Archive for Camping and Health – Page 2

Families That Play Together Stay Together … So Let’s Go

How many of you rush to relax with your family? Do you work till 5 or 6 pm, only to come home and make dinner, followed by time spent making sure the kids have done their homework while helping those who haven’t? What time is it then? 8 or 9 pm? Then weekends … between doing chores and driving the kids to their extracurricular activities, when do you have time to stop and relax and just have fun with your children?

Studies show that when families actually plan family leisure activities like camping and let go of all the rushing, they experience increased family satisfaction (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2003) and improved communication (Huff, Widmer, McCoy, & Hill, 2003). The family as a whole even becomes more effective (Wells, Widmer, & McCoy 2004).

As we approach spring and summer—prime camping season—plan your next family campout. And when you get there, let everything else go—no more work or school or errands … just you and the ones you love. Play, relax, and have fun!


Zabriskie, R.B., & McCormick, B.P. (2003). “Parent and child perspectives of family leisure involvement and satisfaction with family life.” Journal of Leisure Research, 35(2), 163–189.

Huff, C., Widmer, M., McCoy, K., & Hill, B. (2003). “The influence of challenging outdoor recreation on parent-adolescent communication.” Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 37(1), 18–37.

Wells, M. S., Widmer, M. A., & McCoy, J. K. (2004). “Grubs and grasshoppers: Challenge-based recreation and the collective efficacy of families with at-risk youth.” Family Relations, 53(3), 326–333.

Nature and Movement Stimulate Neurological Growth

Nature and movement stimulate growth. Not just muscular growth, but neurological growth. When we experience and move our bodies in nature, we are taking in through our senses varied stimuli, and we are moving our bodies in relation to these stimuli. We are unconsciously learning something about ourselves and developing a deeper identity.

Research on the brain and nature conducted by the University of Michigan shows that after walking in a nature environment, people have better concentration and memory than those who walk down a city street. When we are overburdened by too much information, we make more impulsive choices. Daily life devoid of the calm of nature can lead to more habitual behaviors that keep us stuck in the status quo. When our brains are quieted by nature, reduced stimuli, and more natural rhythms, there is an opportunity to make different decisions that lead to personal growth and greater life satisfaction. It is totally different from the passive experience of watching television or being overstimulated by shopping in a mall.

Giving this gift to our children on a regular basis creates an opportunity for a healthy identity to arise. The more rich and rewarding experiences a child has with her family (where she feels most safe), the more curious and capable she will become. Not just because she learned how to cook a hot dog over a fire, but also because her creative self was given the opportunity to experience and move in her own unique way. She got to attend to what was interesting to her, do something with it, and share it with others. Perhaps she finds the stream of water near the campsite intriguing, enjoys whittling a piece of wood into an arrow, likes watching the squirrels chase each other while gathering nuts, or simply tends the fire while lost in thought. Whatever her natural inclinations, camping offers a way to enrich her understanding and experiences of those interests.

Family Ritual and Routine Correlates with Lower Mental Illness in Teenagers

Numerous studies point to the benefits of family traditions. Regular family dinners were shown to be a consistent factor in the family life of Rhodes scholars. Research shows family ritual and routine correlates with lower mental illness in teenagers.

According to one of the largest federally funded studies, “Teens and Their Parents in the 21st Century: Trends in Teen Behavior and the Role of Parental Involvement,” family dinner times reduce teenagers’ risks of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, smoking, and early sexual behaviors. Routine creates predictability, which is critical for children. Ritual creates meaning and consolidates an experience into a memorable moment to identify with throughout life.

Planning the menu can be the first ritual of a family campout. Letting everyone pitch in ideas and list their favorite foods kicks off the fun. You begin to anticipate the enjoyment of the trip. Shopping, packing the car together, making a bag of snacks for the drive, and picking out the music for the road trip all increase the excitement. Then the family hops in the car, feeling free as a bird. The vacation has begun, and you have everything you need to relax into a rich and rewarding experience.