Children spend an average of two hours a day in front of some kind of screen, whether it’s a computer, TV, phone or tablet. In fact, nearly half of kids under 9 have their own tablet device, such as an iPad, Galaxy, Surface or ZenPad. While we might be impressed by the things they can pick up this way, it’s at a remove and not exactly how kids have always grown up.
Working parents know that it can be difficult to juggle work while keeping the kids occupied over the summer. And camp can’t take up all of that time, but preparing for camp is a way to get them outdoors to explore the physical side of childhood. That’s why so many parents see it as important to get their kids away from the screen and out into nature with summer camp.
That being said, many parents worry that their kids might have trouble staying safe and sound with these new adventures. Here are a few ways to prepare your children for the great outdoors of summer camp.
Interacting with Nature
It’s just a fact that kids today spend more time indoors and they may not be in tune with nature. A fun activity is to make a weather station and to look for signs of the changing weather. You won’t want your kids camping in the woods if they can’t tell it’s about to rain, or if they don’t know to look for the signs of an incoming storm, like temperature drops or rising winds. When you can get your child interested in the sciences, the places their curiosity will lead will be endless, and will help shape them into who they’ll become.
You can find incredible natural habitats in every corner of summer camp, which comes with a variety of wildlife who view this area as their home. No matter how remote or populated a summer camp is, preparing your kids to recognize ways to properly interact with animals is essential. Explain that your children should:
- Avoid interacting with any wildlife and always keep away from animals with young.
- Let an adult know if they see an injured animal; don’t pick it up or try to help without an adult.
- Observe animals at a safe distance. Take the time to admire their beauty and tranquility with enough space so they do not feel threatened.
Observing certain animals, like birds, can be entertaining and educational. There are all kinds of advantages to becoming a birder, both for your child and the pair of you. To start, it’s an opportunity to learn about your immediate environment: exactly what kinds of birds live there, the kinds of habitats they live in, why your area’s climate is ideal for them, and how different birds have adapted to human presence. From birds to snakes, making sure your kids have a healthy respect for wildlife can help ease your anxiety about them exploring the great outdoors without you by their side.
Recognizing poisonous plants and animals
Summer camp is known for getting kids active outside in nature, which can result in a mean case of poison ivy or oak if your child plunges into the woods. You’ll want to prepare your kid for summer camp by making sure they learn to recognize those plants, as well as be able to look out for:
- Plants with thorns
- Mushrooms and berries that are poisonous
- Rashes or hives that indicate they have come in contact with a poisonous plant
There are also several animals and insects that carry venom. Bees play a crucial role in the environment, so we should teach our children to value them, but also to stay away, especially if they are allergic to their sting. Other poisonous animals to teach your kids about include snakes, scorpions and spiders. You’ll want to have this conversation delicately, as to not risk giving your child a phobia. You can always use the adage that often these animals are more afraid of you than you are of them.
Understanding and planning outdoor activities
The activities at summer camp can make a huge difference in your child’s physical well-being. If your child has had limited experiences in the great outdoors, you’ll want to do a little prep work so they aren’t too nervous or hesitant to try something new. You can look up pictures or videos online so they can get excited about the adventure. Many summer camp activities include:
- Ultimate Frisbee
- Rock climbing
- Horseback riding
- Team sports like flag football, kickball, soccer or volleyball
You’ll want to make sure you know the activities at this camp to ensure your child has clothes, tennis shoes, hats and other items they need to fully participate. Additionally, if you have the space in your yard, plan some outdoor activities that your child can expect to participate in at camp.
Our kids’ lives are busier than ever, often making it hard to slow down and enjoy the present moment. When your children explore nature at summer camp, they have an opportunity to take a breath and enjoy the natural world, along with exploring their place in it. When parents prepare them properly for safe outdoor adventures, you can take a deep breath, too.
Collaborative for Children collaborates with parents, educators, and local leaders through the Collab-lab, Centers for Excellence, and their mentorship program. If you’re in the Houston area check out their resources for families.
Article written by Brad Krause