People tend to either love camping or question the very thought of going, let alone camping with their kids. Why would you want to get close to nature? Doesn’t that just mean get dirty? And won’t the kids be bored without their usual entertainment? What would they do?
Well, here’s the thing – childhoods have changed.
I think about my own – freedom to roam around, climbing trees, “fishing” in streams, finding tunnels and caves, recreating the “famous five” with my bestie and faithful hound (terrific trio, oh yes!) just hours on end OUTSIDE!
It was considered safe and very normal for children to be out playing with their friends until dark.
Now it is considered safe and very normal for children to be playing inside on electronic devices.
From years spent as a teacher of children aged 9-13 years, I have seen the massively damaging effects of this shift. Keeping them indoors on smart phones is the opposite of safe and makes me feel ever-so-slightly sick. The amount of cyber-bullying, grooming, addiction to gaming, etc cannot be underestimated.
I hear all the counter-arguments about the beauty of technology, research potential, needing to keep up, knowing you can contact your children whenever, etc, etc. But, I can’t shake off what I have experienced. I just don’t think kids and young teenagers are mentally ready to handle it and the negative effects on their self-esteem can be devastating.
So, what is the answer?
I, of course, have total rose-coloured glasses about my childhood. I don’t dispute that. But, I really do feel that for our own kids, we need to get back some of the brilliant bits of our own childhoods and get the heck outside!
Camping is definitely one way to achieve that. You will be surrounded by the good stuff: grass, trees, fresh air, views across the countryside. It inspires a need in children to run, play, roll down hills, paddle in streams, make dens, get absolutely filthy dirty! And we should let them!
It has been proven that exposure to germs improves children’s immune systems, so we should resist the urge to decontaminate them as soon as they touch anything alive and let them get on with it. Most campsites have great wash facilities these days so just chuck them in the shower at the end of the day.
To have the greatest benefit, you have to leave all the technology behind and keep it simple. Let the kids be kids, let them guide their own entertainment, feed their imagination, be active and do things. Without all the usual distractions, you will come together as a family, talk, laugh and make lasting memories.
And isn’t that what life’s about?
Have a look at these campsites for “wild” camping experiences and room to roam:
Somerset: Petruth Paddocks
Cornwall: Lower Penderleath Campsite
Norfolk: Wardley Hill Campsite