The family camping trip is a childhood rite of passage. Every kid should know what it is like to sleep underneath the stars and roast marshmallows around a campfire. And while getting out into the wilderness is a wonderful and affordable family getaway, it is so much more than that. Camping boasts a multitude of physical and mental health benefits for both children and adults. If you’re thinking of packing up the family and communing with nature, here are a few great reasons why you should, along with some tips for making it a fun and easy camping trip for the whole family.
Health Benefits of Camping
1. Calorie crunch – Even before adding any extra big activity like hiking or swimming, on average, campers burn 500 extra calories a day.
2. Sweeter dreams – Research shows that going to sleep and waking with the sun can reset your circadian rhythms, which will help you feel more rested.
3. Happier children, happier parents – Within minutes of seeing a green space, children feel less stressed, which is reason enough to get outside on a regular basis. Beyond that, studies at the University of Michigan and Stanford University show that walking in nature can reduce depressive symptoms and negative thinking in everyone.
4. No screen time – This one is obviously dependent on you, because many campsites are not completely off the grid, but cutting out screens during camping trips has health benefits for everyone. Too much screen time can cause anxiety and interrupted sleep, as well as neck pain.
5. Nicer in nature – A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that increased time in nature makes you nicer, which in turn makes you more social. Where else can you vacation that will make your kids nicer to each other and want to hang out with you?
Tips for Family Camping
1. Start small – After learning about these health benefits, you’re probably ready to head out for a months-long camping extravaganza, but with kids, you’ll want to start small. Pick a nearby campsite and try a one or two night trip. Before you even leave for the trip, prepare your kids for what to expect by reading about camping, looking at pictures of the campsite or setting up your tent in the backyard. For kids who are afraid of the dark, bring plenty of lanterns, headlamps and night lights.
2. Bring games – Most kids are used to entertainment at their fingertips and might get a little bored by the slower pace of camp life. Prepare for the inevitable whining by packing plenty of games and activities. Cards are always more fun at a campsite picnic table, as are travel-sized family games like Apples to Apples or Scrabble. Pack plenty of equipment for active tots — frisbees, soccer balls, horseshoes and whiffle ball sets are all great for camping.
3. Keep everyone hydrated and fed – This is something you’re always on top of as a parent, but need to pay special attention to when camping, especially with all the outdoor activities that come along with it. If you’re headed out for the day, pack plenty of protein and calorie dense snacks for energy and make sure everyone has their own water supply (hydration packs are great for this).