Martin Roberts

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For fun, freedom, adventure and discovery, there's nothing better for your children than caravan holidays, says Practical Caravan columnist Martin Roberts

Sometimes it's good to take a step back to basics. I realise that I’m probably preaching to the converted, but in this column I wanted to address this question: “Why is caravanning the perfect holiday and experience for children?”

Fortunately I have an in-house, government-approved, BARB/MORI/Sunday Times-audited cross-section of the UK population – in the form of my eight-year-old son, Scott, and five-year-old daughter, Megan – available to take part in an ad-hoc survey. Here are the results of our findings.

When asked “what is it about caravanning that you like?”, our interviewees replied:

Scott:

  1. “Being outdoors”
  2. “You can go anywhere”
  3. “You can take pets”


Megan:

  1. “The swimming pools” (which shows how sites have improved over the years!)
  2. “The food – it’s different, with things like croissants” (ditto)
  3. “I like playing shop” (our caravan has a shuttered window between the lounge and bedroom that makes a great pretend shop)


I realise that every child could create their own personalised list, but the reality is that there is simply no better holiday for kids than a caravan holiday. Where else can they cycle in safety, play outside past dusk, discover the delights of family time, get introduced to board games such as Monopoly, Scrabble and Cluedo, learn to cope in places where there is no internet access, and develop practical skills?

There are plenty of research papers and articles on parenting websites and magazines reminiscing about the ‘good old days’, when children of previous generations had the freedom to play outdoors all day long, usually unsupervised, and the precious memories that this created. Many child-development experts conclude that too many of today’s youngsters are deprived of this ‘muddy knee’ existence; instead, they lead sanitised lives, driven around in cars from one adult-led activity to another. Because of this, they are being inhibited in their ability to solve problems for themselves, manage their own risks and sort out conflicts.

There is strong evidence that ‘play’ (which is what kids get up to when they don’t have to do what they are told) encourages imagination, cognitive development and relationship-building. In order for children to really get good play time, we need to give them the space and freedom away from computers, TV and gadgets to do so. They have to get dirty, climb trees, make dens, ride bikes on their own adventures and create games for themselves. While many parents may agree with this in principle, the fear of ‘strangers’ and road traffic quickly puts an end to this romantic ideal.

Well, there’s a solution: get a caravan and take it to good, child-friendly caravan sites where there are woods, play areas or just green spaces to explore, safe in the knowledge that you can let them off the leash within the boundaries of the site. Sticks will become magic wands or laser swords, bushes will turn into fortresses or palaces, and stones will turn into treasure.

What could be better than that?

Visit Martin’s website for information about him, his books and his property training weekends, and follow his adventures on Twitter
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