Five Tips For Camping With Kids
Those of us who grew up camping have rosy memories of running barefoot through pebbled streams, over sleeping tents beneath a canopy of stars and roasting marshmallows by moonlight. Some of the greatest summer memories of childhood were created beneath giant trees, on the bed of pine needles eating hot dogs and hobo dinners, singing around campfires and talking in giggly whispers to the tent mates until the wee hours.
Why wouldn't you want to create those memories for the next generation? Because two decades later we realize what entered those camping trips around the 'grown up' end and the mountain of details, packing and possibility of disaster looming just behind the following rain cloud. So what's a parent to complete? Forego the rosy camping memories in support of the more predictable Comfort Inn? Of course not. Consider the next as you prepare for the family camping trip a person can have and you're sure to recreate the dream for the following generation… just don't forget to pray from the rain.
Location, location, location
When there is one thing that will make or break your camping trip with kids, it's in which you choose to go. A five day hike into Yosemite to wilderness camp, packing everything in and leaving no trace may be an unforgettable high with your adventure seasoned teens, however it could quickly turn into a nightmare with any however the most intrepid of the younger set.
Rule number 1 of camping with kids: Check your expectations in the door, and consider what can be fun for them. Begin small: like in the back yard. Pop a tent around the lawn and roast a marshmallow within the grill. Move on to local campgrounds with lots of amenities (pools, playgrounds and bag of chips bingo are always big hits using the under twelve crowd). 'Camping' doesn't have to be synonymous with 'deprivation.' Many campgrounds have entertainment profiles to rival a four star resort. Do your research, consider your audience, and select your location accordingly.
The largest deterrent for most parents to camping with kids, especially children, is the copious amount of gear that's assumed to be needed to result in the experience a success. Yes, children are a gear heavy proposition, whether you remain home or go camping, however it needn't be as bad as you imagine. More than the usual little of the charm related to camping is simplifying life, learning to live without and making it up as time goes on. Apply the same rule for your weekend camping trip that you'd a ‘round the world backpacking trip: less is much more.
The basics: a tent, a sleeping bag & perhaps a therma-rest mat; that's all you really need. For most families, a occasional athlete tent from your local adventure store will a lot more than fit the bill. Contrary to popular marketing campaigns, your children do not each need a color coordinated flash light and firefly catching box, a 'camp pillow,' or their very own, character-themed tent. The only piece of gear I wouldn't leave the house without if camping having a toddler: a solid hiking backpack that may double as a stand alone containment unit (highchair). Beyond that, it's fun to complete without… you're camping, remember? Use a mason jar to secure your fireflies.
Some kids are notoriously hard to feed, even with all the amenities inside a modern kitchen and the better of pre-processed, boxed 'kid food.' Camping is a wonderful chance to encourage that sense of adventure and branch out just a little in the nutritional department. What kid doesn't like packaging up just a little piece of hamburger and few slices of potatoes and carrots in aluminum foil and poking it into the coals of a campfire to prepare? Is there anything that says 'childhood camping trip' like Jiffy Pop burned slightly on the campfire?
Remember your goal: to help make the kids fall in love with camping enjoy yourself! Now is not the time to insist on a well-balanced diet, you can bat nutritional cleanup when you get home. Break out the hotdogs and roasting sticks, gorge yourselves on marshmallows and teach the art work of creating that perfect brown shell. Make utilization of that picnic table and a supply of 'drive by' camping food on deck for children to snag on the run between swimming and bug catching. Don't forget to bring along a few 'comfort foods,' flavors that'll be very familiar and comforting to some child who is beginning to feel just a little out of his element… just in case.
So you've reached the campsite, you've set up the tent, unpacked the vehicle, and now the kids are waiting for looking at you as if to inquire about, 'What do we do now?' And you're staring back. The solution: 'Anything you want! We're camping!' Go swimming, rent boats, have a hike, build fairy houses from sticks and pine cones, ride bikes, throw horse shoes, play badminton, do anything whatsoever, do everything. The only rule would be to have fun!
Of course, it's always good to possess a few 'secret weapons' in your back pocket when ever enthusiasm is waning and also you sense imminent mutiny. A treasure hunt tops their email list of old standbys. Create a list of 25 what to be gathered (by teams if at all possible) and provide a prize towards the winners. Make sure a few of the items is going to be hard to find in your location of preference. Hide away a new card game to interrupt out in the unlikely event of rain or boredom, but turn it into a good one that everyone can play.
Probably the most important thing to pack when camping with kids is the sense of humor. By day three somebody will hit the wall and throw a temper tantrum, the infant might cry all night, the 3 year old will probably pee your bed, and who knows, you might have four pukers in one tent at two a.m.; it's became of us. There's no way to 'make everything better' at those moments, but there are some items in my 'Mama kit' that are recognized to come in very handy at worst moments. I call these the Hallelujahs, to not be confused with the Hail Marys that are what you say just before you'll need a Hallelujah. Why the Hallelujahs? Because they are a solution to prayer and will make you rejoice :
- Anti-bacterial wipes. We've used these for from disinfecting the peels of questionable fruits and vegetables in a pinch in under developed countries, to cleaning up vomit, to mopping the floors in our tents. Oh yes, and they can be used intended to wipe snail slimed hands before handing on the piece of watermelon.
- Ziploc Bags: Snack containers, ice packs, the area to pack your emergency set of dry socks, 'waterproofing' for your mobile phone on a rainy afternoon, diaper fly out containment and what I had the kids fill with toys to bring along for the trip: one ziploc bag, that's whatever you get.
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