Remember those good old days before virtual reality video games and smartphones when we all used to spend hours up a tree, laying in the grass, or turning over rocks in the local creek?
Actually, not much has changed. Kids still love the outdoors. They still want to explore and get dirty just like we did. But sometimes they need a helping hand discovering what nature has to offer. Not all kids love school but they do love to learn and what better way to bond with your child than sharing your knowledge or learning a new skill with them.
Where do you start?
Whether you are raising a trail warrior, a camping ace or a survivalist-in-training, here are 10 outdoor camping skills that will keep your kids coming back for more.
Knot tying can be as much an art as it is a skill. But when you need to hang a bear bag or hoist a tarp it pays to know just the right hitch to get the job done. Learning knots can require a lot of focus and patience which can be difficult for children who have wandering minds and short attention spans, so start small and go slow.
- Use a length of paracord so it is easy for them to tie and untie. You can find loads of paracord color options on Amazon.
- Show them a way they can practically use each knot you teach them
- Use this article from Home Made Gifts Made Easy on paracord bracelet making to make a paracord bracelet so they will always have their rope with them.
Are you new to knot tying too? Check out this article from Cool of the Wild where they offer easy instructions for how to tie the 6 most important camping knots.
Looking for something to take the place of the nightly Netflix cartoon binge? One of the best parts of camping out away from the city lights is being able to see the whole night sky. And searching the sky for constellations, stars and planets can keep kids entertained for hours.
- Use an App like SkyMap to show the movement of the stars through the evening and to identify stars, constellations, planets and even moving objects like satellites and the international space station.
- Bring a telescope so you can get an up close look at the moon’s craters. Don’t have one? Try this travel telescope from Celestron that packs easily into a backpack for star gazing on the go.
Building a Shelter
What kid doesn’t love to build a fort? Whether you are stringing up a tarp to block the rain or fashioning a teepee from sticks, your kids will love to help you build a home away from home, even if it’s just for play. Check out this great article from Wild About Here to get started building your fort .
Even though they have mastered climbing all over your furniture and countertops, your little monkey still might need some guidance when it comes to good tree climbing skills.
- Make sure they are either barefoot or wearing shoes with good traction to avoid sliding
- Find a tree with low branches so they can pull themselves up
- Teach them to use both their arms to pull and their legs to push
- Encourage them to stay on the inner part of the branches where the limbs are sturdiest and less likely to break
Identifying birds and animals
Another great way to keep kids entertained both at the campsite and on the trail is teaching them about the birds and animals around them. They’ll also learn to be aware of their surroundings, a great skill to have in the wilderness.
- Bird watching
- Animal tracks
- Get a pocket field guide like this one on Animal Tracks as an easy reference on the trail
- Keep an eye on the ground for tracks and other evidence that animals have been nearby
- Use your phone or camera to take pictures of the tracks you found
Whether you want to get all the gear and try out fly fishing at the local river or you are building a rod from a stick, teaching a kid to fish can be a fun way to occupy them during a weekend camping trip and you might even spark a lifelong hobby. Here’s a great article to get your kid fishing at any age . If you’re feeling more crafty, check out this video from eHow to get you started building a simple fishing rod from a stick.
Depending on how old your camping buddy is, you might not want him or her to be playing with matches or lighter fluid just yet. But that doesn’t mean they can’t help with the campfire. Not all sticks are created equal so it’s important to teach your child which are the best to use.
- Let them collect the small sticks for kindling
- If your child is older you can assist them in cutting small branches using a folding camp hand saw.
- Teach them to leave any wet sticks and branches that could make the fire smokey
- If you are chopping up larger branches ask them to organize and stack the wood
Leave No Trace
Three words that should be in every outdoorsmen’s vocabulary. It’s important to follow the Leave No Trace rules when camping or backpacking so we can keep the natural world intact for the next generation to enjoy. So get the next generation of conservationists going early. Check out these Leave No Trace’s 7 Principal Tips for the rules you can teach your kids to follow when they are exploring the outdoors.
Reading maps and signs
Teach them the basics of triangulating position in wilderness , learning to read and follow trail markers and maps is a great way to get your children more involved when you’re hiking. It will also give them a skill they can use their whole lives.
- Use this article by How To Wilderness to teachyour kids the meaning of blazes, cairns and ducks.
- Choose a trail that you know is well marked and has a map.
- Before heading out on the trail, familiarize your child with the map and the trail thatyou plan to take. You can even highlight the trail to help them remember.
- Give them a copy of the map and let them guide the group (while you keep a watchful eye of course).
Using a compass
A compass is one of the oldest methods of navigation by sea and land. Going hand in hand with reading a map, it can be an excellent tool when trail markers aren’t well maintained or are spaced far apart. Try this Coleman compass that your child can wear around their neck.
There are so many activities that can help nurture a love of the outdoors. By teaching them valuable skills you’ll not only get lots of bonding time with you kids in the great outdoors, you’ll be raising well rounded outdoor enthusiasts and nature conservationists.