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Camping is beneficial for all of us, regardless of age. You really can’t go wrong with fresh air, time out in nature, and exercise.
Camping, and the typical camping activities such as hiking, fishing, and exploring, have many benefits for youth in particular though, and that is what we are going to focus on here.
To begin with, we’ll discuss some general benefits of the overall camping experience, and then we’ll focus on some specific benefits of different camping activities.
Before we get started, it’s important to note that there will be some differences in the specific benefits, depending on the circumstances of each camping trip. Trips with family will be beneficial in ways that are sometimes slightly different than trips with friends, youth clubs, or organized summer camps.
The key point, though, is that all of these types of camping trips are very beneficial for young people; the exact benefits just differ slightly depending on the nature of any given trip.
6 Benefits of Camping for Youth
1 – Disconnecting From Technology
Electronics and various technologies are ubiquitous in the lives of almost all youth today. Cell phones, social media, video games, tablets, and television often take up a great deal of young people’s time throughout the day.
In fact, according to this article from LearningWorks for Kids, one study a while back found that young people spend, on average, over seven hours a day using digital media, with watching television and listening to music as the most common uses.
Camping is a great way to unplug and experience life without all of these distractions. It provides the opportunity for young people to relax and reflect.
Along the same lines, camping is great for improving a young person’s attention span because it allows plentiful opportunities for focusing on one task or experience at a time without all of the interruptions that text messages and email alerts can cause.
2 – Connecting With Nature
In our modern society, we often become disconnected from nature and its beauties and enjoyments. According to the National Wildlife Federation, young people today are outdoors only half as often as they were just 20 years ago.
Camping is a great way for children and teens to connect with nature and learn to appreciate its gifts. The best part is that this comes naturally through the experience of being out in the wilderness. There’s no need for lectures or explanations of nature’s value; it is all out in the open for everyone to observe.
This often carries over after the camping trip as well; once a young person has experienced the joys of being outdoors, they are more likely to continue to seek out such opportunities in their daily lives.
3 – Learning the Importance of Environmental Conservation
This one ties in with the previous benefit. It’s hard for youth to understand the importance of conserving nature if they’ve never really had the opportunity to experience its beauties and benefits.
Observing animals in their natural habitats and seeing all of the many different plants, flowers, and trees provides a reason behind all of those lessons about recycling, cleaning up after ourselves, and avoiding waste and excessive consumption in general.
The desire to protect and conserve nature is often not truly instilled until we have the opportunity to realize its beauty and uniqueness.
4 – Strengthening Social Connections and Relationships
This one will differ a bit depending on the circumstances of the camping trip. Family trips will obviously strengthen bonds between family members, whereas summer and youth camps provide opportunities for building new friendships and strengthening ties with other youth of similar age.
Family camping trips can be particularly helpful during the teen years when sometimes disconnect between parents and their children can become an issue. Time together without the distractions of our normal lives and responsibilities can allow opportunities for important conversations that allow everyone to share their ideas and opinions.
These trips can also be a powerful reminder of how enjoyable it can be to just spend time together as a family.
Organized summer camps, as well as camping trips with friends, can also allow young people to strengthen their social connections and relationships. Many summer camps bring together young people from various cities and schools, allowing youth to meet many new people while also often seeing a few familiar faces.
Young people who’ve experienced social difficulties at school often really appreciate the fresh start that spending time with a new group of people can provide.
5 – Realizing New Talents and Passions
Camping can be a great way to spark new interests into the minds of youth. It can also uncover hidden talents. Time in nature could spark an interest in biology, astronomy, zoology, or even engineering.
A young person might find they truly have a knack for fishing or have a particular flair for problem solving. The possibilities are endless and can often go beyond what you might expect. The important part is that one of the ways in which we realize our talents and interests during youth is through experiencing new and different things.
Exploration and independence are also fundamental parts of camping which encourage self-reflection and build confidence. While exploring the great outdoors, it’s also natural to contemplate our own place in the world as well as our futures.
This can help young people to pinpoint a few areas of interest for possible further study or exploration.
6 – Strengthening of Character
To say that camping activities can strengthen a person’s character is a pretty hefty statement, but it’s true. Not only do youth gain benefits from learning new skills and engaging in physical activity, but they also often encounter trials and difficulties that help to shape their personalities and characters for the better.
It’s sometimes temping to try to shield young people from many of life’s difficulties but encountering hardships and challenges and finding ways to overcome them is a crucial element to growing up and attaining a degree of self-sufficiency in life.
While camping, young people may be faced with doing many things for the first time. This requires patience and persistence. They may find that life without modern conveniences can be troublesome and sometimes uncomfortable. This helps instill qualities like flexibility and tolerance.
They may also encounter unexpected challenges and obstacles which will strengthen their creativity, adaptability, and problem-solving capabilities. These are all qualities and character traits that will be useful throughout life—in college and the workplace as well as at home and in social interactions.
3 Specific Benefits of Camping Activities
Now let’s take a moment to talk about some of the benefits of the specific activities that we commonly engage in while camping. What can youth gain from these activities that will improve their lives and help them better prepare for their future?
1 – Learning Teamwork
The majority of camping activities require teamwork to at least some degree. Basics such as pitching a tent, building a campfire, and cooking meals all work best if done cooperatively.
While at home, it may be easy to single-handedly pop a frozen pizza in the oven but cooking over a campfire requires much more time and effort. It’s great if you can do it as a team with one person building the fire while the other preps the ingredients.
Similarly, even activities such as hiking are best done as a team. One person can be the leader, planning the route and keeping everyone on schedule, another can focus on navigation, while a third can be in charge of packing lunches, for instance.
This kind of teamwork fosters leadership skills while also teaching the importance of cooperation and flexibility.
2 – Getting Physical Exercise
We often hear that young people don’t get enough exercise and unfortunately this is often true. While some young people may spend too much time indoors playing video games or watching television, others are simply so loaded down with homework and studying that they don’t have much time for sports or leisure activities outside.
One of the great things about camping is that it provides ample opportunities for exercise and physical activity. It can also be great for learning new skills that require physical exertion such as rafting, canoeing, or even possibly zip lining.
Likewise, swimming and hiking are great forms of exercise that are enjoyed by many youths. If you are planning a camping trip for young people and would like more ideas of activities that provide physical exercise, check out this fairly exhaustive list from Sky Above Us.
3 – Learning Important Survival Skills
An unfortunate side effect of the many conveniences of modern life is that many, if not most, youth are lacking in many of the essential survival skills that were commonplace a couple of generations ago.
So, what survival skills can camping activities impart on youth?
- Hiking can be a means of learning tried and true methods of navigation, including the use of a compass.
- Fishing—as well as cleaning and cooking the fish—teaches how to find and prepare one’s own food while out in nature.
- Setting up a tent or other shelter is another important skill that young people should acquire.
Even simple things like building a campfire and cooking over fire are valuable skills that can’t be learned from a book. The trial and error and experience that comes from learning what works and what doesn’t is invaluable.
If you like, take a look at Business Insider’s list of 7 of the Most Important Survival Skills You Should Know. While it’s unlikely that all of them can be learned from one or two camping trips, young people can likely gain one or two skills each trip and then keep expanding on that knowledge and improving those skills.
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