Camping is one of my all-time favorite activities to do as a family. Here are a few reasons why:
- It brings the family together. When you set off into the wilderness (or the nearest campground) together, you don’t bring along the television or the internet or any other type of electronic device. Well, I suppose in this day and age if you have cell phone service where you’re camping, you just might have the internet, too. But, our family has a rule about leaving that stuff turned off.
- You can find God in nature. There is so much to discover out there! From bugs to pretty leaves or even shells by the lake—where ever you look outside there is something to be found that tells us a little more about the character of God. How He pays attention to the little details in every aspect of this world. How He protects His little creatures and even more so His children.
- Camping is a wholesome and healthy activity. Breathing the fresh air, taking hikes on the trail, or hauling wood for the fire are all things that make you healthier inside and out. These days, families are very often sedentary most of the time. Outdoor activities get you up and moving. Being out in the wilderness doesn’t pollute the mind. In fact, just the opposite – it clears the mind! You can breathe out there!
- Learning to survive in the wilderness builds confidence. When a child learns to build a fire with just one match or how to build a fire in the rain or how to pitch a tent – or make an emergency shelter even, they learn something they can be proud of.
- There’s something so meaningful about singing worship songs around a campfire. When our family goes camping we take along worship books and our Bibles. We enjoy worship in the mornings and again in the evenings. Worshiping together as a family solidifies a relationship with Jesus in your children’s hearts.
- Cooking over a campfire makes food taste so good! I love cooking over a campfire. Sometimes we use a camp stove, but still, cooking over a fire is my favorite way to prepare food when we are camping. Whether we’re eating pancakes and fried eggs, hash browns, campfire stew, or breakfast burritos, the food just tastes amazing. Not to mention roasting marshmallows! Plus, when you’re taking hikes, braving the cold, and gathering wood for the fire you really work up an appetite.
I have camped with kids of all ages. Camping with young children is different from camping with older kids, but it can be done. Younger children may not be able to take long hikes without needing mom or dad to carry them, so be prepared. If you have an infant, why not get a sturdy frame backpack to put the baby in?
My girls love to catch bugs and snakes. Embrace your child’s passion for God’s creation and you will give them the gift of curiosity (and a love of learning) for the rest of their life. Just be sure to explain the rules for safety before you go camping and remind them often.
Camping is not just a summer activity. In fact, our family prefers to camp in the spring, fall, and late fall—just as winter is coming in. We have braved freezing temperatures more than once! Remember that being uncomfortable is not the end of the world and builds character if you have a good attitude about it. And when it’s cold outside – that campfire is even more wonderful.
Last October, I took my four daughters on an all-girl, four day, twenty-four mile backpacking trip into the wilderness of the Cumberland Mountains. My nine year old carried thirteen pounds on her back and the twelve year old carried twenty. You should have seen them go! The rest of us carried twenty-five to thirty-five pounds on our backs based on age and weight.
It rained for three days, the temperatures dropped down to freezing at night, and we slept on a tarp – not in a tent. My oldest daughter turned eighteen right about that time and she had requested a good quality pocket knife for her birthday present. You should have seen her whittle away the wood when she was building a fire in the rain. My sixteen-year-old told me after we returned home, “Mom, I never thought I’d be able to do something like that.”
Now, mind you, we are regular girls—not wilderness pros. We had never done anything like that before. I never even went camping once when I was growing up. But we survived the freezing rain and bitter cold, we learned even more the importance of working together, and we have an amazing story to tell – plus, we had fun doing it! We’re already planning our next adventure.
Camping or backpacking is worth the effort. If you haven’t tried it, I want to encourage you to do so. You just might surprised! You don’t have to be a former girl scout – I wasn’t. I have learned a lot by reading books and articles and then practicing what I’ve learned when I get out there. It’s not as hard as you might think.
In fact, you may just find that, like I did, camping together is one of the best experiences your family ever has.
Do you like to camp? How do you making camping with kids a great experience?