Tips for Camping with Kids and Enjoying Family Time in the Outdoors

Camping with kids by a lake

Camping with kids can be an incredibly rewarding and memorable experience for families. Spending time in the great outdoors provides an opportunity to unplug from the distractions of everyday life and reconnect with nature and each other.

But as you know, camping with children can also present some unique challenges that require planning and preparation so it all goes smoothly. In this article, we will provide some helpful tips for camping with kids and enjoying family time in the outdoors.

We’ll give you many tips to help you choose the right campground and the right activities and gear to bring for the ultimate family camping experience. Our hope is to help you make the most of your camping trip and create lasting memories together!

Benefits of Camping with Kids

Camping with kids can be a wonderful experience for the whole family. Not only does it provide a good multi-day opportunity to spend quality time together, but it also offers a range of tangible benefits for your children.

How Can Camping Be Rewarding for Kids?

Young boy on a stand up paddle board

Camping is one of those activities that can be rewarding for kids in many ways like increasing physical fitness, enhancing qualities of self-assurance and independence, and building confidence through accomplishment.

It’s also the perfect way to help them learn about and appreciate the wilderness around them.

Camping for a couple of nights away from home with family can be rewarding for kids as it helps them to get away from the technology they’re surrounded with every minute of the day. It allows kids to take a break from looking at tiny screens so they can appreciate a different side of reality that we all knew as children.

Camping naturally encourages a lot of physical activity. Hiking, swimming, and playing active games outside can reconnect kids with their sense of exploration before they had a phone or game console.

A couple of nights away from home can increase independence and foster better decision-making as many problems and tasks are different from being at home and require new solutions. Kids can learn new ways to cook food, and the value of preparation for the trip. They may even learn about the pain of forgetting important items at home.

Camping with family can ease the stress of living at home because it’s a vacation where the focus is on fun and learning. This can be beneficial for their mental and emotional health.

Lastly, camping can grow a sense of adventure in children. Exploring new environments and trying new things builds confidence and a sense of adventure. Repeated outings can really change a child inside and give them a lifelong appreciation for the natural world around them.

How Can Camping with Kids Be Rewarding for Parents?

Camping with kids by a lakeCamping is certainly a benefit for your kids, but you’ll also be able to enjoy some of the benefits of spending time away from your home, work, and technology.

Camping with kids strengthens family bonds and gives you a way to spend time together that is different from other situations that may be more stressful. It’s certainly less stressful than flying to Paris or Los Angeles for a weekend in the city where you’ll spend a lot of money.

Camping is a budget-friendly excursion that can help you forget about money and the stresses of everyday life at home. Distractions lessen and moods change while spending some time in the wilderness.

It can be difficult these days to really connect with your children with so many distractions and things for them to do at home. Camping takes some of that away and offers an opportunity for parents to focus on creating stronger bonds, stronger connections, with other family members.

Camping introduces you and your kids to a learning environment that is always there and rarely thought about. Exploration during camping outings is one of the most rewarding activities you can do together. It’s doubly powerful when you are both learning about something in nature you’ve never thought about.

Teamwork can increase in the family as the group comes to realize that things get done faster when there are people working together who know what the plan is for activities. Everyone can learn that they have something valuable to contribute in this atmosphere and should be encouraged to speak up to get their needs met.

Parents can also feel a sense of accomplishment as the vacation unfolds. It can be a real challenge to bring the family together to do something like a camping trip and the pride of pulling it off is a great feeling!

Start in the Backyard

Kids around the campfire

What better way to introduce your kids to the amazing world of camping than starting in a very safe place? Your backyard is the ideal camping place because it’s probably safe enough with you there with them. It’s also a cool new place to sleep, and you can go inside anytime they get too afraid or cold or decide they aren’t ready for the great outdoors just yet.

Here are some tips for a positive backyard camping experience with kids.

  • Make a Tent! – Building a tent in the backyard before you go camping somewhere in or near the forest can be a good first step to introducing your kids to the feeling of being on a real camping trip. Ease them into it to help ensure a positive experience when you go do it for real.
  • Make a Campfire – If you can make a campfire in the area you live in, make a small one and introduce your kids to cooking marshmallows on a sharpened stick.
  • Bring Camping Gear – Bring sleeping bags, air mattresses, pillows, flashlights, a pen knife, playing cards, and other camping gear to create an authentic camping experience in your yard that mimics a real camping trip.
  • Bring Things to Do – Bring books, cards, games, or other activities to help keep kids entertained if they get bored.
  • Emphasize Safety – During this practice camping in your yard, you can review basic safety rules about camping and fires, knife use, and make sure kids know they must tell an adult where they’ll be if they go exploring anywhere.

Tips for Overnight Camping with Kids

Leave the Electronics at Home

You may remember a time when you were camping as a youngster and you didn’t have the latest video games, apps, or even a phone on hand. I sure do. When we went camping as kids it was really about getting out into nature and exploring new things.

For a real down-to-earth experience, leave all the electronics at home except some essentials like headlamps and a phone with a good connection for emergencies.

Plan Fun Meals and Snacks

Young Boy Eating Smores

With all that energy being expended, you’ll need to fuel up. Here are some tried and true meals and snacks that will make your camping experience even better.

  • S’mores – A well-known classic camping treat, s’mores are created with graham crackers, roasted marshmallows, and a chocolate bar or chocolate chips (for making cookies). Have kids roast marshmallows over the fire on a sharpened stick and then add them to the graham crackers, sandwiching the chocolate between layers of hot marshmallows. Sure, it’s a mess, but that makes kids love it even more!
  • Trail Mix – Choose types of nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, chocolate chips or M&Ms, or some other candy to mix up and put into individual plastic baggies with a Ziploc closure for each person in your group. Kids can customize their own mixes with their favorite ingredients.
  • Hot Dogs & Hamburgers – Hot dogs are an absolute must on a camping trip! You can cook them on clean foil on a grill at the campsite, or on one you brought. Don’t forget, you can also sharpen a stick and slide them on there the same as you would roast marshmallows. Tell kids to make them nice and dark! Don’t forget kids’ favorite toppings – ketchup, mustard, mayo, cheddar cheese, and relish.
  • Foil-wrapped Dinners – Foil-wrapped dinners either pre-made at home or made on-site and ready to heat over a campfire are convenient and can provide a change of cuisine while camping. Ask your kids to help plan what goes into them with their favorite meat, vegetables, and seasonings. If you’re catching fish, you can always gut them, descale them, and add cut onion or other items for taste. Wrap them in foil with some salt, pepper, and butter.
  • Banana Boat Snacks – Another fun and easy camping treat, banana boats can be made by slicing a banana longwise and filling it with marshmallows, chocolate chips or syrup, and anything else that will make it delicious. Wrap it all in some foil and either cook it on top of the grill or in the fire you can place it on hot coals.

Choose a Campground with Kids’ Activities

Some campgrounds are focused on the family experience and offer a variety of fun activities kids will enjoy. Here are some key activities to look for when planning your camping trip.

  • Hiking – Try to find a campground that is on the edge of nature and that has hiking trails kids can explore with an adult accompanying them. Hiking trails are great because kids can explore the outdoors, learn about nature, and get some exercise in the process.
  • Swimming – A swimming pool or lake where swimming is safe can give kids hours of fun and is especially useful when the weather is hot in the afternoons. Bring floats, or better, life vests for small kids and teach them how to move around in the water on their own. Always supervise young kids even if there is a lifeguard present.
  • Fishing – If the campground has a lake, river, or stream close by then fishing can be an ideal way to spend some time as a family and give them a sense of accomplishment while they’re catching fish. Set the stage so they do catch fish and make it an activity they enjoy for the rest of their lives. I know you know the importance of this activity! Research beforehand whether you’ll need a state fishing license or if it’s private land and no license is necessary.
  • Campfire Storytelling – Gather around the campfire at night and either tell stories you’ve heard or stories you make up. These can be scary or teach a life lesson. If you’re not creative like that, download some videos to your phone and play them for everyone to listen to around the campfire. This is probably something you’ve never done at home, and it can be quite memorable for kids.
  • Scavenger Hunts – You can have your own scavenger hunt or some campgrounds do this as a service with organized hunts. This is a fun way for kids to explore the grounds and get to know where things are. If there are other families there, they may be able to make friends quickly too.
  • Crafts – Some campgrounds really go the extra mile and offer craft activities for kids, like painting, jewelry making with beads and cord, or even tie-dying t-shirts with bright colors. Even if your campground doesn’t have this, you can always bring supplies to give kids something to do on a rainy day.
  • Outdoor Games – Some family-oriented campgrounds have locations for games and even rental gear.  Games like volleyball, horseshoes, basketball, archery or an outdoor climbing apparatus can be a fun way to make new friends.
  • Bike Rentals – If you can’t bring your own bikes, see if you can find a campground that rents them. Even a simple path around a lake can make the entire lake surroundings an extended playground for kids.
  • Movie Nights – You know you’re in the right place for camping if they have a movie night! Ideally, they can set up a projector on a grass or sandy area and show a family movie at night before bed.
  • Eco Classes – Sometimes local biologists or people with a keen interest in teaching kids about the flora and fauna around them teach informal classes outdoors. What better way for your kids to learn about nature than from experts? This is one of our highly recommended services you should search for when you choose a campground!

Tire Them Out

Toasting Marshmallows Over A Campfire

One thing about camping that will become apparent by the first night you’re out there, the kids are going to be wiped out from exhaustion if they spend the day playing and exploring. Why not make that the focus, having them see and do new things?

After all, they’ve explored your home, the area around your home, and the inside of the car. Take them way out of their element and take them on a two-mile hike into the forest to find mushrooms, flowers, fruit and berries, different kinds of trees, and maybe deer, frogs, or other wildlife.

Climbing hills is especially good for tiring kids out and it will give them something to be proud of. The accomplishment of climbing a hill and seeing the view, or even just conquering the hill under their own power feels good and they’ll remember it.

Also, a good view can be part of the reward. You may remember climbing a hill or climbing up something tall when you were younger and feeling like you really did something. I still get that feeling today!

Let Them Explore

It’s probably a good idea to have some structured activities and some unstructured time where kids do whatever they want. A big focus of camping with kids is to encourage them to explore their surroundings and to get interested in things they’ve never seen or even heard of before.

Even structured activities can have a hint of exploration involved.

Make sure to do at least one scavenger hunt while you’re out camping. Give them a list of items they have to find and check off and bring back to see who gets most of the items within 30 minutes. Items like a round rock, sharp rock, dead flower, yellow flower, four-leaf clover, pine cone, old stick, etc., and anything else you can think of by looking around at your surroundings.

A good way to ramp up the excitement and complexity of the game is to assign points to each item. Make rare items worth more points. Keep the time limit under 30 minutes to keep them interested. Make sure there are lots of easy things to find too!

Bring Fishing Gear

Kid Fishing

It isn’t really camping if there is no place for kids to fish! Plan your camping outing at a campground or natural area that ideally has a fishing lake with a pier or bridge the kids can fish at. Do a little research first and make sure there are fish being caught there regularly and find out the rig and bait to use for the best chance at it.

Every child should have their own rod and reel. Other gear can be shared, a shared tackle box they can stock and arrange themselves would be ideal. Small entry-level rods for kids under ten are not expensive and you can probably pick them up for $20 or so. Look for spincasting reels. They are often sold all ready to go, just add a wiggling worm to the hook and drop it in the lake.

Wherever you go, make sure catching fish is possible and that you bring the right bait. Sometimes bread works, balled up on a hook. One bait you can count on to produce bites if you’re fishing in a lake where fish are is small worms. You really can’t go wrong with them for bluegill, perch, and crappie.

Use red and white or other bright-colored bobbers so they can have a visual alert to fish biting as well as the vibration in the fishing rod. Using a light line like 2-4 lb. fluoro or mono will ensure the most bites possible.

Stay away from artificial lures for very young kids under ten as they aren’t likely to grasp the idea and be able to carry out the game plan for casting artificial lures successfully.

Fishing Bait to Bring

  • Small Worms + Big Worms – Small worms will catch small fish, but get some big night crawlers if you have some older kids with better reels/rods that can handle a bass or other freshwater fish.
  • Salmon Eggs – The smell and texture of salmon eggs can be too hard to resist for trout in a lake or stream.
  • Berkley Powerbait and Gulp Alive – Powerbait is artificial bait like moldable foam. You can roll it into balls like salmon eggs, or buy it in pre-made shapes. It is made of brilliant hard-to-miss colors. Gulp Alive! is attractant goo that makes your bait smell good to fish.
  • Bread – Easy to bring along as you’ll probably have sandwiches already.
  • Small Minnows – Get them if you can catch some in a minnow trap or buy some at the bait shop and keep them alive long enough to fish with them.

Bring Bikes

Dad pushing son on a bike while camping

If your kids love cycling, you may be able to bring the bikes along when you go camping. I never had my bike around while camping, but I did take my Raleigh knobby-tires bike up into the forest to ride on the paths all the time around our home.

When you go camping, especially the first couple of times, you should try to make the experience the best it can possibly be so your kids enjoy it and want to repeat it. Camping is a great way to build independence, courage, resilience, and expertise in dealing with the outdoors.

There are so many things to learn and do that they’ve never been exposed to. If you’re not a natural outdoorsman/woman, you can research and learn before you go so you can appear like an expert when you get there!

Give Everyone a “Job” (collect firewood, etc.)

Kids camping

There is no shortage of things that need to be done when you go camping. Help kids learn responsibility by giving everyone a job or task they need to take care of during the trip. Here is a good start for things that need to be done, you’ll surely build on this list for your own trip.

  • Build and take down their own tent.
  • Collect dry sticks, branches, and logs for the campfire.
  • Help start and tend the campfire (with supervision).
  • Assist with meal prep, gutting and removing scales from fish, cutting vegetables, or washing dishes.
  • Keep your campsite clean.
  • Hydration police. Assign someone to keep track of how much water everyone is drinking.
  • Take turns carrying a backpack or other gear on hikes.
  • Camp photographer. Camp videographer.
  • Baby watcher. Someone needs to keep an eye on the toddlers!
  • Keep a daily journal or sketchbook.

Pack Warm Clothes

It probably goes without saying that you’ll need to pack warm clothes if you’re in an area where temperatures get down low. Temperatures can fluctuate between warm and quite cold at night, and if you’re sweating during the daytime, you’re going to need different clothes to sleep in.

Always pack more clothes than you need. Someone always falls into the lake or stream and needs a change of clothes. Someone always gets too muddy or gets sprayed with a skunk!

If it is cold in your area, bring layers of clothes and put the breathable layers next to your skin. Forget about cotton in the cold, it doesn’t dry out quickly enough and can leave you colder than you should be.

Hiking boots, scarf, gloves, mittens, long undies, and changes of clothes, all of these should be on your packing list when camping in cold weather.

Bring Outdoor Games

Kids sliding on a slip and play while camping

Here are some fun outdoor games that can be brought from home to help your kids have a good time while camping.

  • Frisbees – You all know what a Frisbee is. This is one of the ultimate ways to pass time, have fun, and learn hand-eye coordination. Try Frisbee golf if your kids are good at it!
  • Soccer Ball or Kickball – Super fun, especially for groups of four or more.
  • Bocce or Petanque – Fun games from Italy and France where you roll or throw large metal balls toward a smaller ball target. Ideal for sand, grass, or very small pebble surfaces.
  • Ring Toss or Jarts – A classic game that can be played by all ages, and can be set up on any grassy or dirt area.
  • Water Balloon Toss – A fun and refreshing game that’s perfect for a hot day, and can be played in any open area.
  • Snorkel Gear – Make sure there’s a swimmable lake or pool for kids.
  • Telescope – Use during the daytime to spot deer or birds. Use it at night to look at the stars and moon.

First Aid Kit

Don’t forget about a first aid kit when you pack your vehicle up for your great adventure. There are always small scrapes and other minor first-aid problems to deal with.

Here is a great article about common campsite injuries and how to prevent them.

If traveling far from home, you should also take a few minutes to locate the nearest hospital to your camping location.

  • adhesive bandages, sterile gauze pads, tape
  • antiseptic wipes, spray, or Mercurochrome
  • Hydrocortisone cream and antihistamine for insect bites, rashes, and allergies
  • clean, disposable gloves
  • tweezers – splinters, thorns, ticks, stingers
  • scissors
  • thermometer
  • pain meds – acetaminophen or ibuprofen for adults and children
  • SPF 50 sunscreen
  • insect repellent with DEET
  • aloe gel for sunburn relief
  • electrolyte mix for treating dehydration
  • emergency gear for major issues that might require you to stay long-term in overly hot or cold conditions


Camping with kids is filled with benefits for you and your children. It’s well worth your time to start with a backyard camping experience and then move into a more remote camping excursion close to nature and with lots of things for your family to do.

If you’re going to do this, the best experience will take a bit of pre-planning with the focus on making your kids’ camping experiences really fun and something they are eager to repeat again.

The ultimate outcome would be that your family loves camping and does it often. Time spent in the outdoors can help redefine who they are and change their value system.

Camping with your kids can be a doorway to growth that helps them (and you) feel more connected to each other and nature. A win-win for all!


The Ultimate Guide To Fishing With Kids

Fishing With Kids

Fishing with kids can be an important bonding experience for families because it provides an opportunity for family members to spend quality time together in a relaxed and enjoyable outdoor setting. The shared experience of fishing helps to bring families closer together, fosters communication, and strengthens relationships.

While fishing, family members can engage in conversation, share stories, and build memories that last a lifetime. The slow pace of fishing allows for more relaxed and meaningful conversations, which can help to strengthen bonds between family members and promote deeper understanding of each other.

Additionally, fishing can also provide a sense of accomplishment and pride, especially when a family member catches a fish. This can create a shared sense of satisfaction and create a positive atmosphere, further reinforcing the bonds between family members.

Benefits Of Fishing With Kids

Fishing With Kids

Fishing can provide numerous benefits for kids, including physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits. Here are some of the key benefits of fishing for kids:

Physical exercise

Fishing involves physical activity, such as casting a line, reeling in a fish, and hiking to find the perfect spot. This helps to improve motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and provides a form of low-impact exercise.

Cognitive development

Sisters Fishing In A Pond

Fishing requires patience and problem-solving skills, as kids learn how to determine the best bait to use, where to cast their line, and how to set their hook. It also teaches kids about the environment and the ecosystem in which they are fishing, promoting scientific literacy and an appreciation for nature.

Social development

Fishing can be a social activity, allowing kids to spend quality time with family and friends and develop social skills such as communication, cooperation, and teamwork.

Emotional benefits

Fishing can have a calming effect, helping kids to reduce stress and anxiety. The relaxed, natural setting and sense of accomplishment from catching a fish can also boost self-esteem and confidence.

Environmental awareness

Fishing can also help kids understand the importance of preserving and protecting the environment, as well as promoting conservation and responsible fishing practices.

Preparing For A Fishing Trip With Kids

Going Fishing With Kids

Preparing for a fishing trip with kids can be a fun and rewarding experience for both children and adults. Here are some tips for preparing for a successful fishing trip with kids:

  1. Choose the right equipment: Consider purchasing gear specifically designed for kids, such as smaller rods, reels, and tackle boxes. This will help ensure that kids are comfortable and successful while fishing.
  2. Plan the trip: Choose a fishing location that is safe and suitable for kids, and make sure to obtain the necessary licenses or permits. Also, make sure to pack appropriate clothing, food, drinks, and first-aid supplies.
  3. Teach the basics: Teach kids the basics of fishing, including how to cast, reel in, and identify different types of fish. You can also teach them about the importance of fishing regulations and environmental conservation.
  4. Make it fun: Make the fishing trip fun and interactive for kids by incorporating games, telling stories, or having a picnic. You can also bring along toys, books, or other activities to keep kids entertained during down-time.
  5. Be patient: Fishing can be a slow-paced activity, so be patient and let kids take their time. Encourage them and provide positive reinforcement, even if they don’t catch any fish.
  6. Be safety conscious: Make sure to follow all safety guidelines, such as wearing life jackets, supervising kids at all times, and avoiding dangerous areas.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your fishing trip with kids is enjoyable, safe, and memorable. The experience can help foster a love of nature, teach important life skills, and create lasting memories for everyone involved.

Teach the Basics of Fishing to Kids

Proud Kid With A Bass He Caught

Take the time to teach kids the basics of fishing and you just might find that they develop a lifelong love of the sport.

Start with the basics

Teach kids about the different types of fishing gear, such as rods, reels, and bait, and explain their purpose. Show them how to hold and cast a fishing rod and explain the importance of keeping a tight line.

Teach about different types of fish

Explain to kids about the different types of fish they might catch and the habitats in which they live. This can help to build their understanding of the ecosystem and the importance of preserving the environment.

Teach safety guidelines

Make sure kids understand the importance of safety while fishing, such as wearing life jackets, avoiding dangerous areas, and being mindful of the weather and water conditions.

Practice casting

Have kids practice casting and reeling in a fishing rod, with an emphasis on safety and proper technique.

Use bait and lures

Teach kids how to choose the right bait or lure for different types of fish and how to attach it to their line.

Catch and release

Explain to kids the importance of catch and release, which helps to preserve fish populations and maintain the health of the ecosystem.

Be patient

Fishing can be a slow-paced activity, so be patient and let kids take their time. Encourage them and provide positive reinforcement, even if they don’t catch any fish.

Make Fishing Fun For Kids

Fishing With Kids On A Riverbank

Fishing can be a fun and enjoyable activity for kids, but it’s important to make sure that they are engaged and entertained throughout the experience. Here are some ways to make fishing fun for kids:

Incorporate games and activities

Bring along games, puzzles, or other activities to play during down-time. You can also incorporate fishing games, such as casting contests or fish-finding challenges, to make the experience more interactive and enjoyable.

Use colorful and interesting bait

Kids are often drawn to bright colors and interesting shapes, so consider using colorful bait or lures to keep them engaged and interested in fishing.

Get kids involved in the process

Encourage kids to help with tasks such as baiting hooks, casting lines, and reeling in fish. This helps to build their confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Create a sense of excitement

Build up excitement for the fishing trip by talking about the different types of fish that might be caught, and by pointing out interesting birds, plants, and other wildlife along the way.

Encourage exploration

Kids Exploring a Fishing Pond

Fishing can also provide an opportunity for kids to explore and learn about the environment. Encourage them to look for different types of plants, animals, and insects, and talk to them about the ecosystem and the impact that fishing has on the environment.

Make it a social activity

Fishing can also be a social activity, allowing kids to spend quality time with family and friends. Encourage kids to talk and interact with others, and consider bringing along snacks and drinks to share.

By making fishing fun and interactive for kids, you can help to build their interest and love for the activity, as well as create lasting memories and foster a connection to nature.

Final thoughts

Boy Holding A Small Fish

Fishing with kids can be a fun, educational, and rewarding experience for both the kids and the adults, providing them with an opportunity to connect with nature and develop important life skills. 

By teaching the basics of fishing, making the experience fun and interactive, and promoting safety and environmental awareness, parents and caregivers can help to create a positive and memorable fishing experience for kids. Whether fishing alone or with family and friends, the benefits of fishing as a bonding experience and a way to foster a love of nature are numerous and long-lasting.



How to limit screen time

How to Limit Screen Time

Your child’s total screen time might be greater than you realized. Start monitoring it and talk to your child about the importance of sitting less and moving more. Also, explain screen time rules — and the consequences of breaking them. In the meantime, take simple steps to reduce screen time. For example:

  • Eliminate background TV. If the TV is turned on — even if it’s just in the background — it’s likely to draw your child’s attention. If you’re not actively watching a show, turn off the TV.
  • Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. Children who have TVs in their bedrooms watch more TV than children who don’t have TVs in their bedrooms. Monitor your child’s screen time and the websites he or she is visiting by keeping TVs and computers in a common area in your house.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV. Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of the TV increases his or her screen time. The habit also encourages mindless munching, which can lead to weight gain.
  • Set school day rules. Most children have limited free time during the school week. Don’t let your child spend all of it in front of a screen. Also, avoid using screen time as a reward or punishment. This can make screen time seem even more important to children.
  • Talk to your child’s caregivers. Encourage other adults in your child’s life to limit your child’s screen time, too.
  • Suggest other activities. Rather than relying on screen time for entertainment, help your child find other things to do, such as reading, playing a sport, helping with cooking or trying a board game.
  • Set a good example. Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time.
  • Unplug it. If screen time is becoming a source of tension in your family, unplug the TV, turn off the computer or put away the smart phones or video games for a while. You might designate one day a week or month as a screen-free day for the whole family. To prevent unauthorized TV viewing, put a lock on your TV’s electrical plug.

How to limit screen timeBecome an active participant

When your child has screen time, make it as engaging as possible:

  • Plan what your child views. Instead of flipping through channels, seek quality videos or programming. Consider using parental control settings on your TV and computers. Preview video games and smartphone applications before allowing your child to play with them.
  • Watch with your child. Whenever possible, watch programs together — and talk about what you see, such as family values, violence or drug abuse. If you see a junk food ad, explain that just because it’s on TV doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
  • Record programs and watch them later. This will allow you to fast-forward through commercials selling toys, junk food and other products. When watching live programs, use the mute button during commercials.
  • Encourage active screen time. Have your child stretch or do yoga while watching a show. Challenge your family to see who can do the most jumping jacks during a commercial break. Choose video games that encourage physical activity.

It can be difficult to start limiting your child’s screen time. It’s worth the effort, however. By creating new household rules and steadily making small changes in your child’s routine, you can curb screen time and its effects.




Looking in a rain puddle
Connecting Kids with Nature

Children and nature go together—
or should. Recent studies document the importance of introducing children to the natural world, beginning in the early years. Their social, emotional, and physical health depends on this exposure to develop. Humans are hardwired to need nature—because we are part of it. In some communities, children lack access to nature and the freedom to explore local flora and fauna. How can children care about nature if they haven’t experienced it firsthand? Adults must do what they can to ensure that children have those opportunities.

I teach a class of 16 active 4-year-olds. It is early October and today the children are observing a salamander and a common black cricket. Each creature is housed separately in a clear plastic container with a lid. As the children arrive they are immediately drawn to inspect the critters more closely, parents in tow. What is it? they want to know. Parents ask the same question. Comments from the adults play a key role in children’s comfort level. If adults show fear or disgust, they might need to learn about nature too.

Looking in a rain puddle

Being surrounded by nature and natural items provides infinite benefits to children. Nature instills in everyone a sense of beauty and calmness. It exposes us to things that are alive and growing and promotes curiosity and exploration. With an adult as a guide, children can learn about being gentle and respecting living things. Self-esteem can thrive outdoors because nature doesn’t judge people. At a time when bullying is prevalent—even in preschools—exposure to nature can help remind children that the world contains an infinite variety of things and all are important. To observe nature requires patience and quiet watchfulness. Imagination comes into play as children create special places and use natural items to create stories and play. All senses become engaged when children interact with the natural world.


Nature enriches lifePainting daffodils

On any given day in our classroom we may highlight a live creature, but every day each learning center offers natural items. They are intentionally selected to invite children’s interest. We put out natural materials that will challenge and inspire children’s thinking with no set outcome. These have included findings from the beach, forest, and other ecosystems. For example, we added rocks and sticks to the building area, along with an assortment of wooden blocks. Many times rich discussions and experiences grow out of these starting points.

For preschoolers, learning about what is in one’s own backyard is a great place to start. It is where children can get up close and personal with the environment. This kind of learning prepares children for the primary grades, when they will deepen their nature knowledge by learning about the world at large.


Each year I make a tree the focal point of the room to make the classroom feel more like the outdoors. This tree is usually housed in the nature corner, a loosely defined area next to the windows. One year I built a grid-shaped nature wall using tall, thin young trees that I spaced a foot and a half apart. This backdrop provided a canvas on which to display natural items collected by children and teachers, such as birds’ nests, giant leaves, and pinecones, which the children were allowed to touch and examine. Children’s artwork and photos of nature were displayed in the open squares of the grid.

The children felt a strong connection to the nature wall because they had a direct hand in its creation. It told a story about the children in the class. Children often played or read a book near it. By bringing nature indoors, the children’s daily world became richer and more memorable.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Fishing With Kids


There can never be too much nature inside a classroom. It is the antidote to the fast-paced, stressful world in which many young children live. Equally important, it encourages an appreciation of the natural world on which we depend. As an educator, it is my job to help children connect with nature in as many ways as possible. Over the years I have seen the numerous benefits from this relationship. The primary benefit is that children become better observers and feel more connected to the outdoors. I’ve also witnessed children with challenging behaviors focus for extended periods of time when exposed to the natural world. Their curiosity is piqued by what is around them. All children can benefit from exploring and spending time in nature. TYC

Keeping an Eye on Screen Time

Keeping an Eye on Screen Time

Guide aims to help parents set boundaries for kids and devices

September 15, 2015
First there was too much TV, then computer and video-gaming addictions. Today, the proliferation of smart screens gives kids a three-in-one box, portable enough to be watched from anywhere, out of sight of watchful parents. Steven Gortmaker, professor of the practice of health sociology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been studying how we have used and sometimes abused screen time since the 1980s, when he published one of the first studies linking TV watching to obesity. He recently applied the same scrutiny to an ever-present concern for 21st-century families, publishing with Kaley Skapinsky an online parents’ guide titled “Outsmarting the Smart Screens.”


Keeping an Eye on Screen TimeGAZETTE: What are the potential negative effects of too much screen time?

GORTMAKER: We’ve been studying this issue for a long time. The first article we did on the topic was back in 1985. That looked at the relationship between changes in television viewing time and changes in rates of obesity among children and youth in a large national data set. That was the first study to establish a fairly substantial relationship there, and the mechanisms have since been studied a lot.

Children who watch more television have higher rates of obesity. It’s related to marketing, via television, foods that contribute to obesity — for example, sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food. Children also tend to be inactive during that time, but it’s the food marketing that drives most of this relationship. The experimental studies, including randomized trials, documenting this relationship continue to grow, and it is very clear you can reduce viewing time and improve health outcomes.

We’ve also done research on the use of other types of screens. The most recent study … looked at children who have access to small screens — for example, a smartphone. Children with access to small screens had less sleep. The mechanism is simply that the screens tend to keep kids up at night.

These are just two of the health-related effects of screen time. Technological change has driven things, first with television — the lack of control of TV marketing to kids — then the growth of personal computers and video gaming, and now the growth of smartphones. It has led to a huge proliferation of devices that can engage children for many hours a day.

Beyond the health effects, more than anything else when children are young, they need to spend time with real people: other children and adults. So we are very interested in helping parents lower the dose — not necessarily to ban technology, but just lower the dose so children don’t spend their entire days with televisions, computers, video games, and now smartphones.

GAZETTE: Is back-to-school a time that parents should begin thinking harder about this, with screen time competing with homework and activities?

GORTMAKER: If you want to use the words of behavioral economics, parents are concerned about the “transaction costs” of trying to rein in and lower the dose of these devices.

Parents are often reluctant to intervene and limit their children’s screen use because they believe they will have to monitor what the kids are doing, figure out when the time is up, and then convince the child to end the activity.

That’s why we wrote this guide. There’s now lots of software and hardware available to make it really easy for parents to lower the dose — at very low transaction costs. However, few parents are now using these options, which we consider a shame because it actually makes parenting in this area a lot easier.

GAZETTE: Can you talk a little about some of the tips you think might be useful to parents?

GORTMAKER: One that’s pretty simple revolves around use of computers and iPads and the like. Typically they will come with parental controls that allow you to set blockout times when these devices can be used and can’t be used, let’s say at night, when you want children to be sleeping.

Other controls are available for different types of television screens and video games. There’s a device called TV Bob — there used to be an earlier version, called TV Allowance — where each child gets a four-digit code and it basically just controls power to the screen. When they want to use it, they enter their code — you set a total amount of time each week and you can set blockout times. The great thing about this device is you don’t have to do any monitoring after that point. When it gets shut off it isn’t you shutting it off, it’s the device shutting it off. It works really well, particularly with younger children. You don’t want to try and start using it with a teenager.

GAZETTE: So instead of having the battle of shutting it off and the headache of trying to track the time …

GORTMAKER: The transaction costs there are enormous and that’s why I think parents shy away from this area of parenting, because it just seems hopeless and impossible, but the technology actually makes it quite simple.

GAZETTE: And you can save your energy, as a parent, for other fights?

GORTMAKER: Exactly, but again all this is much easier if you begin setting these limits when children are young. For our children we began around first grade. I admit, I just don’t see the utility of children spending an average of three to four hours a day sitting in front of the TV when there are so many more interesting things to do. It’s also useful to give children time to get bored a little bit, so they can be creative.

GAZETTE: Are there other things parents can do?

GORTMAKER: Parental control of smartphones is more complicated. One of the reasons we wrote this guide is we wanted to get other researchers and people in the technology industry thinking about these issues, because the smartphone is a complicated area. We note in the guide that Steve Jobs was quoted in The New York Times, when running Apple, as saying “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” But right now smartphones don’t have much in the way of parental controls.

We did hire a couple of smart adolescent computer coders to create software, called Lockwork, that works with Android phones. You can set a total amount of time per week when the smartphone will be a smartphone, and you can also set blockout times, and then times when it’s not a smartphone. It turns into what you might call a dumbphone, where the holder can call their parent, 911, or another number that you decide on.

It’s another way, again, not to get rid of the technology but to lower the dose and set limits. Apple devices don’t have any software like this available. For their computers they have nice parental controls, but not for their smartphones. For Android devices, Lockwork, in this beta version, is something that some people have found useful. It’s something that will work 24/7.

I think smart screens have been a source of confusion for a lot of parents. On the one hand, they want their children to be technologically savvy, but on the other hand they haven’t wanted to get involved in trying to control devices because of the perceived costs. Again, I think it’s really a question of dose. It’s not that hard to use technology to set some limits on smart screen dose, and this can benefit both children and parents.



The key to getting kids outdoors is making it fun! That’s not easy when you are competing against video games, iPads, smart phones and 4k TV, but with the right attitude and some help from gift ideas that encourage outdoor play, it is totally doable.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 gift ideas to encourage outdoor play!

Top 10 Gift Ideas to Encourage Outdoor Play

1. Bicycle

When I was a kid it was all about the bike! We would ride everywhere and couldn’t wait to get out of school and ride somewhere. It is great exercise and also promotes responsibility and freedom which every kid need a little bit of. Remember to keep bikes size and age appropriate and encourage your kids to ride daily.

2. Binoculars

Binoculars are such a cool gift for kids because they associate them more with adults. Binoculars are great for bird and wildlife watching and they can also come in handy when playing outdoor games. When the kids are small stick to binoculars that are under $25, but once they get to be around 12 or so you should make an effort to get them “real” binoculars to keep them interested and to show them that you think they can handle the responsibility. Visit for a fantastic guide to choosing binoculars.

3. Fishing Gear

Fishing and kids go hand in hand. There is no more pure outdoor fun than taking a kid fishing and your son or daughter will be thrilled to have their own rod, reel and tackle box. Not to mention that it will be a great excuse for you to spend the day developing your relationship with the next generation of outdoorsman and women.

4. Gardening Gear

I remember my first garden from when I was a kid. My grandfather and I cultivated the soil and planted vegetable and I would water the garden everyday and check for growth. After a couple of weeks I kinda got bored and stopped checking the garden. A few weeks later my Grandfather came to me and said, “You haven’t been to the garden in a while, maybe you should check it and make sure everything is ok”. I went to check the garden and there, before my eyes was this huge, beautiful watermelon! I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited! I didn’t find out until years later that Gramp had bought the watermelon and put it in the garden to rekindle my love of gardening. It worked!

5. Magnifying Glass

This is a great gift for the smaller kids! Take the time to help them find cool things to examine. Make sure that it is a quality magnifying glass with a big, glass lens!

6. Camera

Taking pictures in the outdoors is exciting for kids because they feel like they can then bring it inside with them. While you can buy a camera for your kids, I have found that an old smartphone works great for this. It really seems to connect with kids that phones are a valuable outdoor tool and not just technology that you use inside.

7. Microscopes

A microscope is a very cool gift to encourage outdoor play. The number of things that you can look closer at is endless. This gift is obviously for the slightly older kids, although young kids can have fun with sufficient adult supervision.

8. Flashlights

Flashlights sound simple enough, but they can be an awesome gift for nighttime adventures outdoors. Think nighttime walks in the woods or even night crawling. Night crawling is a great activity for kids of all ages. What is night crawling? It is the act of finding large earthworms as they crawl out of the ground and on to the surface at night. It works best in the summertime after a rain. You just sneak along with a flashlight and grab the nightcrawlers before they can get back in their hole.

9. Metal Detectors

This a great gift for older kids that don’t have a lot of outdoor ambitions, but love to explore! There is nothing as exciting as digging up something of value after your metal detector goes off. They are a little expensive, but a great tool for getting our kids out from in front of their screens and out into the fresh air.

10. Sandbox

A sandbox is a great place for young kids to dig and play. One can be constructed fairly easily and inexpensively from simple lumber and filled with sand. My kids spent hours playing with trucks and shovels in their sandbox when they were young.


There you have it, 10 awesome gift ideas that encourage outdoor play. These gifts will have your kids playing outdoors for hours and fostering a love of the great outdoors!