Electronics Have Space on Our Outdoor Adventures

We’re a camping kind of family, it’s our preferred way to spend time outdoors. 

We would go camping here and there just for family events for the first few years of our kid’s lives, but just last year we got really into it. We invested in a camper, good camping supplies, etc., and now it’s easy to get on the road and go when we want to! 

Our camping supply list with kids was simple. It included (but was not limited to): 

Good sleeping gear
Good food
Lots of water
Kid-sized camping chairs
Fishing poles
Sand toys 
Life jackets + water toys (if we ended up near water)

And what felt like the most crucial part of our packing at first? All of the tablets, TVs, cellphones, and extra electronics were left at home or in the truck for the duration of our camping trip. We were going camping as a family to spend time together and enjoy the outdoors, there was no room for electronics! 

The first few camping trips were met with, “Can we watch a movie tonight?!” to which we replied, “No! We are camping! There is no Wi-Fi here, go play in the dirt and rocks!” 

During the next few camping trips, they caught on that movies were not an option, but we found that right before bed they were wild, crazy, and overstimulated. Putting them to bed was a nightmare even though they were SO tired from the day. 

At some point, I came across an Instagram Reel from @thegamereducator and it completely changed my outlook on why my kids were asking about screen time while camping. Watch it here: 

The script is as follows: 

“If you’re having a super fun day or outing or vacation with your kid and they look at you and say this, “Can I watch TV/ play video games later?”, remember what they really mean is this, “Can I rely on our routine today?” 

The caption of the Instagram Reel has a whole slew of more information that I would strongly suggest reading and looking into if you’re curious for more information, as well as the Instagram account as a whole. 

But after learning more from Ash, it made me realize that my kids are simply asking for a movie before bedtime while camping because a movie before bedtime is our routine at home. They’ve just had a really fun day packed full of entertainment and new experiences and what they are craving after a day like that is any sense of normalcy. 

And upon further inspection of my kid’s behaviors, I realized after a long day of camping they were showing signs of overstimulation. But wait! We don’t have any screens while we’re camping, how can they be overstimulated?! The outdoors is supposed to be the fix-all of parenting! If we hike enough and spend all of our waking hours outside, our kids will have everything they need! 

Spoiler alert: screens are not the only things causing overstimulation.

The sun is bright, the river water is cold, camping clothes feel different than our regular at-home relaxing clothes, food can taste different cooked over a campfire, and sand and dirt are in every nook and cranny. These are all different sensory inputs that can cause overstimulation when surrounded by them for extended periods when we’re not always used to them around us constantly. 

The excitement of catching fish can be overstimulating. 

The movement of the camper while walking around or the swishing of the tent in the wind can be overstimulating. 

The unknown of what fun activity or game we’ll come up with for the day can be overstimulating. 

The constant sound of the river running can be overstimulating. 

Screens are not the only overstimulating device out there.  

And after a long day of excitement, adventure, and exploring, my kids are looking for something to ground them, something they can count on, something to help them not feel so overstimulated. And do you know what that something is for them? A show before bed. 

On our most recent camping trip, we packed along fully charged tablets and Nintendo Switch. The first evening we were there we ran around, rode bikes, explored the campground, and did some swimming. Before bed, we grabbed the tablet and watched a movie together. When it was time to sleep, all three kids went down easily, no complaints! I was in awe, but also thought it may have been a fluke. 

On the second day, we had mandated quiet time after lunch for everyone and pulled out a tablet to watch a movie. After quiet time was over it gave us more energy to head outside and enjoy our time again. That evening we lasted outside much longer than normal. 

Later in the evening, we had plans for one parent to take older kids swimming and one parent to stay back to put the baby to bed. I gave my 3-year-old the option, do you want to head back to the camper and play the Nintendo Switch or do you want to come swimming? His initial reaction was to head back and play the Switch! But upon more contemplation, he changed his mind and decided to go swimming. I think he realized that he only had one more evening of swimming but he knew he would have more time with the Switch at home because it’s part of our normal routine. 

After a fun evening of swimming, we went back to camp and everyone joined in on a Mario Kart race on the Switch before bed. Everyone fell asleep without any fighting, yet again. The overstimulation seemed to be at a minimum. 

Our camping trip was full of the outdoors, exploration, swimming, and taking in all that nature has to offer, and it was full of movies, TV shows, and video games. 

And it was the best camping trip we’ve ever had, hands down. 

So now in our camper, electronics are not banned. They have their own shelf space and their own place and time. We enjoy our time in the outdoors and we bring our electronics along. Believe it or not, our world hasn’t imploded yet by mixing the two! It really is beautiful how they don’t have to exist exclusively, but instead, they can coexist. 

Do you bring your electronics on your outdoor adventures? What does it look like for you? 

We Failed At Achieving 1,000 Hours Outside This Year. But in the End, We Still Won

In December of 2021, I came across an Instagram page called @1000hoursoutside. A mom started the account while living in a townhome without a yard and was set on making a better attempt to focus her time and energy on spending time outside with her family. The whole idea behind the 1,000 hours spent outside came from a study done on screen time in children saying the average child spends about 1,000 hours on screens a year, she was trying to flip the narrative and spend this many hours outside instead. While I dislike blaming screens or writing them off completely, I too have found immense value in spending time outside for myself and my children. 

I started tracking our outside hours come January 1st. My youngest son was born at the beginning of January, so during the first week or so of the year we were not able to clock many hours. But once we were home from the hospital, even he got in on the action at only a few days old! 

One of the benefits of tracking our hours for us was the motivation behind it. If we knew we could add more hours to our tracker app to earn badges and see how far we’ve come, it made it more motivating (especially in the colder months!) to get out a little more. Even spending 20 minutes outside adds up eventually! 

Tracking hours may seem arbitrary, and to some, it may be. To us, it gave us motivation and a starting point to see how far we had come. For example, in the month of January, we spent 22 hours outside, but in February we were able to jump to 24 hours outside for the month! It may have only been a 2-hour difference, but it felt like such a big win to us. By March we were up to 36 hours and in April we spent 82 hours outside!! 

In the end, we didn’t end up getting a full 1,000 hours outside. We finished off the year with around 890 hours. But did we fail? 

If we’re only talking numbers, then yes. 

But did we also win? 

We won more family time. 

We won the development of gross-motor skills. 

We won the time spent being curious over snow hills left over in the spring. 

We won more fresh air. 

We won afternoons with friends at the park. And evenings gathered around a fire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. 

We won a balmy spring day by the river, and a hot summer’s day lounging out by our camper. 

We may have lost the number game, but in the end, I think we ultimately won. And next year, we’ll shoot for higher. Not to meet a number from a random statistic in a study, but because time spent outside is never wasted. 

You don’t have to read a blog post or Pinterest quote to see the benefits of spending time outside. You just have to get outside and the benefits will show themselves tenfold. 

The Pure Bliss of Childhood

Their coats are washable. 

The shoes will dry, with time.

Pants can be washed and dried, as well as their bodies. 

Their socks will survive. 

Each and every worry that races in my mind

As they ride and splash and jump

Through every single tiny body of water,

It’s all such a minuscule anxiety

When you’re considering the bigger picture.

The picture that matters more than wet socks

Or muddy bikes

Or tiny cold toes. 

What matters more than all of those combined

Is the absolute bliss

Called childhood. 

Quick, Easy, Doable Activities For Kids Over Winter Break

Winter break is nearing for many families! It is exciting that the holidays are well on their way and we are able to celebrate a great time of the year with family and friends. However… if you’re like me, winter break can also feel very long and sometimes daunting. I’ve found that when my oldest is home from school even just for the weekend, she struggles with not being in the same routine and not having an adult constantly telling her what to do and where to go. Basically, she’s looking for me to entertain her. And with a household to run, food to make for parties, clothes to coordinate for family pictures, presents to wrap, and more, I just cannot add “entertaining my 5-year-old all day every day” to that list. It’s impractical for everyone. So alas, here are a few *mostly independent but can also benefit from some light supervision while you load the dishwasher* activities you can try with your kids, as well as a few family things to do during winter break. (Or is it a few months?? Because it feels that way sometimes.) 

Invite a friend. Now that they’ve been in school for roughly a semester, friendships are more established and planning playdates with peers is easier. People tell me all of the time how nice I am to have so many neighbor kids in and out of my house constantly but to be honest, it really doesn’t make my job as a mom any harder. If anything, it makes it easier! They all play so well together that I can happily supervise their play while I fold laundry and they run from room to room pretending they are being chased by pirates. 

Indoor bowling. Those red solo cups you have stashed away for your next Christmas party? Spare a few for your child to create a tower of cups that they can turn around and knock over with a soft ball. You can also use stuffed animals, nerf guns, or rolled-up socks. Once your kid masters making the tower by themselves, this activity becomes one that can be done by themselves with supervision. 

Paint with water. Always my favorite go-to activity! Construction paper + paintbrushes + cup of water = entertainment. Just remember not to fill the cup of water with too much, in case of a spill. 

Stuffed animal sort. The best part of this activity is that they get to pull ALL of their stuffed animals out into the middle of their bedroom or the family room. And we all know your collection is huge… what kid doesn’t have at least 1000 of them? Once they have all the stuffies out, give them different ways to sort them. Sort by color, sort by size, sort by how many arms and legs they have. There are so many possibilities! 

Winter/ Christmas/ Holiday book-a-thon. Have a basket full of the books you want to read over winter break that stick with a collective theme. Then each night you grab a book and read together before bed. Or first thing in the morning. Or at lunchtime. Either way, it gives everyone something to be excited about each day. You can see our big list of Christmas and other holiday books here! 

Dance parties. We are huge, huge believers in dance parties at our house! They can be used for changing the mood of the day, to kill time, or for those moments when you just need to utilize your gross motor skills. 

Take a field trip. Staying home over winter break can mean a lot of staying indoors and going a little stir-crazy. A field trip for your family can be as simple as a quick run to the grocery store for everyone to pick out a snack, or as extravagant as visiting your town’s aquarium! The goal is to get out and experience something besides the same four walls of your home! 

Get outside. I know, I know. It’s winter. It’s cold. But the benefits are incredible and after some good, quality time outside, you’ll all be refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day. 

Here’s to wishing you good luck in surviving winter break! We can do this together!