The Great Outdoors Beckons: Top 10 Reasons Parents Should Take Their Kids Camping

In today’s fast-paced, tech-dominated world, it’s becoming increasingly important for parents to find opportunities to connect with their kids away from screens and distractions. One of the best ways our family has found to accomplish this is by venturing into the great outdoors and sleeping in our tent.

Camping offers a myriad of benefits that go beyond roasting marshmallows and sleeping under the stars. Here are the top ten reasons why we think parents should take their kids camping, even if it is just in the backyard:

1. Unplug and Reconnect: Camping forces families to unplug from electronic devices and immerse themselves in nature. Without the constant allure of screens, families can enjoy quality time together, fostering deeper connections and meaningful conversations.

According to a report by Common Sense Media in 2019, the average screen time for children aged 8 to 12 years was approximately 4 hours and 44 minutes per day, and that number is almost double for teens!

Excessive screen time has been linked to various negative effects on children’s physical and mental health, including sleep disturbances, decreased physical activity, and increased risk of anxiety and depression. So let’s get them outside and work to reverse the negative consequences of our plugged-in life (don’t forget, these same issues confront us adults that sit at a computer all day…)

2. Appreciation for Nature: Camping introduces children to the wonders of the natural world. They get to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the wilderness, igniting a lifelong appreciation for nature and environmental conservation.

A study conducted by the National Recreation and Park Association in 2018 revealed that only about 51% of children ages 6 to 12 years regularly participated in outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, or exploring nature.

Recent research by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2019 found that spending time in nature positively influenced children’s cognitive, emotional, and social development. It enhanced their creativity, reduced symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and improved overall well-being.

This is especially true at younger ages and research supports the notion that kids who spend time outdoors care about nature and their environment.

Mother’s Day 2023: Dad forgot the tent…
Mother’s Day 2023: Dad forgot the tent…

3. Adventure and Exploration: Camping offers a sense of adventure and excitement for kids. From hiking through trails to exploring new landscapes, children can develop a sense of curiosity and a love for exploration.

I mean, who doesn’t look for a sense of adventure and excitement? After a long day in the office I sure do!

Studies show that adventure and exploration stimulate a child’s cognitive abilities by encouraging curiosity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. When kids explore new environments, they encounter various challenges and obstacles to overcome, whether it’s navigating unfamiliar terrain or solving puzzles in nature.

Kids also get bored… and deal with that boredom, which has many positive health benefits (surprising, I know). If you want to learn more, read The Comfort Crises by Michael Easter and you’ll be begging to be bored!

4. Life Skills Development: Setting up a campsite, starting a campfire, and cooking outdoors teach kids essential life skills, promoting self-reliance and problem-solving abilities.

Self-Reliance, problem-solving abilities, teamwork and collaboration, outdoor survival skills, cooking and nutrition awareness, respect for nature and the environment, adaptability and flexibility, and time management. What do these all have in common? They are all skills that can be built through outdoor experiences like camping.

Take a look through the list. Are these skill sets you value as an adult? Are some of them necessary for your success as a parent, spouse, or coworker? If you answered yes, then you’d better start working on them with your kids! Some day they too will be in your shoes and will need these skills to become the best versions of themselves!

5. Physical Activity: Camping encourages physical activity, whether it’s swimming in a lake, playing outdoor games, or simply going on a hike. It’s a fantastic way to keep kids active and engaged.

Let’s face it. Our kids need exercise. And lots of it. Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and anxiety and depression are on the rise among our children and it is up to us as parents to help fight those trends.

Physical activity helps improve cardiovascular health, builds strong muscles and bones, and enhances overall physical fitness. Outdoor play also contributes to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of childhood obesity, which is a significant concern in today’s sedentary lifestyle.

If that activity is outside, on unfamiliar terrain and mixed in with some “forest bathing,” then the benefits compound. For those of us in Minnesota, we need sunlight, and lots of it! What better way to boost vitamin D production, increase serotonin levels, and generally just feel better than to run and play around the campsite?

Pinecone Baseball in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Pinecone Baseball in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

6. Stress Reduction: Nature has a remarkable ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Camping allows families to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, providing a much-needed break from routine and responsibilities.

Back in the 1980s, the Japanese government’s forest agency created a forest-based wellness program, called Shinrin-yoku, which translates into the popular term “forest bathing”. They created parks all across the country and encouraged the population to go for a walk or just sit in the woods.

And it worked! They have conducted mountains of studies on the benefits of forest bathing and found that even 15 minutes sitting in and then walking through nature resulted in drops in basically every measurement that doctors care about.

It took an entire government agency, and billions in funding, to do what we know we should do already: get outside. You don’t need a fancy name or government funding. You just need to dust off that old tent and hit up your nearest State Park!

7. Bonding and Teamwork: Camping presents an opportunity for families to work together as a team. Setting up camp, preparing meals, and engaging in camp activities foster teamwork and strengthen family bonds.

Setting up camp is not an easy task. But you can work together to come up with a plan, assign roles and tasks, and work together to get it done. Kids love feeling a part of our adult lives and, just like us, get a mood boost from that feeling of accomplishment.

And let’s face it, as a society we do not spend enough quality, unstructured time together as families. So take your kids camping, let them stake down the tent (you can check their work when they are sleeping), involve them in the cooking, and in general spend some quality time together. You need it. They need it. So just do it!

8. Creativity and Imagination: Camping unleashes children’s creativity and imagination. Without the distractions of toys and gadgets, kids can find joy in simple pleasures and invent new games or stories.

Daydreaming and mind wandering may be frustrating when you are trying to ask your child something, but they are very important for brain health and creativity. Downtime for the brain allows it to consolidate experiences and store them away, hopefully somewhere accessible!

Boredom also acts as a motivator for humans to seek out new experiences. If your kid doesn’t have a screen for a weekend, chances are he or she is going to get creative in an effort to fill those hours. Yes, there probably will be some complaining as they go through their five stages of grief, but in the end they will be much better off!

Birch Bark Art with Charcoal

9. Stargazing and Nighttime Magic: Camping introduces children to the beauty of the night sky. Stargazing around a campfire sparks wonder and fascination, creating lasting memories.

Did you know that the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota was the second place nationwide to be given Wilderness Quiet Park status, which means that noise pollution is so low it is almost undetectable?

Did you also know that silence, and I mean real silence, has numerous health benefits ranging from stress reduction and mood elevation to immune support and digestive system improvement?

There is a common theme in this article about the positive health benefits of camping, and they are all mutually supportive. That one weekend in the woods has the ability to create lasting health improvements for parents and kids alike!

10. Appreciating Simplicity: In the natural setting of a campsite, kids learn to appreciate the simpler things in life. It’s an opportunity to disconnect from material possessions and discover the joy of spending time with loved ones.

Our modern lives are complicated. We spend money, run out of money, work harder to earn more money, rinse and repeat. We buy more stuff, add more stress, and generally continue in this spiral.

Camping as a family provides an opportunity to escape the rat race and to reconnect with what is truly important in life, our health, relationships, and environment. Even one weekend a year reconnecting with ourselves and our loved ones will pay dividends long after the tent is packed up and stored away!

Views of Lake Superior from Manitou State Park

We’re biased. We love camping and take every chance we can get to spend a night sleeping outside. Never been camping? Check out our article on Backyard Camping Basics for everything you need to get started.

Camping is an enriching experience that allows families to create cherished memories while instilling valuable life lessons in their children. From fostering a love for nature to promoting teamwork and creativity, camping offers a holistic approach to family bonding and healthy living. So, pack your bags, grab a tent, and embark on a camping journey that will create lasting benefits for years to come. Happy camping!

Author Bio
Anthony Quill is a Minnesota dad and blogger who loves experiencing epic adventures with his wife and two kids. He is Twin Cities based but globally bound, traveling with his family everywhere from Minnesota’s North Shore to Morocco, Spain, and Italy. No matter the distance, he always returns to his Minnesota roots, and in particular the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Learn more from his family’s adventures on their blog at From Tent To Takeoff, on Instagram at @fromtenttotakeoff, or on Facebook at @fromtenttotakeoff.

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