WELLBEING | Children & Nature – Why Taking Children Camping Is So Important To Their Wellbeing

Over the last few years there have been a large number of studies (see references at the end of this article) that have highlighted the fact that children now spend a shorter amount of time outdoors and are less connected to the natural world. In contrast, research has also highlighted the many benefits that spending time outdoors in a natural environment can provide for kids.

Children and nature

Research by the National Trust found that children spend only half as much time playing outside as their parents did. Whilst in another study by Mothercare, around 80% of parents admitted that they had never taken their children star gazing (find beginners tips on stargazing here) or fishing, despite expressing a desire for their children to spend more time outdoors.

Research has also found that being separated from nature makes children less resilient and less able to cope with the anxieties of growing up in the modern world.

A Generation Growing Up Disconnected From Nature

If children grow up disconnected from nature, then it stands to reason that they will place less value on the natural world, and that’s bad news as far as conserving our countryside goes. A view echoed by George Monbiot writing for the Guardian, who recently said that if children lose their connection to the natural world, they simply won’t fight for it.

Children benefit from spending time outdoors

It’s not just about raising a generation of children who care about conservation though. Nature promotes wellbeing and reduces stress, and the fact is, more children than ever are now overweight, unhappy, anxious and even clinically depressed according to research findings from the Good Childhood Inquiry. Findings like this are more than anecdotal, and it would seem that screen culture, increased urbanisation and a disconnection from the real, natural world are at least partly to blame.

When I started this blog, I made a pledge to spend more time outdoors. The benefits I’ve enjoyed as a result of doing exactly that, have made it clear to me that getting outdoors is far more than just a choice in how to spend my leisure time. It’s crucial for my emotional wellbeing, and with research backing up the ‘nature is good for you’ theory, I’m not alone in my belief.

Kids and nature

Why You Should Take Your Children Camping

1. Camping helps children to develop a sense of adventure

Going camping, even if it’s just for one night is fun. A new environment, unfamiliar sights and sounds, other kids to meet and play with, a tent to help put up and sleeping under the stars all make for a fun-filled adventure.

A sense of adventure is one of the qualities that ensures a life remains open and full of possibilities; promoting the positive outlook that underpins good mental health.

Children inside tent camping

2. Camping builds resilience

Children rarely move out of their comfort zone these days. With more children spending time indoors than ever before, their environment, for many, is predictable, secure and closely monitored. Whilst stability is beneficial, spending time indoors and constantly stimulated won’t help a child to grow in confidence or develop resilience.

Working out where to pitch, helping to put up a tent, finding the campsite shop and being sent to pick up supplies, dealing with adversity (broken poles, forgotten tent pegs, bad weather), by comparison are all great ways of building resilience. When children learn that they can effectively deal with adversity, they become more robust and confident individuals.

Child out walking

Photo credit: quietlyurban.com

3. Camping gives children the freedom to explore, boosting creativity

Having the freedom to play, explore and generally behave the way children should is one of the vital elements missing from modern life for many children. Parents rarely let their children out of their sight these days, preferring them to visit a friends house than giving them the freedom to play at the park unsupervised.

Family-friendly campsites provide a safe, and relatively secure environment for children to play and explore in, giving them a sense of freedom. This freedom, combined with a more natural environment is a great way to boost creativity; instead of relying on a tablet or smartphone for entertainment, children use their imagination to play games and entertain themselves; something they typically don’t need to do when they’re at home.

Childs camping tent

4. Camping  brings children closer to nature

There is compelling evidence to support the claim that many children are now suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder‘, with many being unable to identify the most basic flora and fauna. According to a 2008 National Trust survey, only 1 in 3 children were able to identify a Magpie; but I’m willing to bet that all of them would be able to correctly identify the McDonalds or Facebook logo.

Spending time outdoors brings children closer to the natural world, and if they live in an urban environment, it is particularly important to ensure that a proportion of their free-time activities provide the chance to experience some of the wonder and beauty of nature.

Developing a love and respect of nature is much easier to do if children get to spend time outdoors, and camping is an excellent way to immerse children in the natural world.

Children and animals

Take your children camping – you owe it to them

Although my daughter is now grown up, I took her camping from the age of 2 and she always loved it. These days, whenever we go camping there are always happy children running around the campsite. They are having fun, smiling, laughing and using their imaginations to fill their time, the way we used to do when we were kids. The stress-relieving impact of such freedom and the simple happiness it promotes can’t be underestimated, and I can’t imagine many children who would not benefit from the camping experience.

The stress relieving impact of such freedom and the simple happiness it promotes can’t be underestimated

So if you’ve never been, or if you are trying to find more ways of encouraging your children to spend time outdoors; why not lead by example and take them camping.

For ideas on how to plan some nature-based activities to fill the time whilst you are camping, take a look at my article how to have a tech-free family camping break, and check out 5 tips for camping with children.  If you’d like to share your own tips or experiences, then I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Nature Research & References

A big thank you to the friends with young children who let me use some of their photographs in this post!

Where to next?

Shell Robshaw-Bryan
Follow Shell