out.
The goal of family camping is not to push people beyond what they are capable of. The goal is to have fun, make memories and be together. But often it is dealing with the discomfort of the outdoors that builds both great memories and character.
Photo by Renee Tougas
Some of our best family memories, the ones we most vividly recall, are of uncomfortable camping situations.
Like the time we camped at the seashore hoping to hear whales and instead heard the foghorn every 15 seconds – all night. And then were awoken in the wee morning hours by the lightening storm and torrential rains that drove us out of our tent to seek shelter in the car.
We have camped many times, but what I remember most are those less-than-perfect times. They have become my fondest memories.
4. Food, Clothing and Shelter is All You Really Need
We all know this to be true but there is just so much stuff in our daily lives that interferes with experiencing the freedom and simplicity of living lightly.
Camping helps you pare down to the essentials and learn to appreciate having less.
Simple food tastes fabulous after a day of activity outdoors and you will appreciate the comforts of home so much more after “roughing it” for a few days.
Photo by Renee Tougas
When writing this post I asked my family “What do we learn when camping?” My nine-year-old’s immediate and honest response was “We don’t need lots of things to keep us happy.”
From the mouths of babes.
The more you experience nature and get outdoors the more you learn you don’t need a bunch of stuff to be happy.
That is simple living and simple homeschooling at its best.
If you are interested in resources for family camping and adventures together you can check out Family Outdoors–specifically you may appreciate Have Tent Will Travel.
Photo by Renee Tougas
What lessons has your family learned while camping?
another awesome post, Renee! We just had a “memorable” camping adventure this past weekend…lots of mosquitoes, not much sleep and some relaxing time at the beach!
.-= Jill Foley’s last blog: #227 – Colossians 3:15-17 =-.
Jill, Damien laughed out loud when he read your comment this morning. We know all to well what “memorable” looks like with lots of mosquitos!
Flexibility, teamwork, and a sense of adventure. We love camping and have so many great memories! SC has a wonderful State Park system and we are slowly making our way through each one. We also love to camp in Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, NC.
.-= Aimee’s last blog: Why I Don’t Like Couponing =-.
Aimee, I love those lessons and couldn’t agree more. Those are life skills & attitudes that will take you very far and not just related to camping!
I am going to take my family camping this summer for the first time. I love all these ideas and the different perspective it brings to the camping/outdoor experience!
.-= Steph H’s last blog: Behind the Scenes: Meet the Mom Bloggers! =-.
Steph, the first year we camped as a family Brienne was in diapers. We borrowed gear from our friends. Once we decided we really wanted to do this all the time we started to slowly buy the best gear would could afford so we would be comfortable and dry (tenting). Because those first experiences were not dry!
Wishing you a wonderful (& dry) first time family camping.
I really miss camping. I used to do outtripping before I got married and had kids (hiking or canoeing all day and then setting up for supper and bed, take down and move to another site the next day). I also really enjoyed how I could have such basic things and be happy. I was so totally HAPPY doing that.
I hope to get back into it. I currently find the combination of some health problems (for me) and two young kids (4 and 1) to be too much for me right now. We are hoping to do some day trips this summer since we have lots of places to go nearby. I am hoping my health will be able to tolerate that. Things are improving gradually so I look forward to doing more someday. I have two excellent books on my bookshelf about camping and outripping with kids and babies from families who have done it and I SO long to do it too.
Nola, Mind if I ask what books those are?
We didn’t start doing a lot outdoors till our youngest was 3 but I’d love some resources to recommend people who ask us for help with getting out the door with little ones.
One is by Cindy Ross. Actually, any of her books are great, and would be my biggest recommendation. “Kids in the Wild: A Family Guide to Outdoor Recreation
by Cindy Ross, Todd Gladfelter.” There were even tips in there from anything to nursing in the woods, using cloth diapers on big outrips! Its very good. They also have a few other great books including a few about the basics of hiking and also on some trips they did as a family. Just google her name and hiking and you should come up with the other ones. Actually, here is a page I googled quickly and got her books http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/312138.Cindy_Ross
The other one is geared towards canoeing with children, but much of it can be applied to hiking too (or other forms of outripping). Its called “from cradle to canoe” by Rolf Kraiker. http://www.amazon.com/Cradle-Canoe-Camping-Canoeing-Children/dp/1550462946
I have read a few other ones but these two are the best ones I have found.
Hope that helps!
Laura @ Getting There
I totally agree with this post! Especially the part about camping pushing us outside our comfort zones. This is so important, in our modern age where life, in a physical sense, can be always easy and unchallenging if we let it. But pushing those boundaries of what we are comfortable with creates strength and character.
I also agree that trips that take a bad turn often create the funnest memories!
.-= Laura @ Getting There’s last blog: Canning Adventures. =-.
This is one reason our family really loves the outdoors. It forces us to step outside the climate controlled, couch sitting tendency of home life. I totally agree, pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones does create strength and character but putting us in situations we might not otherwise encounter.
We just returned from our 10 day camping adventure through Ohio and Kentucky. This is the only way we could even afford to see so many sites. We took in Mammoth Caves, the Creation Museum, and the Kentucky Horse park. Lots of country, lots of rain, lots of bugs, lots of setting up, taking down, and drying out, but oh so worth it!
I come home so much more appreciative of what we have and ready to get rid of what is not necessary. Even the children couldn’t wait to sleep in a real bed and take a bath!
.-= Bekki’s last blog: We’re Back! =-.
I totally agree with you. Our family has gone places and done things we otherwise could not have afforded to do. Camping gets you outdoors and helps you go places. We love it!
But there’s nothing like coming home – to a hot bath and your own bed!
Erica @ ChildOrganics
This article came at a perfect time. We’re going on a family camping trip next week….grandparents, cousins and all! I’m looking forward to making lasting memories.
Great post Renee, saw it on Simple Living Weekly. We go tent camping every year – this will be year 5. We all enjoy going back to the same place each time to rediscover the same things. Maybe one day we’ll switch up our place, but for now with our 8 and 6 year old, we love to go back to the old familiar! Actually, each year is different in its own way, since our children change every year and are able to do different things each year.
If you are willing to buy real estate, you would have to get the mortgage loans. Furthermore, my brother usually uses a collateral loan, which seems to be really useful.
Camping takes the family away from the TV and anything that occupies the modern man. You’re left with nothing to stop you from learning about each other. A character is often revealed when people are stuck together with nothing.
BTW Great article. Keep up the good work.
Jonsky’s latest post: Man Attacks Bear- Rescues Goat
We have been camping for a no. of years now and love it. The kids are free to roam about. we can de-stress and its great to bwe outdoors. I would recommend it to anyone young or old! My mother is 65 and often comes with us!
I love camping, last time i went we had no gear no tent just cloths on our back and a lighter and a knife and a little food/water. It was a great experiance and even tho we all ended up wet and walking 3 miles back home to dry off and kip on the floor in the sitting room it was still a great time 🙂
I used to work at a local campsite, there were chickens that used to wander about too!
Great article! We are going camping next weekend, reading this post got me all excited to go. There is something so wonderful about being outside camping with kids. We went several weekends last year, sometimes it rained, or was really hot, but the kids always loved it. No activities needed to be planned, there was always too much to do!
Sarah at SmallWorld
Love it! Camping is an essential part of our summers. Just wanted to throw in that if you are camping in national parks or recreation areas, those Jr. Ranger programs are fantastic.
Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: This Place
In ’08, my husband and I determined to tent camp (well, that’s all we do) in mid-September near Ely, MN. Our kids were just 4, 3, and 18 months. We reserved five nights. It was the coldest (getting to or below freezing a few nights) and wettest (drizzle or rain most of the time) week of that month, that year in MN. BUT THE KIDS LOVED IT. They cried and complained as we packed up, and I came home with this discovery: if we can thrive as a family during a not-so-ideal camping trip (not just endure) like this one–we can do any amount, any kind of adventuring–as long as we are well prepared.
Also, that trip, and more since then, have provided those tender times between my husband and I by the fire (without cell phones, laptops, Netflix) when we can talk, dream, remember, etc. Highly recommended.
Years ago I heard an NPR segment about camping that stuck with me. In a study of families who kept close bonds into the adulthood of their children, camping was the biggest common denominator. In follow up interviews, the researchers found that it was NOT that camping created such wonderful, loving interactions, but that so many things went wrong . . . The families grew closer from overcoming the challenges and hardships and mishaps of camping. As a child of campers, I relate to now laughing at our tales of disaster. ; )
Living the Balanced Life
We enjoyed taking our kids camping as they were growing up. We utilized the GA state park system quite a bit. One of our best adventures was when we went with another homeschool family (our 3 kids + their 8!) We pciked a great site where we had a large grassy area between us, on a deadend so the kids could ride bikes safely. We had a BLAST!
We also a homeschool family retreat where about 10 families went to a state park, half camped half stayed in cabins, but it was the best fun. We still talk about the kids running through the campground playing Cops and Robbers in the dark!
Living the Balanced Life’s latest post: Putting your priorities where they belong
poison oak. Nuf said. 😉
Jessica’s latest post: The Easiest & Hardest Gift to Give on Father’s Day & a Giveaway
Make your own life more simple get the loans and all you want.
Yes, so much, yes! Camping with family isn’t just about chilling out. There’s so much you can learn too. I love the natural lessons my kids learn when we’re out in the wild.