The following is a post from contributing writer Angie.
One of our favorite learning-filled field trips each year is to go to our favorite state park and rent a rustic cabin for a long weekend. Children often learn most effectively through active, hands-on experiences, and a camping trip can be a perfect opportunity!
To honor the beginning of the National Park system, which began in March 1872 with the naming of Yellowstone National Park, I am sharing some of the educational benefits of camping with your family.
Educational Benefits of Camping
Being out in the wilderness is an opportune time to work on all sorts of survival skills. Not only are these all handy life skills to have, but many of them can pull in science and mathematical studies:
- Taking Care of a Fire – This can include building and starting a fire (including trying to start it using a variety of methods), maintaining the fire, cooking over an open fire, and fire safety.
- Finding Safe Water or Food – Even if you don’t eat the food or drink the water, this could be a mission to recognize those things that are safe and those that are unsafe.
- Navigational Skills – Whether you use an electronic compass or go old school, few times are better suited to working on navigational skills than on hikes and trails.
Meal Planning and Cooking
Since your children will always have to eat, don’t overlook teaching them these important life skills. When we go on a camping trip, we work very hard to make sure that we’ve carefully planned meals so we don’t have to leave the state park during our long weekend there. If you are also planning to make all of your own meals while you’re camping, you can involve your children in planning meals, packing up the food to take along, and preparing meals and snacks for your family.
Camping is one of our favorite times to study and enjoy nature. Not only are we surrounded by an ecosystem that we are not normally in, but we also have the time to just soak it in.
Some of our favorite nature study activities to do while camping include:
- Observe animals in their natural environments
- Compare the differences in the environment in various areas throughout the park. Our favorite park includes heavily wooded areas, open prairie-type areas, many lakes, and a beach.
- Nature scavenger hunt
- Identify plants and trees
- Art projects and play with fallen objects, such as leaves, twigs, and acorn tops
- Star watching away from city lights
Park or Campground Activities
I have always been a fan of trying to take advantage of learning opportunities that are offered by others, as they are typically outside of my expertise, and it’s nice not to have to plan everything myself. Many national and state parks, as well as campgrounds, offer both fun and educational opportunities for families and children. Plan to look into what your camping spot offers.
Our family has done a hike where we learned about beavers and saw some beaver dams, made pine cone bird feeders, been taught about butterflies, helped to spread seeds for a milkweed field, and more. All of these things were free to us while we were staying in the park.
Family Read Alouds
While this can be done anywhere, we find that camping offers a special time to curl up with blankets around a fire and read stories that highlight times that we can sometimes feel far removed from, such as the Little House on the Prairie books or other stories that happened during pioneer times.
Most campgrounds or state and national parks have something unique about them which can offer up wonderful learning opportunities. Our favorite park has kettle lakes, which are lakes formed from glaciers. Not only does that alone offer very fun learning, but that also means that the park offers opportunities for paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks. Doing these are a great way for physical activity, learning about boat and water safety, and seeing lake life up close. Plus, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s just plain fun.
Do you go camping with your family? What are some of your favorite things to do while camping?
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