Great American Backyard Campout invites families to camp outdoors, even if it is in their own backyard
One of the most classic summertime adventures is a weekend of camping. Those of us who went camping as children likely have fond memories (or cautionary tales!) of sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire or camp stove, and spending full days exploring outside, collecting treasures, and building forts and nature sculptures. It’s likely, too, that many of our readers have made a commitment to sharing these experiences with our children – taking them to sleep outside, teaching them basic survival skills, and giving them small-scale adventures similar to those we enjoyed as kids. And it’s a good thing that so many of us do so – studies have shown that people who are given the opportunity to explore nature as children are far more likely to grow up to have a respect for nature and to support environmentally conscious behaviors.
This month, the National Wildlife Federation offers families a chance to experience the magic of camping together, while also helping to raise money for the organization’s wild-life saving conservation efforts. This year’s Great American Backyard Campout takes place in late June, and calls for families to spend a night camping out together – even if it’s just in their own backyard. The National Wildlife Federation has promoted a national night of family camping for over a decade, and participation in the event not only unlocks the potential for myriad learning experiences. If you aren’t able to camp out on the scheduled Great American Backyard Campout date, don’t worry! You can still pledge to participate in the event, even if you campout takes place on another date. And no matter when you go camping, there are all sorts of things that you can learn about. To begin planning a campout – whether it’s close to home or far away – check out our readers’ advice on camping with children. The Great American Backyard Campout also offers some suggestions of their own, including recipes, games, songs, stories, and other camping-related tips.
Of course, advice from experienced campers can be useful while trying to entertain kiddos on a camping trip, some of the most valuable experiences that children can have in nature are the ones that emerge spontaneously from unstructured time. When faced with the task of entertaining themselves using only immediately available items and spaces, children can get incredibly creative. They may invent games, climb trees, collect treasures, flip logs to find creatures, or just find a quiet spot to sit and watch. No matter what they do in the woods with their free time, children are always learning – everything that they see helps them to better understand their surroundings, and as they learn, they’ll be developing deep connections to the local landscape.
Photo credit: Alan English