What camping teaches kids

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Written by Kara Anderson

Sometimes I get kind of crazy ideas, and then later freak out about those ideas.

In the first episode of this season, I shared how we were doing a camping/survival/outdoors unit study – it seemed like such a good idea because my kids were so into it.

But then one night I woke up around 4 a.m. thinking to myself that camping is not school, and maybe I needed to scrap the whole thing and buy some math textbooks and finally learn the Timeline Song.

Luckily, what I’ve learned about kid-related -4 a.m.-panic-wake-ups is that the next day, my kids usually do something great that reminds me that we’re OK; and that probably my kids will not end up as Baby Drivers.

That happened – and so I decided to double-down and we booked a cabin for our first-ever Anderson Family Camping Expedition.

We didn’t get crazy – there was a gas station 2 minutes away from the campground, and our cabin had an air conditioner.

BUT, it was the perfect start for us and guess what – it showed me that kids (and adults, ahem … ) really can learn a lot from camping.


Camping is critical thinking

Camping is basically a series of considered decisions, from what to bring, to where to put a tent, to how much water to use for what purpose.

You have to think out camping in a way we don’t encounter in everyday life. At home, you have access to unlimited supplies, and you probably already know where your house is.

Kids can be involved in each decision, especially if you camp close to home and have access to “back-up” resources if things don’t work the way you planned. (There was plenty of that on our first trip!)

Camping is Problem solving

What if the fire isn’t lighting? What if it rains and all your wood gets wet? (Um, yup – lesson learned.)

What if the pancakes stick to the pan? What if you have to go to the bathroom at 3:30 a.m.?

That leads me to …

Camping fosters creativity

Paper plates make good emergency kindling.

There are SO MANY uses for a liquid measuring cup.

When you find yourself without what you need, creativity blooms.

It breeds independence

Something kind of cool happens when kids realize they are surviving based on their own skills: They suddenly become not just more independent, but more confident.

I’ve been noticing that since we started this unit study – giving my kids responsibility has helped them become so much more responsible.

It helps kids learn about disappointment

When you’re cooking over an open flame, your grilled cheese might turn out half raw and half burned.

When it rains, it might not just wake you up, but it might change your plans for the day.

Camping is a very roll-with-the-punches experience. This can be tricky for some kids, but it can also help less-than-flexible kids learn how to deal when things don’t go the way they were hoping.

It helps with perfectionism

Things just aren’t going to be perfect when you leave home behind and embrace the (mini) wild.

There will be spiders, and you will bribe them with a marshmallow in exchange for not crawling in anyone’s ears while you sleep.

You will eat just-ok food, or drink sort of weak, cold tea.

You will get by, and learn that getting by is OK.

You’ll learn to survive. Sort of.

Kids will learn important skills like careful rationing and that you’ve got to protect your fire wood or else find another way to eat and stay warm.

If you keep camping, and keep upping the ante, you’ll learn a lot more about survival, of course, but I had the thought while we were camping that with recent hurricanes and wild fires, it is good to be aware of what your family really needs to get by.

It teaches perseverance

Camping if all about getting creative, overcoming and figuring things out.

In a controlled environment, I think that’s super fun.

I’m also realistic enough to realize that we’re not ready to hike the Appalachian Trail quite yet.

BUT, we learned a lot and had a ton of fun, and I loved the closeness this experience fostered.

And I’ve learned that that alone is worth a lot.

Ready to go camping? You might want to invest in a few fun things:


Be sure to listen to:


The sisters are back for season 3, and today, they’re chatting how to teach your kids survival without setting your house (or chicken coop) on fire.

They’re also sharing their thoughts about homeschooling this fall, and lots of fun resources including Epic! which is offering a coupon code for listeners.

The girls are thrilled to be back for a brand new season- they’ve missed all their virtual sisters out there!!


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6 thoughts on “What camping teaches kids

  1. Helena says:

    I am going to preface this with a disclaimer: I am not an expert camper and I don’t consider myself outdoorsy. That said, I and two other moms ended up taking over my daughter’s Girl Scout troop last year, and because of that, I had to learn to camp (in a cabin, I have no idea how to pitch a tent yet), and you are so right: it turns out that some of the skills you need to camp successfully also come in quite handy when you’re dealing with an extended power outage after a hurricane. Cooking outside, camp dishes (paper plates are good, but sometimes there’s a pot or pan to wash still), camp potties (we’re on a well–no water if no power), how to stay cool without AC, how to get a good campfire (or debris bonfire) started, etc. I still don’t love camping, but knowing how to do stuff gives me confidence the same way it does for my kids, which is a heartening thing in some situations.

  2. Lee says:

    Is that Tazo Passion tea in the blue mug?? And I love the tea kettle! I also love camping. I’ve heard of Walking Tacos — do you eat them with a fork? Just tip the bag up and pour them in your mouth?
    Keep up the great podcasts!!

    • Kara says:

      It’s Tazo English Breakfast! ? And if I ate Walking Tacos, I would use a fork for sure. But I know at least one person in this house who would probably just “bottom-of-the-chip-bag” it. ?

  3. Hamilton says:

    Thanks for the reminder about how awesome camping is! The gang, (7 year-old, 5 year-old, and 3 year-old), and I have got to get back out again soon! For me it’s like a vacation. You’re right, the kids have a blast being responsible, they setup and tear-down camp. They also go right to sleep when the sun goes down. Me? I get to take it easy!

  4. Erin says:

    This is an insightful blog post. I look forward to family camping trips once my youngest is a bit older. (Note: your links are broken for the bullet-pointed supplies and books)

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