Today, the average American child spends several hours or more a day in front of some sort of electronic screen, drastically reducing the time kids are spending outdoors to as little as 30 minutes of outdoor free play time.
There are a lot of reasons we should encourage and teach our children about the importance of being outside. Getting kids outdoors in nature, and away from electronics has been proven to reduce stress, improve sleep and preform better in school.
Unstructured outdoor time is important both physically and mentally to both kids and adults. So why not have some family fun this summer and be apart of the Great American Campout.
The Great American Campout is a concept that originated back in 2005 by the National Wildlife Federation as a way to encourage families to connect with nature and wildlife. Whether you’re going to a campsite out in the wild, or camping out in your own backyard, we’ve come up with some tips to help get you started.
1 - Stick to family friendly meals - Come up with a menu of camping friendly ideas, and talk to your kids about it. Let them know ahead of time that they won’t have other options to choose from, so you want to make sure they like how everything sounds. Especially if this is your first family camping trip - now is not necessarily the best time to try out 6 new recipes that you found on Pinterest.
2 - Stay hydrated - Even if they don’t say they’re thirsty, make sure your kids are drinking plenty of water. They may be too excited by camping that they won’t pay attention. The same goes for yourself. Remind yourself to drink plenty of water! CamelBak or other Water Bladders are great for this! Kids love drinking out of them, and if you get them one of their own, in a color they love and let them add buttons and patches to from their adventures - they'll be even more encouraged.
3 - Have your kids help - Picking and packing their clothes, loading up the car, setting up camp, doing the dishes, etc. These are all things that you can have your kids help with. While some of it may take longer having them help then if you were to do it yourself, it’s important for you to take a step back, breath and use some patience to let them learn some new skills. They just might surprise you.
1 - Set family rules for a certain period of time. For example - if your backyard campout officially starts at 6pm on Saturday night and goes until 12:00pm on Sunday, then the rules apply that entire time.
2 - Those “rules” can include things like:
3 - Bring out the board games, puzzles, books and color materials. It may seem strange at first, for both you and your family to not have a cell phone in hand - but it’s important and well worth it. Set the tone for your kids and be excited about doing these other activities instead of playing games on a phone or iPad. They’ll get on board a lot faster than you might think.
An important reminder when you're camping. You're entering the home of our wildlife. It's important that we help keep them wild. Follow rules for your campground about how to properly lockup and store your belongings, especially food. While it is fun to watch for wild animals, observe them (if it is safe to do so) from a distance, and let them be. We want our animals to stay wild so they can continue to care for themselves after you leave.
One great way you can engage with the wildlife around you, is to bring a pair of binoculars and a bird identification book! It's a lot of fun to get to know the birds around you, and kids always love playing with binoculars.
Bear Illustration: Cub Club with Suzi & Imogen - by Imogen Taylor
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