Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods inspired an international movement to reconnect children with nature. He identified the concept of nature deficit disorder and has led the “No Child Left Inside” movement.
As a child, I was a Girl Scout and camped as part of that program. My family also went on a few camping trips to the beach. But I guess I couldn’t get enough of it because one of my favorite summer activities was throwing a blanket over the clothes line and making a do-it-yourself tent. Before we all got spoiled, I can remember enjoying the sounds of nature at night as I slept with my windows open. But, it was still that much better when I was under the clothes line and nature wrapped itself around me.
I am very involved in our Youth Corps program (see Camping An Affordable Vacation). But I recognize that for parents that may never have been camping or have not been camping in many, many years, it may be a bit intimidating. Here’s my advice:
1. Don’t buy every camping gadget you can find in the store. Most of the items may be nice to have but the great thing about camping is that you don’t NEED very much. Also, since there are different types of supplies, you could buy one brand or one type of say a camping lantern only to realize you would have preferred another model. In fact, to minimize the risk of buying what you don’t really need before you go camping, why not look into renting your camping equipment? Check out Camping Blogger’s Renting Gear Makes Sense for New Campers. This article also links you to another article on non-essential gear.
2. Ease yourself into the experience. Start by making a day visit to a Virginia State Park or instead of camping try one of our camping cabins at Westmoreland State Park, Pocahontas State Park, or Lake Anna State Park, or our rental RVs or yurt at Kiptopeke State Park.
3. Be prepared for electronics withdrawal. Even if you let the kids bring their hand held games, leaving the TV, big game console, and computer at home may be an adjustment. Come prepared with a deck of cards, board games, Frisbee, horse shoes. Or, try some of these ideas.
4. Take advantage of Virginia State Park programs. We offer a variety of programs on the natural world, how to programs like camping 101 or hiking 101, GPS games (intro to geo-caching), arts and crafts, astronomy programs, welcome campfires. (See It’s Fun to Learn at Virginia State Parks).
5. Participate in the Great American Backyard Camp-out. We’ll be letting you know more about this fantastic event for the novice camper as we get closer to the summer.
6. Ask for Help. There are lots of resources. Talk to other campers, ask park staff, and even talk to staff at your local sporting goods store. Check out help and ideas on line by reading the Virginia State Parks blog and other sources like Camping Blogger.