Camping With Family: Enjoying Creation and Simple Living Together
Photo credit Vlad and Marina Butsky
Written by Beth Corcoran, Contributing Writer
I’m so excited because next week is our family’s first real camping trip! We bought a big family-sized tent because, well, we have a big family. And all my kids got to pick out their new sleeping bags. The kids are really thrilled about the prospect of sleeping in a tent (although they would be just as happy if it were set up in the living room instead of a state park.) I find myself excitedly dreaming of all the outdoor fun we’re going to have as a family on our camping trips this summer.
But let me tell you, this has not always been my attitude towards camping. In fact, until recently, I never would have considered camping to be a viable family vacation. You see, camping was something that my family never did growing up because we didn’t own an RV. And no one in my family was going to set foot in a campground unless there was air conditioning, running water and a real toilet.
Rather, vacations were to large cities with nice hotel accommodations. And this attitude carried over into my adulthood. Things started to change for me, however, two years ago when my husband and I decided to take a road trip to Yellowstone National Park. It was my first experience in a park like that, and I was amazed! There was something so majestic about God’s creation that it is something I have carried with me in my heart since our trip.
With six children in our home (and all of them under age 8), taking another road trip like that is not feasible for us right now. So my husband and I have been looking for ways to teach our children to appreciate nature and have awe for our Creator like I experienced in Yellowstone. For us, camping was the solution.
In fact, teaching our kids about creation and the Creator is just one of the many benefits of taking your family camping. So, if you are like me and have never really considered yourself to be a nature buff, take time to ponder the benefits that camping out this summer can bring to your family. Here are a few others to consider.
Hands on Learning
Who says that when summer starts the learning has to end? Our family homeschools year round, but during the summer I try to incorporate less book work and more hands on experiential type learning. Camping out as a family is a great way to do this. Think of all the lessons in botany, biology, meteorology, geology, ecology, etc. you could do with your children at a camp site!
Even if you are not a homeschooling family, you could still have a lot of fun doing lessons in nature. I get giddy just thinking about all of the fun activities we are going to do this summer.
Learning Family Cooperation
I read the Little House on the Prairie series to my children at lunch every day, and one of the things that has always stuck out to me is the way that the whole Ingalls family cooperated to achieve their goals. You don’t see Laura locking herself in her room away from her family, and you don’t see Mary going off to play without getting her chores done first. They all worked together because they loved each other.
When you are camping, there are plenty of tasks that must be done together. Our kids will get a chance to help each other and help their Momma and Daddy with things such as setting up the tent and cooking food. And since we will all be sleeping under one tent roof, my kids will have to learn how to live peaceably with each other. What an important life lesson!
Photo credit subarcticmike
Learning to Live Without
My husband and I were recently wandering up and down the aisles at the local mega outdoor store, and we were amazed that people have come up with an outdoor version of pretty much every household luxury. If you have thousands of dollars to spend, you never have to go without while you are camping.
But I think there is a lot to be learned by going without and living a much simpler lifestyle—even if it is for just a day or two. I think it will be neat for us all to come back from camping, realizing that we can truly live without all our little gadgets and doodads (and air conditioning…well, maybe).
And learning to live a simpler life helps to rid our hearts of bad attitudes like entitlement, and replaces it with gratitude. So, yes, I want my kids to learn to live without, but learning to live a simpler life is something that I will be happy to learn as well.
Lots of family time on a little budget
The great thing about camping is that it can be done on the smallest of budgets. This year, instead of making our annual trip to the theme park, that money is going toward buying camping supplies. That means that next year, camping will be pretty much free for us. And instead of only a weekend of family fun, we can go camping however often we desire. My kids will be able to see parks all over our great state, and we’ll have a whole summer full of wonderful family time driving in the cars and camping out while spending very little money.
Whether you are a veteran camper or have never considered taking your family on a camping trip, there are benefits for everyone. Camping can bring your family together in fun and unique ways, and at the same time it can give you the opportunities to draw closer to the Lord of all creation. I’m so looking forward to the sweet and special ways that our family will get to encounter our Creator and grow closer on our trips.
What are some special benefits that camping has brought to your family?
I grew up camping & we camp as a family as well. Don’t know what part of the country you are in, but we live in GA. We have found that we enjoy camping in the spring or fall times of the year as the weather is mild & less buggy. Enjoy your first campout!
@Darleen, we also live in GA (a little north of Altanta) … please share some of your favorite places to camp and activities you do. I agree – camping in the middle of the summer could be a bit warm 🙂
You are very brave! I hope it goes really well. We went camping a lot when I was a child, but my mom put the kabash on it for a few years when my siblings were really little. We got to experience God’s creation in ways that were um, unexpected – my brother got his hood caught in a deer’s antler and nearly got taken far away into the woods (with the deer running away in fear, he fell off at the edge of the campsite, thank heavens), we got stuck in a windstorm the likes of which I have never seen since,etc. etc. When we got older it went much better and we had fun – six people and the dog ridding in a zodiak around the lake. Starting fires, hiking, swimming, running from a rainstorm. Those were really good times. I hope your family has a trip full of great memories and very few of those “funny stories” that are only funny in retrospect. 🙂
We love camping. I just love the ‘back to nature’ simplicity of it all. Although it can get kind of crazy – trying to cook on fire or a gas stove, having to haul water, and the work that goes into packing and then unpacking (and cleaning!) – there is hardly a better thing to do than spending the day outside enjoying God’s creation then come back to camp and drink hot chocolate around a fire. It’s a great way to spend time TOGETHER as a family. We also really enjoy camping with friends. If you want to REALLY know your friends, sit around a camp fire and talk after the kids have gone to bed! There is no better place for communication and contemplation.
.-= Diana´s last blog ..Thursday Cooking Club ~ Tomato, Avocado and Chevre Toast =-.
We are long-time campers – with six kids and it didn’t matter how little they were. Our youngest camper was 2 weeks old! And while rain is an inconvenience on a camping trip, some of my favorite memories (not the only ones!) are of rain. Gentle raindrops on the tent as we fall asleep, playing cards in the tent while we wait out a storm, taking down the tent in the pouring rain to push through to home because everything is wet. One night we woke to find a river running through our tent. My husband carried sleepy children to the van and slept there with them while I stayed in the tent on our tall air mattress with the baby, who was off the floor in his pack-n-play. That baby took his first steps in Grand Teton National Park on that trip. My adult children have a real appreciation for the beauty in creation, but the more tangible benefits are to our relationships as we worked together and were forced to be in close proximity to each other. As we made camp, each child had a job, and we had breaking camp down to a quick science. It made us feel like a team in a way that would have been difficult to produce elsewhere. Camping is very much worth the effort and the dirt, although that sleeping-on-the-ground thing does get harder as you get older!
Our favorite camping memory is getting stuck in a rainstorm in our tent at the beach in July. I was in the bathroom taking a shower and came out to find my husband and boys digging trenches around the tent. We “slept” there all night….a memory we laugh about to this day.
We could have gone home-it was only a 30 minute drive but we wanted the adventure!
.-= Jana @ The Summer House´s last blog ..Healthy Sunsreen =-.
This is great! I’d love to hear more about how this works with your family (when you are done doing it!)
I used to do camping a lot. Backpacking and canoe trips where you set up for the night and then move on the next day. I miss that. But its totally not feasible for me at this life stage. We tried camping when my oldest was 5 months at a campsite with our car nearby…that was hard enough for me at that point. We did it again when she was 1 1/2 and it rained so much I cried wanting to go home…totally not the version of my previous self. Having kids along changed the way I saw everything. But I want to change that. First, I am dealing with some health issues that means I have no energy to do it right now anyways. Second, I need to figure out how to get back into camping with kids. So I’d love to hear more! We compromised and are going to a small (very small!) but clean and affordable cottage this summer.
Your comment about having every luxury out there while camping really hit home with me.
A few years ago i was out backpacking with a couple of friends. We had been out for a few days so we were already quite dirty and a little bit tired. As we made our way down the trail at one point the trail crossed through a campground area. When we emerged from the woods we got stares and looks of ‘horror’ if you will from all the campers at the dirty backpackers crossing through the grounds CARRYING their stuff on their backs. And we equally stared back to our dismay as we witnessed some of these ‘luxuries’ you speak of. There were box fans set up on the picnic tables so the campers did not have to feel the heat. There was lawn furniture drug in and parked in front of large TV sets.
What i ask you is the point of going into the woods then anyway. I have seen it all when i look at the family parked on the couch in front of the TV with the fans blowing on them while drinking a cold beverage straight from the blender nearby.
Sounds like great fun! We used to camp alot, but stopped once baby #2 came. We’ll do day trips now, and we live in Montana so there are plenty of beautiful areas within driving distance. When we were camping, I liked to bring the least amount of stuff possible since it all has to be put away afterwards 😉 I also like to do really simple meals (crackers and cheese, hot dogs, granola bars) rather than trying to cook and wash dishes without running water.
.-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Sprouted Spelt Flour Giveaway =-.
we took our oldest (now 2.5) camping when he was 5 months. it was a very crisp night in early spring. we were so not prepared to take a little one into the chilly night! he almost froze until our friend gave us his stocking cap to roll up on the babe’s head and i convinced my husband it was safer for me to sleep with our son in my mummy sleeping bag 🙂
we’re planning another trip for this fourth of july. we’re meeting my in-laws, so we’ll have two adults per kid, which should help! our baby is now nine months and only slightly mobile, so it should be a fun trip 🙂
.-= katherine´s last blog ..meet me in…atlanta? =-.
If you don’t mind me asking–how old were your kids when you started reading the Little House series to them? My oldest is 5 1/2 and I wonder if it would hold her attention. I loved those books and can’t wait to share them with her. Also, I love the idea of reading to your kids at lunchtime.
We’re not a camping family, but have committed to participating in the Great American Backyard Campout this year–baby steps! Thanks for the great ideas!
@Colleen, I don’t know how old Beth’s kids were, but I started reading them with my daughter when she had just turned 4. Some of it was over her head, but she still really enjoyed them.
@Colleen, I’m reading them to my 4 year old. She LOVES them and asks for more and more. I started just after she turned 4. I plan on reading them again to her when she is older too. She gets a lot of it, but like Stephanie said, some of it is beyond her. I do some explaining and also get a few kid’s books out of the library showing pictures of those days, etc. like good non fiction ones of general stores, one room schools, etc. or even real history books with pictures just to show her and talk about, and that helps her understand some more.
I grew up camping in a RV, but my hubby & I do not have an RV (as much as I would love to own a vintage Silver Stream…:). So we are learning all about tent camping right now. We just got home yesterday from our 3rd try at it~and the most successful one! Our kiddos LOVE camping! I have to let go of some of my germaphobe ways to make it happen, but when I do that and just relax it’s really great. I blogged about our experience here: http://myblessedlife-lora.blogspot.com/2010/06/adventures-in-camping-part-3.html
.-= Lora´s last blog ..Adventures in Camping: Part 3 =-.
i love to camp! but camping with children adds a whole new level of difficulty to the adventure. it’s been easy for me to want to procrastinate us camping until our children are a bit older. my husband and i were talking about it recently and we decided that we wanted camping to be a family activity that we all enjoyed and shared together. in order for that to happen, we need to go frequently (even just once a summer) so we’ll have the equipment and skills to make it fun rather than just a challenge. if our boys grow up camping, they’re more likely to like camping with us even into their teenage years. that’s our theory at least!
.-= Stacey´s last blog ..We’re home!!! =-.
We heart camping!
We live on the East Coast right now and have found the EVERY campground we have gone to (private or government owned) has flush toilets and showers for free (wait.. one did have them for $0.25). Which takes away the excuse of not liking to be dirty. And makes it super easy to do dishes!
My family uses camping as our “motel.” On the East Coast there are SOO many great cities and sights to see. So we hedge our adventure costs by camping. For example, hotels in DC in the summer are $200 or more on a weekend. We stay at a campground in Virginia about 15 minutes away from a DC metro stop. Not only do we save money on the sleeping accomadations aspect, but we are also able to make our own breakfasts and dinners this way. So in otherwords, we don’t mind paying $10 a head to go into a sight to learn things, because we save so much money on trip expenses.
Not to mention that camping means that we spend less time doing time dumps (aka tv) and more time learning to work together.
I still haven’t found a good clean up/pack up situation. My daughter loves camping SOO much that she is so sad to leave that she shuts downs when it’s time to pack up and go. Which leaves us all frustrated. BUT.. I still wouldn’t trade our camping experiences for all the free 5 star hotel stays in the world.
This summer I came up with a plan, a family camping trip including my two little kids for the first time and it went so perfect. Camping with your kids is totally a different experience. It changed my perspective. Camping has a whole new meaning to me right now. Before it was all about having fun but now it is more than that. I felt more attached to nature and to my family.
I was just browsing the internet and i came to this site… Actually, i got stocked with the inviting title. You share some interesting topics here and I really enjoy them, amazing photos too.
Fellow cacher & camper here in Ohio love it!! Haven’t gotten out as much as I wanted to this year. Thanks for the article!