Family Time: The Importance of Family Time

I admit it — I never went camping as a child with my family. Never even went to Girl Scouts. It wasn’t until I had reached adulthood that I went on my first camping trip and realized that one of our nation’s greatest treasures lies in the unpaved wilderness. I can’t imagine a better family activity than camping — the time together, the bonding, the lessons learned.

But there are many families out there who have never ventured out together into the woods. Maybe you think of yourself as an “indoor girl.” Or maybe you’re just not sure of what to do. Or perhaps you’re a single mom and don’t feel safe staying at a campground alone with your children (if this is the case, go camping with another family or take along another adult family member).

I must admit that as someone who had never been camping, the task of packing and setting up camp seemed a bit daunting. But trust me, it is worth the effort to learn the basics and is a lot easier than you might think. If you have never gone camping as a family, I challenge you to give it a chance. And here’s why:

Family Time

How does your family usually spend its weekend? Is it a scramble to even get everyone at the dinner table together? And when you sit down to play a game, are you interrupted with non-stop phone calls or the TV playing in the background? Does your husband disappear for hours at the golf course? Are you consumed by all the chores and errands that need to be done?

The beauty of camping is that it gives your family the chance to reconnect. Leave the Gameboy and portable DVD player at home. Pack the board games, the telescope and your athletic equipment. Take the time to rediscover your family by simply spending time with them — away from all the distractions of home.

Lessons Learned

Sometimes the best lessons are learned in the midst of difficulty. So you and your husband have never pitched a tent? You learn teamwork. You’ve never stoked a campfire? You learn patience. You will gain confidence by learning new skills and by making it to the end of a hiking trail. Sure, you might get frustrated if things don’t go according to plan. But you will look back and realize that your family faced that difficulty — together.

Camping will also teach your children valuable lessons in respecting their environment and the importance of conservation. Many national and state parks have junior ranger programs, as well as educational programs for the entire family.

Family Memories

A simple camping trip may generate some of your children’s favorite and lasting memories. They will remember the time Dad caught that big fish, the time you taught them how to make s’mores, and the nights sitting by the campfire singing songs and telling stories. They’ll be amazed at how many stars there really are in the sky without the impedance of city lights. You’ll instill in your children the love for the outdoors and camping, and give them the desire to take their own families camping one day.

Consider buying each family member a disposable camera to take on the trip. When you get the photos developed, you’ll get to see everyone’s perspective of their adventure. Then spend a Family Night making a scrapbook of the photos. Let family members write a short paragraph of what they liked most about the trip and include that in your scrapbook. You’ll have a family treasure book for years to come.

Recreational Value

Have you always thought that camping would be boring — that there would be nothing to do but sit in a tent all day? That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many campgrounds offer hiking and bicycle trails, open fields for playing ball games, and perhaps the opportunity to go horseback riding, swimming, rafting or canoeing. You might even learn a new activity. At your campsite, your family can play games, have a story time, make crafts or just simply enjoy each other’s company. Many national and state parks have historical value, so you might even take in a tour of an old colonial settlement or battlefield.

So here is my challenge. Go camping with your family and discover a whole new meaning to “family time.” Get out of your comfort zone and teach your children not to be fearful of trying new things. Instill in your children the love for the world and beauty around them. Learn how to be away from your TV and computer for a few days. Master the art of cooking over an open flame. Take the time to enjoy nature, to reconnect with your family and to create lasting memories.

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