Ask most parents about taking their kids camping and they’ll admit to having some mixed feelings. Yes, it’s a chance to spend time together doing something adventurous, but there can also be some bumps along the way. Kids get bored easily, and a lot of the usual distractions aren’t available on a campsite. They also tend to run around and bump into things, and who wants to be patching up bruised kids in the middle of the Outback?
We think taking kids into the great outdoors is a really positive experience, though. Get it right and they won’t just have a good time; they’ll also learn a lot about themselves and the world they live in.
Too many kids these days don’t have much experience of nature. They’re urban creatures and live their lives surrounded by technology. Camping is a perfect opportunity to show them what Australia’s natural landscapes are like and why they’re worth preserving. It also gives you a chance to teach them how to enjoy the outdoors without causing harm to the environment, and help them pick up the basic rules of camping:
Only light fires in safe or designated spots
Take your rubbish home with you, or put it in a proper bin and close the lid
Respect other campers
Take only photos, leave only footprints
Teach them about the wildlife you see. Kangaroos, koalas and other creatures are often curious about campers, and that’s a perfect chance to let the kids see them in their natural environment. Set boundaries, though – no scaring the animals, and no feeding them no matter how cute that would be.
Camping is a good way to teach children how to work with others. Don’t overload them with things to do, but get them to help out with campsite tasks. Collecting firewood is always a good one; by nature most kids like searching for things, and they’ll be able to enjoy the results of their work when they grill sausages or toast marshmallows over the fire. Just don’t give them jobs they’d hate at home – you want them to associate camping with fun.
Fit in plenty of fun activities, too. Take your bikes with you and set out from the campsite to see what’s in the area. Use scavenger hunts to let the kids learn what can be found in nature. Race sticks or leaves down a stream – but not paper boats or anything else that would create litter if it got away. Set a good example by picking up any litter you see, too.
Taking the kids on a camping trip can be a great experience for everyone. It’s a good chance to share activities away from the distractions of mobile phones and computers, and that’s not an opportunity you get very often now. With any luck your kids will also find they share your love of the outdoors and Australia’s great landscapes.