Monday, September 15, 2008

Nature's Child

I think and hope we have had our last blast of summertime air in the Northeast. Yesterday’s temps were in the 90’s, but the rest of the week promises to be cooler. As Texas Mommy noted earlier this week, many of us LOVE the fall, and I feel very ready for its arrival.

I am, however, somewhat sad to see the days of summer, and particularly summer days at the beach, come to an end. We spent the 1st week of September at the beach, and it was a very relaxing time. The first week of September is always a last hurrah as we say goodbye to the summer. This year, on the last day, my oldest two children both cried.

With only a bucket, a ball, and a small shovel, children can entertain themselves for hours upon hours at the shore. Charlie (age 2) and Gianna (age 4) would spend their days, diving into the surf, laying in the water pretending to swim, throwing a ball, watching dry sand fall through their fingers, digging a hole, building a castle or a mountain, collecting shells, digging for clams, digging for sand crabs, chasing seagulls, spotting small fish in the water, AND among other things, learning about mussels, crabs, clams, barnacles, and porpoises.

The beach is truly a vacation from the hectic nature of life. It is a break from our Disneyworld culture of fast food, television shows, and bins of plastic toys. Life at the beach is simple and expectations are few. We wear our bathing suits by day, and change into our pajamas in the evening. We run, learn, and play all day on the beach. In the evening, we snuggle up with a good book and go to sleep. The only pressure comes from our children as they ask again and again to return to the beach. I’m sure this simple and relaxing time at the beach compares with a family camping trip, or a trip to a farm. Such vacations provide an amazing opportunity for children, and the parents, to really enjoy nature.

While an occasional family vacation to Disney World or Busch Gardens sounds like a blast (and we do drive to a nearby beach town boardwalk one night of our vacation), I think it better suits the natural creativity of children to spend a family vacation at a beach, lake, farm or camping spot. I might be taking things too far (big surprise right!), but it seems like kids who can’t have fun in nature are probably over-stimulated and over-scheduled. This is a very good reminder to me to schedule abundant outdoor time into our homeschooling curriculum--Charlotte Mason would be proud!

I’d love to hear from our readers about their family trips to these natural vacation spots. Any suggestions for a family thinking about camping for the 1st time? And how young is too young for a camping trip ( and how do you take a baby camping)?


Anonymous said...

We had our first family camping trip this summer with our 2.5 year old and 5 month old. Our strategy was to get out of the house around 10am on Friday and camp close to home (aprox 30 minutes). We spent Friday doing "camping things" like swimming, hiking, playing around the campsite, and roasting marshmallows. This way we played before everyone was tired from a less than fabulous night of sleep in the tent. The baby slept in the carrier during the day and we set a pack and play up in the tent for night. The next morning we made breakfast, packed up camp, and were home by 10-with plenty of time to do laundry, take long naps, and recuperate! I'd do it again in a heart beat! Watching our son's face light up at the "capitillars" and chasing butterflies, digging in the rocks around our camp site...he loved every minute of it. At this stage of our family, a 24 hour camping trip was the perfect length! My advise-try a short trip for your first, not too far from home, have low expectations for sleep, and enjoy every discovery of caterpillars, butterflies, sticks, and s'mores!

Kate E. said...

I can't remember the site but if you search for "camping with young children" or some variation of that there is a great site of this family who has camped with all there kids (I recall they had a whole bunch of them) through the years and gave great advice on what to pack, how to do it, etc.

I totally agree with you about children and nature and these special places where children can just "be".

Something that has always baffled me about our two local playgrounds is that most of the parents there never take their children beyond the playground part. I love playgrounds and I think being outside at all is awesome, but there are wonderful trails and streams and amazing nature to explore just beyond both of these playgrounds.

My son has discovered a "hippo log", looked for fairies under big pine trees, thrown stones in the stream for and hour while I did the crossword puzzle (literally an hour), seen deer, spiders, grasshoppers, caterpillars, butterflies, and lots of friendly dogs. I think more unstructured time in nature is a necessary thing. Great post!

texas mommy said...

I second what Kate E. said. Sometimes exploring in your own backyard is an adventure. Our closest park is right on a greenbelt, and it is all I can do to keep the boys at the park for a few minutes to chat with moms before they want to go explore, throw rocks in the lake, collect acorns, watch bugs, etc.

Thanks, anon, for your tips on camping with little guys. It sounds like you all had a fantastic time and I love that it is less of a commitment than I traditionally associate with camping trips. It makes camping with toddlers sound feasible!

Mary Alice said...

It is funny you should write this, because we thought hard about a surprise trip to Disney World to replace our week at the farm this year, but with hurricanes coming we decided against it.

In the end, as we walked with our kids in the woods, went canoeing, played chess, and John started reading, we realized that a week in the country with parents who are truly present was a much better gift to our children at this stage.

John Farrell said...

Right, which beach did you go to? Our favorite spot is on the southernmost tip of Scituate, aka Humarock Beach. Just 30 miles south of Boston, but far enough away to be a great getaway.

Paige said...

Yes, I too prefer fall as the best season to plan vacation trip.

Right Said Red said...


Sorry not to answer you sooner. I'm not sure I want to give the exact location as the blog is widely read by many people I don't know! Sorry to disappoint! In time, I'm sure my life will be more of an open book and I will reveal these sorts of personal details.

Thanks for reading!


John Farrell said...

Understandable. I tend to forget most people's blogs have more readers than mine does.


texas mommy said...

One other thing I remember someone doing...going to a state park and doing camping stuff all day, then coming home and setting up a tent in their back yard and attempting to spend the night outside. Mom and baby can sneak inside at some point and if the other kids need to, they can as well. Keeps all options open (including access to a bathroom!) Maybe an easy way to break into camping with toddlers.

Anonymous said...

We had a great time this summer camping with our kids (3 and 10 months). Older kids might have been put off by outhouses, but my daughter didn't know enough to be grossed out. We put a big tarp out on the ground for the baby to crawl on and just let him sleep on folded blankets between my husband and I in the tent. Little kids are portable, dirty and adventurous--very well suited to camping.