Do you ever feel like you have to force family bonding time? At home, groans of unhappiness often accompany "distraction-free" family time. After, all, making the kids spend time with you, without the disruption of cell phones, video games or internet, is less than appealing in a plugged-in world.
The fix: take your family camping. While you might have to overcome some initial complaints, camping is one of the best ways to spend quality time with your family. With minimal distractions, and so much to do, your kids won't even realize they're bonding with you.
Here are eight ways to make the most of your trip and ensure plenty of quality family bonding.
Connect With Games
Board games bring out the competitor in everyone, making them a great way for families to bond, in teams and as a group. Bring some family favorites or a deck of cards for down time at the campsite. You can also look for a field to play volleyball, baseball, soccer, and more. Keep everyone together, and see if another family wants to play against all of you.
Create a Nature Scavenger Hunt
A nature scavenger hunt is more than a good time; it's a great way for kids to experience the diversity of the wilderness. Create a list of things to find, such as plants, tracks and trees, and break up into teams. See who can find the items fastest—losers have to make s'mores for the winners.
Become the Fun Teacher
Take advantage of your children's curiosity to have a family bonding experience. Involve them in the chores and prep. Teach them how to start a fire, where to get firewood or how to set up a tent. If you know how to track animals, identify plants or recognize bird calls, take this chance to pass on these skills to your children.
Let Them Lead
When children are in control, they usually stay interested longer. Go through the list of close family-friendly hikes, choose three, and then let the kids decide which one the family should do.
Give Them a Lens
Conventional wisdom tells us to see the world through the eyes of a child. Give them the camera on a camping trip and you surely will. Purchase a disposable camera to avoid damaging expensive equipment and then take your kids to get the photos developed. You can bond over the memories when you see the pictures a few days later.
Use the Campfire
There are few better places for family bonding than around a campfire. After a long day of running around, everyone is ready to make s'mores and relax. Use this time to tell stories, recall family memories, and talk about the day.
The kitchen has long been a place for families to gather, whether to eat around the kitchen table or prep a celebratory meal. So, why not bond in your campsite kitchen? With different tools and cooking methods, it's not only a chance to teach your kids, but an opportunity to create something together that you can't replicate back home.
Nature and music are good for the soul. Combine the two for an experience everyone can enjoy. Bring instruments you have at home, but be sure to construct your own out of natural materials, as well. Who can make the prettiest, silliest or most unique sound?
Jessica Sanders is the Associate Online Editor for ReserveAmerica.com. After many years of camping and hiking in the Northeast, she's exploring what the West has to offer and sharing all of her knowledge with you. She's a s'mores master, campsite connoisseur, writer, runner and lover of all things outdoors. Follow her on Google+.