Fresh air, exercise, Vitamin D, and plenty of dirt-smeared skin to help build a bomb-proof immune system… these are just some of the reasons we tell our kids ad nauseam: “Go outside and play!”
It’s why we’re constantly pitting ourselves against technology and enforcing rules like “screens stay switched off for all but two hours a day”. But did you ever think that maybe there’s more to it than healthy bones and fighting off a common cold? Think back to your own childhood camping trips and outdoor adventures with the family; if you never had those experiences, how different would you be as a person today? Curious, we waxed nostalgic around the bonfire and took our own little hike down memory lane.
It teaches you teamwork
A violent storm rolls in and that three-room canvas tent that took four hours and five sets of hands to put up is threatening to blow away. Dad’s on the guy ropes, mum’s rescuing dinner, dog’s going mental, and you’ve been summoned to the Leaning Tarp of Pisa which is quickly turning into a suspended pond. We can’t think of another situation that demands cooperation and getting your hands dirty quite at the same level.
You learn to be creative
Not just in the artistic sense; although bush crafts shouldn’t go without an honorary mention. Who else dug up and made objects out of clay? Mixed ochre paint by smashing two wet stones together? Scouted for branches to make the mother of all slingshots? But getting back to basics and leaving modern conveniences behind teaches kids a thing or two about resourcefulness, too. Where else would you ever think to warm river stones in the coals, then shove them in your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm at night? We’re pretty sure nothing else nurtures ingenuity quite as much as plonking your kids in the bush.
It connects you to nature
How do you gain appreciation and respect for nature if you’ve never experienced the joy it brings firsthand? If you’re like us and have your own fond memories of climbing trees, swimming in creeks and catching yabbies with Dad, then you’ve probably developed a lifelong bond with natural places too; one that runs much deeper than simply checking off bucket list items mind you. Growing up in the outdoors doesn’t just teach kids to live in harmony with the natural world, but to be protective of it. And who doesn’t want to have a budding environmentalist on their hands?
It’s a lesson in socialising
Hitting it off with strangers comes easily to some, and for others: practice makes perfect. And what better time to practice than when you’re knee-high to a grasshopper, running amok around the holiday park? Mingling at the camp kitchen, sharing a beach by the river, setting up wickets in a communal backyard; it’s not hard to see why campsites promote a sense of community and togetherness, and help to build kids’ social skills in the process.
Sometimes you have to face your fears
The first time you heard a possum hissing in the night and were convinced aliens had indeed landed on Earth. Deciding whether to hold on or dash through the dark when nature called in the middle of the night. Swimming alone across that reedy, monster-filled dam because the rest of the family swam ahead and left you trembling on the bank. While we’d hope that your memories of the outdoors are mostly pleasant ones, we’d bet that having your comfort zone challenged (and overcoming it like a champ) played a part in your camping antics from time to time too.
Survival of the fittest
Life isn’t about sitting around and waiting for someone to hand you what you want on a silver platter. And you know what? Neither is camping. If you don’t want to be left with rice bubbles or corn flakes from the Kellogg’s Fun Pack, you’d better get first dibs on the coco pops before your sister does. As with anything in life, if you want it, go get it. And at times, yes, you may have to fight for it.
It makes you adventurous and ambitious
If we don’t learn the lay of the land early in life, it becomes a lot harder to try new things and overcome fear of the ‘unknown’ as adults. Ask yourself: would you rather be the fearless three-year-old effortlessly snow-plowing the ski hill (world champ in the making), or the rookie 25-year-old sliding down on your butt? We can’t all be great at everything, but early introduction to an outdoor activity or sport inspires confidence, curiosity and a ‘can do’ attitude further down the track.
You learn to live with less
At its core, experience over materialism is what being in the outdoors is all about. And nothing drives home the point that you don’t need much to live a fun and fulfilled life quite like pitching a tent, baiting a hook or scaling a ridge: that’s your shelter, dinner and entertainment for the day covered. And if going on a family camping trip once or twice a year or fishing every other weekend means you’re teaching the next generation to experience more and spend less, then we reckon your fishing rod collection just paid for itself.
Once you start thinking about what you learn from growing up in the outdoors, the ideas run thick and fast: Perspective, independence, organisation, patience, problem-solving, diversity, and how to be a damn fine storyteller, are just some of the other ideas we’ve been throwing around. We reckon you might have some of your own ideas too!