Camping with kids offers opportunities to teach life lessons they’ll carry with them as they make their ways into the world. The skills and attitudes you teach children when camping prepare them for future challenges, and instill personal responsibility, self-reliance, and a deep, abiding love of nature.
Even if you’re car camping for the weekend, campsites offer opportunity to teach valuable survival skills. Learning to pitch a tent, build a fire, catch a fish, and cook their own food teaches kids skills that could one day save their lives—or just help them enjoy life.
Life without Technology
Modern society relies on electronic technology for almost everything, which is a bit scary when you realize how fragile our technological infrastructure is. Camping teaches kids they don’t need to rely on technology for everything.
Map-reading is a case in point. Sure, your phone has a GPS app built in, but what if your battery dies in the middle of a hike? Teaching kids to orient with a map and compass helps develop their ability to plan and think through complex problems.
The Wonders of Nature
Conversationalists have an old saying: you protect what you love. The next generation can and should have a say in preserving our natural resources, and camping offers a way to instill both a fierce love and deep respect for nature.
Add some plant and animal guides to your backpack, and encourage kids to ask questions about the wildlife and land around them. How is that new beaver dam going to affect the landscape? Was that a coyote or a wolf howling? What animals need what plants to survive? Build on a kid’s knowledge of nature with each camping trip.
Camping also reminds us we’re not that different from animals. Learning to take care of business in the forest with a trowel and a small pit may not be the most pleasant activity, but it really drives home we have the same needs as any animal.
Encourage Problem Solving
Things go wrong when you’re camping. The firewood gets wet. A tent pole goes missing. The wind picks up when you’re pitching camp. Each mini-disaster is an opportunity to develop a child’s problem-solving skills. Encourage kids to come up with solutions to camping problems.
Sometimes situations arise you can’t do anything about. The weather’s a perfect example. When a challenge can’t be fixed, it needs to be endured, which encourages resiliency. As someone once said, problems you can’t fix aren’t problems—they’re just facts.
Self-Reliance and Team Work
Camping is an excellent way to teach kids self-reliance and responsibility. If you pitch your tent incorrectly and it falls down in the middle of the night, it’s on you. If you leave your favorite walking stick halfway up the trail, it’s on you. Camping teaches responsibility at an early age.
At the same time, camping promotes teamwork and mutual support. Kids learn to organize and divide up labor and responsibilities, and discover the strength of having a trusted team you can rely on for support.
Camping can be scary. Remember the first night you slept in a tent? Every noise outside was a bear. Or the first time you went hunting and the chill when you realized you were about to kill—really kill—something? Camping lets kids confront their fears and anxieties in a controllable setting, and teaches them that bravery and courage count for a lot in this world.