Nature is a wonderful teacher. It allows kids to make mistakes – BIG HAIRY MISTAKES (at least in your child’s view…and possibly your own 😉 ) – and if your child is really listening, which they often are in nature, they can learn BIG TIME!! Take my recent camping trip to an island on the Great Barrier Reef. Just enjoying some stay play explore time over four days allowed my daughter to learn some very important lessons (minus the parental nagging)…….
Walking barefoot for four days on an island where most of the beach is coral rubble is BAD for your health.
Trust me, I did try for the first two days, in fact ‘insist’ that footwear should be used. I mean how hard is it to wear thongs? But my daughter baulked BIG TIME. Even after seeing me get something dug out of my own foot within the first 24-hours.
So how does anyone truly learn? Only when you experience it for yourself (in most cases anyway). On our final day, my daughter could hardly walk and her feet were a mass of tiny cuts and yes, some sores that were close to becoming infected.
Thankfully, back home and with the right care and attention we got on top of it. Fingers crossed, she has learnt the importance of wearing something on your feet, particularly in environments like these.
For Child – Take care of your body – wear shoes to protect your feet, particularly when underfoot its extremely rough, and can cause damage. You may even get to play for a little longer.
For Mum – Pay more attention. Make sure your child is completely comfortable with the items they’ve packed to go camping with. Also have a good first aid kit on hand when things don’t go quite to plan.
[Side Note: I since learnt that the thongs we packed were her favourites and she was afraid of leaving them behind somewhere whilst playing.]
Twice my daughter did things that I personally didn’t feel she wasn’t ready to do, at least not without close parental supervision anyway. However, I stood to one side and let her test out these boundaries by herself (mainly because my foot was seriously hurting and I wasn’t very mobile).
The first ‘test’ was paddling out on some inflatable kayaks to a mooring at least 100-metres or more offshore. Granted she was with three other kids of the same age (11-years) and they were all strong swimmers but none of them had lifejackets on (I know, I know…..Bad Mum).
All I saw was the possibility of strong currents and the thought there could be ‘bigger’ critters lurking further out. Sharks on the reef don’t bother me but I know they bother my daughter and all you need is one child to freak out…..how would they all handle that?
As luck would have it they did see something that freaked them all out. A stingray swam past the mooring buoy (remember these kids have all grown up with their wildlife hero, Aussie Steve Irwin, being killed by a ray’s barb). So yes, it freaked them out big time. BUT they banded together and they worked out how to get back to shore fast. A whole lot faster than they got out there at any rate.
Back on land they realised that that the ray wasn’t chasing them and that it was possibly more scared than they were. Ecstatic about surviving their ‘near death’ experience, they then proceeded to paddle out and back three more times…until they were physically exhausted.
[Side Note: We did have a boat moored near the beach whilst the kids were attempting their ‘paddle’ expedition.]
The second ‘test’ for my daughter was climbing a mountain with her friend. The mountain in question was more of a rocky point at the tip of the island, but it did have some seriously big drop offs and a very scary path to the top. Plus there was the added thrill of sunset occurring within the next hour when she decided to climb.
So how did I have nerve to let an 11-year old scale this precipice without any adult in attendance and have enough confidence that she’d be back before it turned dark. I must admit this was her third time up the hill and even though I wasn’t entirely comfortable with her going, my coral wound made it hard for me to get up the top and back before nightfall.
Knowing this would be her last chance to scale the ‘mountain’ I gave her a thumbs up and thankfully she took it carefully (and made it back before dark).
For Child – I can trust myself to do Big Hairy things that challenge my comfort zone…and succeed!
For Mum – My child can be trusted to make WISE choices and take care of themselves, even in seemingly dangerous environments.
Despite the often heard Great Barrier Reef protocol of ‘no touching’ that tourism companies and official organisations promote, I actively encourage my children to explore via touch (within reason).
It’s all very well letting kids ‘look’ at things but I believe that by utilising all their senses they can gain so much more…..PLUS it’s hell of a lot more fun for them than just being fed info and letting them ‘look’ at stuff.
My daughter and her friends played and caught crabs, mud skippers, sea cucumbers and sea stars, and they even found a Mantis Shrimp in the shallows (infamous for their ‘thumb-splitting’ abilities). What’s even worse, we left them to play with these poor defenceless critters alone without parental supervision!
And yes, unfortunately two mud skippers and one sea cucumber lost their lives during our island stay – but the devastation on the kids faces when they realised they had pushed these animals too far was worth the losses. They learnt the hard way how to recognise when an animal was stressed and best of all they actively discussed and debated when the best time was to release the critters and catch something new.
For Child – I can recognise how an animal acts when stressed and I know what happens if you don’t take action.
For Mum – I can trust my child to make good choices when handling living creatures. I trust that through their interactions with the reef and its creatures they are more likely to act as guardians and treat this environment with respect.
I asked my daughter if there was anything else she learnt during our island camping adventure and she said YES!!!
“When you’re with a bunch of kids you can have all sorts of fun and there’s always lots to do.”
Ultimately, nothing beats letting your kids spend plenty of time outdoors in nature. Time spent outside, away from screens and devices, will get your kids exploring, playing and learning naturally. Watch the video below for a snapshot of the FUN the kids had (shot & edited by Tomoyo Kuwabara)
As you can see from the video, it also helps create confidence and resilience, and encourages creativity. PLUS the social connections and awareness that occurs when kids get together like this are worth their weight in gold…You’d be surprised what children can accomplish without direct adult supervision.
Camping with like minded families helps kids create their own adventures without the need of an adult hovering over them 24/7. It also means you may be able to enjoy some ‘chill’ time too.
Who LOVES camping with their kids? Who agrees that the opportunity to Stay Play & Explore is the best part?
Are you keen to WIN a camping adventure on the beach front in North Queensland??
Rollingstone Beach Front Caravan Park are sponsoring a PRIZE for some beachfront camping for a family at their Big 4 Holiday Park (just north of Townsville, Queensland). Just COMMENT and SHARE this post with your friends or family – AND don’t forget to add your name to this Facebook post –
or comment below to be in the draw……(competition finishes 17th Nov 2017).
If you’ve been inspired to go camping on Russell Island then check out this Blogpost for more details >> 5 Great Barrier Reef Tours that offer a Sleepover.