If your child has never experienced the magic that is summer camp, he or she will be in for a treat. But, spending time away from technology may be a bit of a shock for children who are more acclimated to Instagram than the outdoors. Keep reading for a few fun and safe outdoor exploration activities that will get your child excited about camp and give you both the opportunity to separate from the screen.
Hiking does not have to mean a fully backpacked trail climb. There are thousands of family-friendly trails scattered throughout the United States, many of which are well planned to include fun pit stops along the way. According to The Wilderness Society, the key to a successful hike for children is planning. Schedule your hike with plenty of extra time and be sure to dress for the weather. While you’re out and about, make sure to speak to your children about being good stewards and taking good care of the natural areas you visit so they can remain public treasures for generations to come.
Birdwatching is one of the easiest hobbies to get into, and it’s something you can do right from your backyard. Redfin explains, “There are all kinds of advantages to becoming a birder, both for your child and the pair of you. To start, it’s an opportunity to learn about your immediate environment: exactly what kinds of birds live there, the kinds of habitats they live in, why your area’s climate is ideal for them, and how different birds have adapted to human presence.” You don’t need lots of expensive equipment, just a pair of binoculars and a notebook for the kids to record their experiences.
Nature scavenger hunt
No matter your children’s ages, from preschool to young adults, a nature scavenger hunt is a fun family activity that will keep everyone engaged the whole day through. This extremely easy activity involves printing a list of things to look for either in your own backyard or your local green space. There are plenty of free printables online, but you can always customize your list to cater to your children’s interests or your general location. For instance, if you live near the ocean, you might make a beach scavenger hunt that includes jellyfish, certain types of shells, and sand castles. You can also make a scavenger hunt game to introduce children to other activities, such as birdwatching and hiking.
When your child has never slept under the open sky, it’s probably a good idea to introduce them to the idea of snoozing under the stars before they get to camp. If you don’t have a tent, you can get by with a few bed sheets, poles, and pillows. You can also sleep on your trampoline or deck to stay off the grass if allergies are a concern. Buzzfeed offers a number of inventive backyard camping ideas, including how to make your own fire starter, mosquito repellent bracelets, and gourmet s’mores.
Benefits of nature
While the experiences your child will have outside are certainly important, there are numerous health benefits associated with stepping out from under a roof. Harvard University reports that time outdoors will boost vitamin D levels and help improve mood and concentration. Specifically for children, being outdoors breaks the cycle of sedentary days and can help them get more exercise. Spending time outside offers the immediate benefits of fun and family time but also encourages healthy behaviors that will follow your children well into adulthood.
Whether your child is scheduled to attend an overnight camp or is enrolled only during the day, he or she will benefit from getting used to Mother Nature before the summer truly sets in. As an added benefit, you and your kids will have valuable time together making memories that can’t be fashioned from a phone screen.