I will admit it. My kids don’t always get along.
If yours do, I want your secret.
So just between us: As much as I like to post beautiful pictures on Facebook of my boys cuddling together reading, the reality is that these moments are typically book-ended with blood-curdling shrieks and angry growls that could easily serve as sound effects for a horror movie. Don’t tell anyone.
But, have you ever noticed that kids seem to get along better in natural settings?
As we enter another season of colds, croup, bronchitis, and this year, a new addition to our viral and bacterial family, walking pneumonia, I sadly lament the demise of autumn days where we could easily slip into the woods for a relaxing walk.
That said, we just returned from a holiday down south, designed to escape the dreary Canadian November weather. We thought, naively enough, that a constant stream of entertainment would be sufficient to distract the boys from their typical battles. We planned the perfect trip and eagerly anticipated a delightful week together as a family. Oh, the fairy tales we parents tell ourselves. A combination of upset schedules, crowds, the unaccustomed sharing of sleeping quarters, constant excitement and a sickening surplus of sugar (due to a serious lack of available healthy food) was a recipe for disaster. It did appear, however, that almost all of the arguing occurred in the hotel room.
So, why does camping work? Lots of these factors are still present while camping. Marshmallows are delicious cylinders of pure sugar after all.
One study I read (Dyment and Bell 2008) found that natural play areas promote inclusion and cooperation. There are also plenty of other studies that demonstrate pro-social behaviour in children as a result of natural settings. It could be a result of our evolutionary roots, and a desire to establish territory. When space is not at a premium, children can carve out their own places and materials for play. In my experience at home, or in a cramped hotel room, personal property and space are the most frequent causes for dispute.
Natural areas are well-known to reduce stress and improve general psychological well-being (Kaplan 1995), so it would naturally follow that people can get along better in them. I have previously noted that adults seem to be more pleasant in campgrounds.
So, camping is good, but you typically have to wait until summer, and hope that it doesn’t rain. A tent is even smaller than a hotel room. I think we will wait a few years before trying any long car trips.
To all you desperate Buffalo parents trapped in your houses under mountains of snow with your children: You have my sympathy.
Kaplan, S. (1995). The urban forest as a source of psychological well-being. Urban Forest Landscapes: Integrating Multidisciplinary Perspectives. G. A. Bradley. Seattle, WA, University of Washington Press: 100-108.
Dyment, J. E. and A. C. Bell (2008). “”Our garden is colour blind, inclusive and warm:” Reflections on green school grounds and social inclusion.” International Journal of Inclusive Education 12(2): 169-183.