Camping with kids is fun, no two ways about it. Kids bring out the kids in parents with their enthusiasm, their sense of exploring and the way even the littlest thing excites them. Kids enjoy searching for tadpoles as much as searching for firewood. To them it is equally fun to swim in the lake, walk around the campsite to see what everyone else’s campsite looks like and eating s’mores even when the marshmallow has burnt to a crisp. There is very little to dampen a child’s spirit when it comes to the great outdoors. There are some things to keep in mind though.
Camping is not for sitting around. Camping is for exploring, discovering, doing – so if your idea of camping is sitting around and reading a good book then you can just put that thought out of your mind. Kids like constant activity. They do not usually care what the activity is as long as it is active. If there is a lake, they want to swim in it. Take floaties, noodles, goggles, flippers, rafts, sand toys and beach balls. Use lots of sun screen and swim, laugh and play. If there are paths, they want to walk them. Take some plastic bags to collect things in. You can be assured that your child will find cool-shaped rocks, pretty flowers and interesting sticks and will want you to hold them in your pocket unless there is a bag to put them in. If there are smooth roads, they want to bike on them. Make sure to bring the bikes as well as the helmets for safety. Also bring snacks, water and sun screen because you will end up riding (or walking very fast next to the rider) for a longer distance that you had anticipated.
Camp activities are not just for day-time. Who says camp activities end at sunset? Certainly not a kid. As soon as it turns dark, kids get their second wind; this often coincides with parents having no more energy left in them but what can you do? Night-time is when kids want to look for fireflies, walk around the campsite again to see what everyone else’s campsite looks like in the dark and go on flashlight walks. Make sure everyone has a good flashlight with fresh batteries and off you go. It is also fun to have glow sticks at camp. As soon as it gets dark bring out the glow sticks. Not only do they make a night-time walk more fun, they last several hours (although not eight like they claim) and are fun to have in the dark tent.
Fun in the tent. Yes, this is another place kids like to have fun in. During the day (and bad weather) the tent can be used to play board games, cards, color, pillow-fight and read. At night kids like to hear spooky stories (the young ones like silly stories), get out their glow sticks, pillow-fight (it is inevitable so join in) and read. Teach kids to always close the zipper as soon as they enter or exit the tent so you can avoid creepy-crawly episodes.
Packing for kids. Clothes, clothes and more clothes – that is what kids need most when camping. If there is a puddle, they will fall in it. If there is mud, they will play in it. If there is dirt that is an unusual color (say, red clay dirt which stains), they will sit in it. If there is ketchup, mustard or berry punch, they will spill it on themselves. Be prepared with lots of changes. Other than that, kids like to have their bed-time animals, a special blanket or pillow and they are good to go.
The most important thing to keep in mind when camping with kids is to have fun. That is all they expect of you and, after all, fun does make the world go around.