Camping Vs Electronic Devices

Redshoot Camping Park

A couple of weeks into the school holidays and come on admit it…how many of us have resorted to electronic babysitters?

Well, we have.

Not proud.

In fact, it raises that ever-present guilt that AGAIN we are failing at parenting to the high-level that seems to be required AT ALL TIMES these days. Whether it is the right amount of screen time, sports time, music time, learning time, playing with your friends time, cooking to a gourmet standard time, there is always something to think about and then feel guilty about because they’re not on the right Olympic pathway.

We are, however, passionate about getting the children outside and off electronic devices.

Now, let me just be clear: we are not one of those smug families that say, “Oh no, we don’t even own a TV, we are so wonderfully wholesome!” I mean, life without CBeebies would not be worth living on some days, frankly. We do have an iPad and obviously, the children love it. I mean REALLY love it. They would give their very souls for a whole day of square-eyed gazing at the pad of power. They would literally merge into the couch, oblivious to any other living thing and probably forget even to eat (well, that might be pushing it a bit.) And that is the problem – it just sucks them in and then sucks the very life out of them. They stop communicating other than the odd screech if the other dares to want a turn or if a nasty parent comes to persuade them to do something a little less mind-numbing.

Kids on phones
Why talk to each other when you can look at a screen?

To be honest, it is pretty much banned in our house now as we don’t really like our children when they are on or have been on it – they just become these whinging, whining empty vessels; devoid of imagination and drive. Pretty much like drug addicts which is exactly what they become…addicts! In fact, a study by Sigman looked into the increasing use of the term ‘addiction’ by physicians to describe children engaging with a variety of electronic devices in a “dependent, problematic manner.” They noted that children are more likely to develop a long-term problematic dependency on technology.

It’s that repetition of the word “problematic” that concerns me.

How have we got to the point where these amazing portals that unlock the whole world have become so “problematic?”

It comes back to screen time. Research published by  the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, tracked the daily habits of 4,500 children who were then asked to carry out detailed cognition tests. They found that those engaging in more than two hours of screen time had worse results for working memory, processing speed, attention levels, language skills and executive function. All pretty fundamental areas really and scary reading for parents.

It leads us to think about the importance of getting the children outside, away from these hypnotic electronic devices, connecting back to nature and real things.

Camping does allow for “cold turkey.” The change of routine and location can allow children (and adults) to think about other things and kick their addiction into touch.

Think about it – in the morning, you awake to the sound of birds singing and breeze blowing rather than the stark electronic shout of your alarm and that sets the tone for the day. Stuart Lea-Swain of FootArt is an avid camper and agrees that, “You can’t beat waking up in the hills or countryside, listening to the sounds of birds singing, the fresh air and optimism of the day ahead.” This immediately connects you to your surroundings and make you want to stay outside and experience the things around you rather than retreating back to the “eyes down” position.

During the day, the children can set about exploring the play area or thrashing dad at tennis, paddling in the stream or tucking into a picnic. But most likely, they will be making new friends. Jo Smith at Stowford Farm Meadows has observed that “Classic camping memories stay with families forever.  At Stowford we love seeing families, couples, groups and pets coming back year after year and enjoying the great outdoors together. Some families are pitched next door to each other and end up keeping in touch for years – like old fashioned penpals!”

Kids enjoying camping at Stowford Farm Meadows
Enjoying life at Stowford Farm Meadows

At night, it’s time for lovely food around the campfire, games and something that might be tricky at first…talking to your family! The team at Bundle Beds are passionate about camping and enabling people to try outdoor living: “One of the reasons that we set up Bundle Beds was to get more people out and about and exploring, whether touring the world or just camping in the back garden.” They love camping for “the fresh air, for the amazing views, and our favourite bit, the campfires… the endless potential of feasts and treats to cook on them, the huddling around them as night draws in, and the simplicity of just being outside as the sun sets.”

Bundle Bed
Cosy in a Bundle Bed

Without the usual electronic devices, everyone is likely to sleep better at night as well. The usual recommendation is no screen time for 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Well, you can totally nail this one!

When you get back from your trip, rather than slipping back into the old routine, use some strategies from your new routine: Try eating your breakfast outside to set the tone for the day, organising a family game of kwik cricket, get the swingball out or try a boardgame when weather drives you back inside. Just try and break your children’s “crack” habit before they become monosyllabic teens, cos let’s face it, you’ve got no chance then!

Why not try one of these fab sites before you run out of summer holiday time?

Stowford Farm Meadows

Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping

Forest Glade Holiday Park

Red Shoot Camping Park

Haw Wood Farm

Stanley Villa Farm Camping

Deepdale Backpackers & Camping

Greenway Touring and Glamping Park

Walton Court Caravan and Camping Site

References

  1. Sigman, A. Virtually addicted: why general practice must now confront screen dependency. British Journal of General Practice 2014; 64 (629): 610-611. DOI:https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp14X682597
  2. Walsh JE, Barnes JD et al. Associations between 24 hour movement behaviours and global cognition in US children: a cross-sectional observational study. The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, 2018, VOLUME 2, ISSUE 11, P783-791, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(18)30278-5

Taking Your Dog Camping

For some people, taking your dog camping with you is the most natural thing in the world – after all, they are part of the family, so it makes perfect sense. Others might break out into a cold sweat at the idea of coping with another “person’s” needs on top of everyone else’s.

Well, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you will all have a great time and there are lots of wonderful camp and glamping sites out there that will cater to Fido’s every need.

Will My Doggy Cope? (And Will I?!)

A lot of people think of dogs as hard work. And let’s face it, some can be! A lot depends on breed, age, living arrangements at home, etc and behaviour can therefore be variable.

We have always been fans of terriers (or terrorists, depending on which way you look at them!) and have found them to be great characters, very personable and almost human in some cases. Also, being petite is handy for fitting in around the small mountain that you need to take with you and manoeuvring around in the more “cosy” dimensions of your living quarters.

Taking your dog camping
Taking in the views

Having said that, we have friends with much bigger dogs and they all cope well and enjoy the company of each other. This is an important factor to consider when taking you dog camping with you – Does your dog socialise with other dogs regularly? If they don’t, going away and mixing with strange dogs will be stressful for you and them so try to integrate opportunities for this at home before embarking on a trip with them.

Most dogs do really enjoy going camping because they are with their best buddies (you) and of course, spending lots of time outside.

Taking your Dog Camping at Haw Wood Farm
Dog Walking Field at Haw Wood Farm

Campsite

It sounds obvious, but make sure your destination is dog friendly when booking. Some sites don’t allow dogs, or they do but have a gigantic list of rules suggesting that they are not that keen on them and will keep you under close surveillance for the duration of your “relaxing” holiday!

So, check out what is available at your campsite: A big designated dog walking area, doggy wash points or even doggy showers are all good signs that the campsite understand the needs of dogs and their parents.

Most campsites, whatever their take on dogs, will require that dogs are tied up whilst on site. This is an obvious health and safety precaution because of feral children on the loose, other animals on site, etc. So do make sure you take an extra long lead or perhaps even set up a zipline, so they do not feel over-restricted.

Taking your dog camping to Red Shoot Camping Park
Relaxing at Red Shoot Camping Park

Entertainment

When taking your dog camping, do make regular use of the “dog walk” areas and take the opportunity to explore the area around you with your faithful friend. Involve your children as well – many won’t need asking as they love to play with their best pal, but take toys and balls and play fetch for as long as you can manage. Of course, the more purposeful exercise you do with them, the quieter and happier they are likely to be at camp (this applies to children as well as dogs!)

Taking your dog Camping
Fun with friends

You may have some family days out planned away from the campsite. Always check that where you are going is dog friendly be it the beach, nature walks or particular family entertainment spots such as theme parks, castles, museums, etc.  For some of these it is highly likely that dogs would not be permitted so prior to your trip, it would be worth checking if your campsite is able to help or if they know of local, reputable “dog-sitting” services to save someone missing out on the trip.

I know it sounds obvious, but don’t leave dogs in the car for day trips such as this – they can cope for short periods, but longer ones make them miserable and, in the summer, the temperature quickly rises inside cars.

Taking your dog camping - Doggy friendly beach essential
Doggy friendly beach essential!

Packing

Dogs are simpler to pack for than children as they need far less clothes (lapdogs an exception), but this will still need some thought to ensure your trip is stress-free.

It is worth having a designated doggy bag with their stuff in so it’s easy to find and after all, they are a family member. The obvious inclusions are bed, lead, toys, food and bowl. Make sure you also take a bottle and bowl when you are mobile, so they have regular access to water when you are out and about. A good stash of old towels is useful after walks, beach trips, submerging in swamps, etc as you want to keep your tent as clean as possible. You might consider having a designated “wet area” in the tent if you all come in from the rain so that you can keep sleeping/living quarters clean and dry.

Oh, and poo bags. In every pocket. Of everything you own.

Taking your dog camping to Herding Hill Farm
Taking in the views at Herding Hill Farm, Northumberland

Selection of Lovely Camp and Glamping Sites that welcome dogs:

Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

Herding Hill Farm, Northumberland

Point Farm, Pembrokeshire

Deepdale Backpackers and Camping, Norfolk

Haw Wood Farm, Suffolk

Greenway Touring and Glamping Park, Shropshire

Petruth Paddocks, Somerset

Stowford Meadows, Devon

Forest Glade Holiday Park, Devon

Red Shoot Camping Park, Hampshire

Camping in Spring – Campsites with Baby Animals

The Easter holidays are upon us and new life is sprouting everywhere from the abundance of blossom in the trees and hedges to the lambs kicking up their heels in the spring grass.

It is a perfect time to get the children interested in the nature and animals that surround them. Time to go hunting for tadpoles in the brook, to watch the ducklings attempt their first swim on the pond, to grow carrots in the garden. It is also a great time to see baby animals in the wild and on farms.

If you are keen to get camping in spring, there are many campsites based on farms or that have pet areas where children can get involved in feeding lambs, stroking rabbits, giggling at pigs and learning about a variety of animals. This can provide a fantastic extra dimension to your holiday and help cement some magical memories.

For those that are heading further south over the Easter holidays, we have found 5 campsites with baby animals on site where the children can get involved and make new furry (or woolly) friends:

1. Fontmills Farm

Fontmills Farm Campsite in East Sussex is based on a 140-acre family farm so you will be surrounded by green space and fresh air.  Easter marks the peak lambing season for the family with their Blue Texel flock.  This means that lucky campers will get to see the tiniest of lambs over the Easter holidays and see them playing in the fields around the campsite (who needs TV?!)

The Davis family are ably assisted by Floss the border collie sheep dog (when she fancies it), the horses Jonesy and Harry, and the cats – Ethel and Ernie who enjoy the occasional chat with campers.

2. Stowford Farm Meadows

Stowford Farm Meadows in North Devon, is set amongst an incredible 500 acres of rolling countryside and mature woodland providing fabulous views and a safe environment for your perfect family camping holiday.  From there, you can explore the blossoming hedgerows and woodland to find chicks in nests, rabbits, hares and numerous wild animals.

You could also venture into Petorama, their indoor petting zoo where you can see and touch baby goats, piglets, rabbits, guinea pigs, degus, plus lots more.

3. Walton Court

Walton Court is a small working farm in the heart of the welsh countryside. As you enter the site, you will pass by their pond that has an abundance of wildlife: from the regular visiting mute swans, moorhens, wild ducks, a kingfisher, woodpeckers and herons to the frogspawn and tadpoles during spring.

Camping in spring time at Walton Court means that you will see their flock of sheep adjusting to their new little ones, with “lamb gangs” in full force.

4. Petruth Paddocks

Petruth Paddocks offers wild camping in wide open spaces where children are free to climb trees and hide in the hedges, fish for tadpoles in the rhynes (ditches) or take a ride on the back of the quad bike with Jules.

Their animal section includes pigs, goats and sheep and they offer animal tours every weekend during the summer where they encourage campers to come and say hello to the team.

5. The Farm Camp

The Farm Camp in Wiltshire offers something a little different where the family can become truly immersed in countryside living. Over Easter, they are in full swing with “lambing live” and have dedicated staff to offer experiences in farm craft and sheep herding amongst a raft of other activities.

A beautifully rural site, within fields and woodland, this is prime memory-making time for the whole family as you relax into the beautifully furnished bell tents with wood burning stoves to keep you cosy.

Many wait until summer for their holiday, but they could be missing out on some of the magical moments up for grabs by camping in spring. Having a look for campsites with animals could be a great way to get an early holiday in – just remember to take a few extra layers!

10 Reasons To Take Your Family Camping This Year

Family camp at Petruth Paddocks

Those that have taken their family camping before could no doubt think of at least 100 reasons to go again but others might not be so sure of the benefits: Is it worth ditching your usual home comforts? Won’t it be dirty? What if the weather’s rubbish? Won’t the kids be bored?

The thing is, family camping has come on a long way in the last few years. All of the above concerns are now easily dealt with at camp and glampsites that have excellent facilities ranging from washing, kitchen, entertainment, organised activities – really you can find whatever you want. But what is it about outdoors living that is so beneficial compared to just going to a hotel?

1. Fun

When you’re on the conveyor belt of life, you can forget what having fun as a family is all about. Well, camping provides the perfect chance to offload the weight of responsibility and get silly. From singing tunefully (or tunelessly, who cares?) round the fire to riding your 5 year old’s bike (and getting chased by him) or shamelessly beating young children at Uno, there are endless options. Campers are notoriously friendly people and kids will make friends as will you. Who knows when an impromptu game of rounders or football might break out? Or when the kites will come out?  You will find that the further into your holiday you get, the more you relax and regress until everyone appears to have the mental age of 9.

Campsite with lots of fun facilities: Stowford Farm Meadows, North Devon

2. Freedom

Freedom when camping comes in many guises:

For children, it is the freedom from the usual constraints of four walls – they can roam, run about, be by themselves or make ten new friends, discover wildlife, sing, dance, ride their bikes, basically whatever they want!

Freedom from routine. When on “camping time” you just do what you want when you want. There is no alarm to obey, no work to get to so just do whatever you feel like on that day. If you want to stay at camp, do it. If you want a day out, go. If you’re hungry, eat. Just don’t look at your watch, you don’t need that.

Freedom from electronic devices. These things are a blessing and a curse. I don’t doubt their usefulness in terms of researching, developing skills, etc. But is it just me that feels that whilst they are great for keeping connected generally, they also “disconnect” you from loved ones? Give a 3-year-old an iPad and you’ve lost them to Peppa Pig; give a 10-year-old an XBox and you’ve lost them to Fortnite; give a teenager a phone and you’ve just plain lost them. The good news is that camping allows you to find them again. You can have actual conversations with your teenager, play real games with your 10-year-old and make up stories with your 3-year-old. Your children are free to be children and you can make some wonderful memories as a family.

Campsite that values freedom: Petruth Paddocks, Somerset

3. Food and drink

Now, when taking your family camping it really doesn’t matter if you aspire to a gourmet banquet or a couple of sausages in a bap. I have a friend with a full-on converted trailer/kitchen who cooks up gigantic pots of loveliness for 20 guests and another who only takes pot noodles. It really is up to you. As far as the kids go, every meal is a picnic so you’re winning from the get-go. There’s just something so lovely about eating your meals outside. And the smells that come from a barbecue – bacon sizzling anyone? A lovely treat late at night is hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows around the fire. My main aim with this is to lull the kids into sleepiness so we can chuck them into bed and crack open the wine…works a treat!

Campsite with Farm shop and café: Haw Wood Farm, Suffolk

4. Weather

When the sun is shining, there is nothing better than camping! We had a glorious summer last year and wow, did we love our trips! The children had a feral old time, we did everything outside and everyone was happy.

Then the rain came.

Did it ruin it? Did it heck! There’s something about the rain falling on your tent whilst you’re safe and snug inside it that’s quite therapeutic. You just need to make sure you have some indoor entertainment such as books, playing cards, games, drawing and colouring pencils and away you go. Or you might have made sure you found a holiday park with lots of indoor facilities for when the weather turns. You could also take the opportunity to go on a day out somewhere or just embrace it – get your waterproofs on and get out there!

Campsite will all-weather facilities: Woolacombe Sands Holiday Park, Devon

5. Nature

For most people, the driving force behind wanting to camp out is to be closer to nature and the great outdoors. From drinking in amazing views to breathing in the fresh, clean air, there’s something about it that relaxes, replenishes and re-energises. Little pleasures such as walking through wet grass in bare feet, listening to birdsong, spotting a hare running for cover help to de-clutter crowded minds. Your children appreciate the freedom to roam and will no doubt find that most magical of things – the stick – and think of all sorts of uses for it: a sword, a fishing rod, a magic wand, beating their younger sibling…hmph! But they might also be entranced by a dragonfly, spot the trail of a deer or any number of creatures, particularly if you take them with you for an early morning dog walk.

Campsite for beautiful nature: Fontmills Farm, East Sussex

6. Campfire

A personal highlight is listening to and getting ‘lost’ in a good crackling fire. There’s a certain cosiness that comes with everyone sitting around a fire watching the sun go down. It encourages actual conversations where you remember that your partner is more than the person you order about and get cross with at home when you’re trying to keep to your manic schedule. It is a place to reminisce, to tell jokes and stories, to bond with friends and family and to make plans for your next adventure.

Campsite that hires firepits: Whitlingham Broad Campsite, Norfolk

7. Family Time

With no work, school, clubs, appointments to get to, you will spend precious time together with your family. This might initially instil pure fear into you. However, do not panic! You will warm up to the idea as you gradually chill out over your holiday. You will not have to be a walking entertainment factory – the kids will doubtless run around happily and find their own fun. In fact, you will develop a self-satisfied glow as you watch them having a fabulous time, getting filthy (this is something you will just have to go with if you’re not used to it!) and racing back to you when they’re starving.

As with any holiday, it gives you a chance for days out together whether simply going to a beach, a bike ride, pony trekking or meandering around. At night, you can then snuggle up around the fire, discussing your wonderful day and remembering what a lovely bunch your family is when you aren’t nagging them to find their homework, their tie, or for the tenth time get dressed NOW!

Family friendly campsite: Red Shoot Camping Park, Hampshire

8. Exploring

We are very lucky to live in this beautiful country and you don’t have to drive far to explore a little piece of somewhere different. Whether you are looking for sea air, mountains, hills, valleys, vast fields, woodland, there is a campsite that will match it. Discovering new places is fun and refreshing and the change of scenery does us the world of good. When camping, you are always close to walks and bike rides for exploring the local area, making the most of the scenery. But you might also choose to jump in your car and go and find a castle, steam train, theme park or other such adventures.

You might choose to stay at your campsite and explore that thoroughly when walking your four-legged friend or letting the children guide you. They will be keen to investigate the stream, climb the trees, make a den and generally do their best to increase the burden on your washing machine…but heck! You don’t need to worry about that until you get back so just let them be feral and be glad that their immune systems are having such a boost as they wipe their muddy hands across their mouth!

Campsite that is a great base for exploring: Deeside, Aberdeen

9. Peace and quiet

The peace and quiet that comes from outdoor living is totally different to that from behind double glazing. There is a serenity that allows you to relax right down – your mind empties of the usual worries and you can take the time to really appreciate your surroundings. From the beautiful scenery to the fresh, crisp air; it allows busy minds to just let go and rest. You become aware of unfamiliar sounds and start to look forward to them: owls hooting, birdsong, the breeze through the trees, the crackle of the fire, the satisfying sound of the zip. Even the sound of rain on the tent gives a certain smugness when you are cosy in your sleeping bag (and helps to lull you to sleep as well.)

Peaceful camp site: Herding Hill Farm, Northumberland

10. Simplicity

Outdoor living brings a certain amount of simplicity back to daily life. You ditch all the conveniences, routines, jobs and rushing around and strip it back to what is necessary: love, fun and food! Our family camping experiences tend to revolve around food (that might be everyday life too when I think about it…) and mealtimes are so much more social. You will talk more, you will have lots of comfortable silences, you will watch your kids happily without that usual dread that comes with confined spaces or crowds, you might even read! At night, you can watch the sun go down and then star gaze without the burden of light pollution. The usual hustle and bustle feels a million miles away.

Back to basics campsite: The Lost Brickyard, Norfolk