Every time I go camping, I notice the extra freedoms that children tend to have on a campsite, and this year was no exception. As usual, my family (6yo, 4yo, husband) and I have been on a range of camping trips over the summer, and on each one, all the children I’ve seen have been running around playing pretty freely, on the grass, the paths, the roads.
In my mind, there are a number of reasons for this and I’m sure there are more than I am going to list here:
1. Closer to nature – the vast majority of campsites bring you closer to nature than you’d usually be. As is well-known, nature creates numerous opportunities for free and creative play, so children are quite likely to want to play in these settings. On one trip this year to Sussex, the children were running around the woods in what was described as akin to ‘Lord of the Flies.’ The woods created hours of fun for the children – it was virtually impossible to get them out of them. There were also numerous hazards – fallen trees, barbed wire, a deep pond. Perhaps surprising that the parents let them play there. A trip to a pine forest in France, led to endless fun with pine cones and pine needles too.
2. That holiday feeling – camping is largely an activity reserved for holidays. Is it that holiday feeling that means parents become less risk averse when camping? Or is it just because ‘that’s what you do’ when camping? I’m not sure, but parents definitely tend to be more laid back. Maybe it’s the fact that they are there supervising their children in some form at least, that they feel more relaxed, and there are less bricks in the way to block sight lines.
3. Cars – oh yes, cars. Those large metal boxes that stop many parents from letting their children play out at home. Of course, cars still abound on most campsites. As do their larger cousins, the caravan and the motorhome. The major difference is that they tend to be driving slowly, and on most campsites I’ve been to it’s very clear that it’s people, not cars, that take priority.
4. Little by little – it’s not usually that exciting to go to the toilet. But for a four year old child on a campsite, when the toilets are a few hundred metres away, this might be their first sense of independence. The parent can let them go on their own, knowing that people (not cars) take priority, hoping they’ll find their way back (and if they don’t, they’re probably in the woods). After a successful toilet trip, perhaps the parent will let them go a bit further next time. To the mini golf perhaps?
5. Sharing – you can fit quite a lot of people on a campsite. At a guess, I’d say they are a similar density to a row of terraced houses, but without the bricks and the private gardens. Most of the space on a campsite is shared, and any parent of a young child will know that apparently ‘sharing is caring.’ This shared space makes it easier to make friends and immediately gives a child more space to roam within the vicinity of their own tent. It also means that natural surveillance is better and there are numerous networks of linked paths between tents to explore. Together, these make some of the ideal features for a child-friendly space.
So there you have it, I think I have the answer to getting children out and about in their neighbourhoods and closer to nature. Let’s all go camping!