Whenever I encounter parents and caregivers who want to connect kids to nature, I have one piece of advice— go camping. Actually, I tell them to go RV camping. Let me explain why.
First of all, camping connects my kids to nature through their senses. The scents, sounds, and sights they discover while camping can be wildly different from those we’re surrounded by every day. You may live by a lake, but have your kids heard the crash of water over falls during the rainy season? Kids who live in the mountains have experienced alpine beauty, but they may not know the colors of desert wildflowers, the feel of granite smoothed by the ocean waves or the cry of hawks wheeling high above a prairie.
Scrambling up a mountain trail, discovering a bird’s nest or naming the creatures in a tide pool aren’t things most kids get to do every day. The freedom of camping close to nature, and throwing daily schedules out the window, is a gift every child should be given.The diversity of nature never fails to amaze my children when we camp outside their normal habitat. Letting their senses run wild through seeing, smelling, touching and sometimes even tasting their new environment has created a love for natural places. Recording those experiences with photographs and their own private travel journals can spark a lifetime of treasured memories.
Organized activities also pass an appreciation of natural places to our kids. Ranger-led programs at state and national parks often open the door to the secrets of nature that may escape a casual glance. Taking a night hike to discover constellations in skies unpolluted by light, learning about the forces that formed red rock canyons and hiking a mountainside in search of bighorn sheep are all free for national park visitors.
Junior Ranger programs specifically designed for young explorers let kids earn prizes for learning more about nature. Most state park websites also have a special page with interesting children activities. Check what’s available for youngsters where you camp; you might want to tag along!
But why RV camping? When I tell folks I’m connecting my kids to nature with RV camping, the responses range from “really?” to “tell me more.” For some, the idea of camping in anything other than a tent negates the chance to introduce children to nature. But a recreational vehicle—be it a pop-up camper, Class A motor home or something in between—is just that: a vehicle used to travel to the beautiful places while offering some of the comforts of home.
What we do once the RV is in place determines whether children learn the joys of nature or simply do what they always do but in a different place.
Sometimes it’s as simple as stepping out of the motor home and watching the sun rise over nearby peaks as we share breakfast. Other times it takes more work—striking out to find a trailhead or a windswept beach beyond the campground. But the point is that whatever we do, we are searching for nature and the ways it can engage our children for a lifetime.
With RV camping, my children also gain a sense of freedom that allows them to experience nature beyond their normal routines. Waking up in the forest, on a lakeshore or surrounded by ancient boulders is inspiring. Mix in a more relaxed schedule and adults who encourage them to explore and who knows what they will discover?
Our kids develop a love of nature through us. When I’m eager to explore and experience the natural beauty of a place, it helps my children see that nature is something to be treasured, and not just from a distance. Planning and sharing RV camping trips to new environments is part of my legacy, a way to pass down my own love of nature in a way that engages the whole family.
Camping by RV can be the first step to opening a child’s eyes to the joys of nature. Before you take your next camping vacation, take the time to learn what outdoor experiences you can share together. It’s never too early to start building a legacy of loving natural places.
Photo(s) credit: El Monte RV
Additional Reading on the Benefits of Camping
Tips on Lowering the Carbon Footprint of RV Camping
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