A weekly column by Catherine Dugan. This week: The Great American Backyard Campout.
Worried your family spends too much time before TV and computer screens? Consider taking the kids camping. According to the National Wildlife Federation, camping is “the ideal solution for today’s indoor kids” because it “helps children grow lean and strong, enhances creativity, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance. Bottom line – healthier, happier kids.” This year, the Nature Center of Cape May and New Jersey Audubon joined the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout on June 26 and invited the public to spend the night in their backyard. Naturalists Kim Hannum and Sue Slotterback organized the event.
The program quickly filled up. If camping in your own backyard with a couple of kids is fun, camping with MORE kids is even MORE fun. After a few ice-breaking activities – making flags to mark our tents, tasting pickleweed plucked from beach – the group began to gel. Carl Behrens, who usually earns more than a couple of s’mores for his talents, strummed his guitar and sang around the campfire. New friendships were cemented with marshmallow goo.
Then the kids took charge of their own fun, just as their parents did way back when. Hide-and-seek in the dark outside is still a great game, especially if you’re small enough to blend in with a picnic bench by stretching out on it. Catching lightning bugs is still a thrill. Flashlights and cameras still create mysterious combinations. And a full moon is still a great backdrop for a ghost story.
In this on-demand culture, camping teaches patience and planning. You have to plan dinner before you’re hungry, and pitch the tent before you’re sleepy. You have to work: you can’t slide into your chair, hand still warm from the television remote, just as dinner hits the table. Even little campers have to help out, carrying their own gear and gathering sticks for kindling.
Sure, camping has its drawbacks. In close quarters you hear your neighbor’s snores and fussy children, but you also hear giggles and lullabies. You learn that Listerine is an effective insect repellent, that crabs taste better cracked over a bucket and shared, and that the number of marshmallows you roast never equals the number you wish to eat. Make a memory – take the kids camping!
Next week: Cape May’s Sixth Annual
Designer Show House