Life on a campsite is tailored for children, so there’s never a dull moment from the instant you arrive at your pitch. They love the freedom, the space to run around and explore. And of course there’s plenty of opportunity for getting slightly grubby – and the chances of a bath are slim which is even better news for most under 12s.
For parents, it’s reassuring to see your little treasures sleeping soundly after a day spent running around in the fresh air. That’s far more preferable than seeing them hunched over a hand-held device in an airless bedroom.
And of course, as parents we all fancy the idea of a child enjoying the ‘fun and ice creams’ side of the holiday while also learning a little about the big wild world and the forces of nature, meeting flora and fauna close up, interacting with others and perhaps taking on a little social responsibility.
So what's the appeal of camping with kids?
Campsites are a natural playground Whatever their age, children just love camping holidays. They enjoy the fun and novelty of it all and there’s a safe environment with plenty of other children to play with. Within reason, and with sensible precautions, campsites are a natural playground for youngsters with loads of space for riding bikes, roaming free and just being… well, children.
Children’s clubs Many campsites, especially on the continent, organise free children’s clubs and activities. Mostly in high season, these are usually free and are multilingual (not that language barriers ever seem to be a problem among children) and might range from sports tournaments to fancy dress competitions, talent nights or treasure hunts, depending on the ages of the kids. Some campsites lay on family entertainment like themed evening meals, magic shows, face painting, music and family discos.
Activities for the active Children want action and there’s nowhere better to find it than on a campsite. Campsites usually offer a range of activities. Depending on where you are, you might find pony rides, cycling or minigolf for the younger ones and perhaps windsurfing, tennis or archery for the older ones.
There are, of course, natural attractions from the magical contents of enticing rock pools to the local friendly squirrels and colourful birdlife.
Offsite activities Campsites are a great base for exploring the local area and trying new things. Reception staff can point you in the direction of the best beaches, cycling routes and attractions, so you’re never far from a fresh adventure. Children respond well to being given purpose and quickly get enthusiastic. Digging for fossils on the Jurassic Coast is always a winner.
Animal magic We all know kids love animals. And campsites, with plenty of space and often in rural locations, are ideal as a home for farmyard animals such as chickens, goats, donkeys and ducks. It is not unknown for the most popular feature on some campsites to be the small animal enclosure, not the state of the art pool complex with all its waterslides and water-based excitement.
Learning new skills On a camping holiday, it’s surprisingly easy to pick up new skills or develop an interest in a new pastime. Many campsites near lakes or the beach are not far from watersports centres where you try your hand at sailing or windsurfing.
In certain areas like Cornwall, the Landes in south-west France or Portugal surfing is available on the doorstep. In the Peak District, you might try rock climbing and abseiling, or become a canoe fan in the Ardèche. The natural setting of most campsites means that children can learn about the flora and fauna all around them without even realising.
Outdoor adventure In some places, campsites take things to the next level, literally. You can find campsites with zip wires, aerial walkways and forest trails through the tree canopy. There are usually course for different age groups and abilities and it’s a great way for the kids to see their surroundings from on high, and learn a little about acceptable risk too.
Life through a child’s eye
For many, part of the appeal of camping is that it gives a different perspective on the mundane aspects of everyday life. Children generally view this as an adventure, and for younger children just beginning to stretch their wings, a campsite provides a safe environment to enjoy such adventures.
So whether holidaying in the UK or abroad, the simple task of buying the morning bread from the campsite shop often becomes a fun part of the holiday for the intrepid seven-year-old. Handing over some coins, saying ‘Hello’ or ‘Bonjour’ and returning to base without nibbling too much is often a small milestone in the early years.