June: A fine time for pitching a tent and picking berries

young family camping in a tent two kids a boy and a girl in foreground gathering wood

June marks the end of the school year and the first day of summer, which brings the longest daylight hours of the calendar year in the Northern Hemisphere. But that’s not all. Pull out the marshmallows and air out the tent because it’s also National Camping Month!

Get away from the fray 

A website called National Today, describes camping as a chance for “leaving all modern amenities behind to get a detox from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.”

mom dad and little girl tent camping and roasting marshmallows

In terms of quality time, camping checks lots of boxes. The Best Kids Crafts and Activities posted “10 Camping Skills Kids Should Know.” It notes that “Camping is a wonderful family bonding experience, a great, adventurous way to make memories, and a great opportunity to work on some skill building!” Those skills include map skills, safety skills, and personal responsibility. 

Outdoor gear and apparel co-op REI, in its topic-specific Expert Advice offers “Tips for Camping with Kids.” They suggest “It’s never too early to start camping with your kids,” adding that “From babies to teens, kids of all ages will find so many things to captivate them on a camping trip: a star-speckled sky, the distant call of an owl, a tiny bug working in the dirt.” The upshot, they say? “Camping can open their eyes and awaken their senses to their natural environment.”

Several of the pointers that REI expands on to make it the best experience possible are “practice camping at home,” “let kids help pack,” “anticipate possible challenges,” and “find teaching moments,” with the latter to include “leave no trace principles.”

Or get a taste of camping with a stay 
father and son setting up a tent in the backyard

If, for some reason, circumstances won’t allow for the full get-away camping experience, why not put up a tent in the backyard. S’mores will taste just as good!

Camping often offers a chance to do a little foraging and up-close pondering of sky and turf. These activities too, are at-home or close-to-home possibilities. Last year Very Well Family posted “100 Summer Fun Ideas for Kids and Parents.” The awesome list includes something for everyone. For example, under Nature Activities, their suggestions include:

• “Look for shapes in the clouds. Put a blanket in the grass and stare up at the sky. Take turns talking about what you see in the clouds.”
• “Pick your own plants. Find a farm with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, veggies, or flowers and get picking.”
• “Plant a butterfly or hummingbird garden. Create a backyard wildlife habitat.”

To expand on a couple of those, check out the Weather Flash Cards on School Zone’s Anywhere Teacher online learning program. They include definitions and information on a few common types of clouds, as well as many other weather phenomena such as tornado and fog. Anywhere Teacher also offers these three natural-world videos: Exploring Nature: The Life Cycle of Butterflies, Exploring Nature: The Life Cycle of an Apple Tree, and Exploring Nature: The Water Cycle.

images of the front and back of three weather flash cards cumulus clouds, rainbow, and lightening & thunder on anywhere teacher's online learning program on

Gather up yummies in pints and quarts

And in terms of berry, veggie, or flower-picking, whether close to home or far afield, try Googling “U-pick farms” around your current location or destination. In 2020 Smart Lifebites posted “Ten Tips for Visiting a U-Pick Fruit Farm with the Kids.” They include practical ideas such as “bring cash” and “bring a cooler” to make it the best experience possible. One tip that’s literally easy to overlook? “Look underneath. Often the best berries are hiding underneath exactly at the eye level of a toddler or preschooler.”

little curly haired blond girl picking spring peas three pea pods in her hand

If you’re bringing the bounty back home, get kids involved in dividing up the berries into freezer bags or other containers and planning and calculating how to go about that. Once the goodies are ready for the freezer, ask everyone how long the berries in storage will last if, for example, your family goes through three bags per month.

For the berries that get used “now,” get kids’ help in making a pie, cobbler, or crumble, including measuring the ingredients, setting a timer, and counting down the minutes as a sweet smell wafts through the house. My Bored Toddler even offers “An Easy Berry Muffin Recipe for Toddlers to Make.”

overhead photo of two young boys and their mom making a berry smoothy in a blender in a blender

Smoothies are another great way to use fresh or frozen berries; Check out care.com’s “5 Easy Kid-Friendly Recipes to Make with Freshly Picked Berries” from The Nanny Expert. Their Berry Smoothie, Frozen Berry Yogurt Bites, Berry Coconut Water Popsicles, and Berry Chia Seed Pudding involve no cooking! The Strawberry Fruit Roll-ups bake for a few hours.

How to make a great thing even better? Take kids along to share the fruits of their labor with a friend or neighbor! four glasses with straws of different flavors of smoothies on a tray with fresh berries and granola