Summer Camping Adventures Promote Nature-Based Play and Learning
The long days and warm nights of summer provide the perfect conditions for family camping, a tradition that serves as one of childhood’s most classic summer adventures. Camping trips not only allow children to learn how to live outside of their homes, but provide them with the opportunity to engage in experiential learning about their surroundings during all hours of the day (and perhaps the night, too). From afternoon playtime in the woods to an evening of fireflies and campfires to the misty early morning hours that bring endless bird songs, camping trips offer ceaseless exposure to the sights, sounds, and smells of the world. As an added bonus, children who connect with their surroundings are many times more likely to practice environmentally friendly and conservation-minded behaviors as adults.
Families can easily enjoy camping trips this summer by visiting one (or many!) of Massachusetts’ campgrounds at a state park or state forest. State-run campgrounds are affordable, well-maintained, and plentiful within a few hours’ drive (or less) of all local points. While some state campgrounds near high-traffic natural wonders book quickly early in the season (like Mt. Washington State Forest near Bash Bish Falls), many others can be counted on to have open sites for impromptu adventures throughout much of the summer (like Savoy Mountain State Forest or the Mohawk Trail State Forest). Of the 29 state-run campgrounds, 11 are located in western Massachusetts and another 6 can be found in the state’s central region.
For families whose smallest members are new to camping, the first few trips may seem daunting: there’s a lot to adjust to when living outside the comfort of your home! Learning to be comfortable sleeping outside can really only be accomplished through experience, but supporting young children in finding a sense of wonder for their surroundings can help them to be more comfortable during camping trips. Setting up tents at home as play spaces or even temporary indoor sleeping spaces can help to alleviate discomfort as well. Further kid-camping wisdom can be found through advice from our readers, whose experience has generated some solid advice.
Is your family camping trip already planned? Pledge to be a part of the Great American Campout, the National Wildlife Federation’s summer celebration of outdoor exploration.
[Photo credit: (cc) Wayne]