Catching a fish in the nearby lake….walking the forest to find the waterfall….roasting a marshmallow and telling ghost stories over a roaring fire….these moments bear camping memories that last well into adulthood. Camping is an experience that includes the entire family and works for all ages. If you are a novice to the sport, consider taking a new adventure this summer. Use our six tips to help you in your planning.
- Do it together. Get your kids involved in the planning; use this as an educational tool. Let them help you research the best places to camp. Make a list of each person’s top activity, and find a location that matches your needs. Have kids plan the meals and participate in preparing them. Camping takes more planning than the average hotel over-nighter, so involve the kids in the process to ease the stress on you and build ownership and investment on their part.
- Activity planning. Sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows is fun, but after several hours even the most patient of kids is itching for more. Plan several outdoor adventures together. Is there a waterfall nearby that you can hike to? Are their geocache’s in the area that you can scout out together? Bring a kite, a Frisbee, a fishing pole and tackle. Throw the football, search out bugs with a microscope, or do a nature scavenger hunt together. Bring your bikes or inline skates. Jump in the lake or find your favorite constellations. Having a list of potential activities beforehand will minimize the risk of the dreaded phrase: I’m bored. Put more on your list than you think you can accomplish, and pack any essentials necessary for your activities.
- Beginner’s programs. If you are new to camping, consider a new camper’s program like Texas Outdoor Family or First Time Camper in Georgia. For a nominal fee, state parks loan camping equipment and teach basic techniques such as camp setup and cooking. Park rangers make themselves available to answer questions and challenge your summer learners in the art of the outdoors.
- Food prep. Save time and headache at the campsite by preparing your meals before leaving. Count eggs, bacon and sausage for each morning meal; wrap ground beef and vegetables in tinfoil for each person’s evening feast. Consider sandwiches for lunches. If you need a break from the cooking and cleaning, you will find that many campsites have deals with local pizza delivery services, too.
- Dry run. You might be an experienced camper, but if the kids haven’t yet had the pleasure then they could benefit from a trial camping experience in the yard. A dry run close to home base helps you better prepare for the nuances of camping with kids. It gives you an opportunity to work out any issues you may have with your camping gear – especially if it hasn’t been used in a while. If both you and the kids know what to expect, then anxieties can be left at home when you venture out on your first wilderness outing.
- Attitude is everything. As with any adventure, Mom and Dad set the tone with their attitude. Your mood is contagious. Setting up camp can be chaotic and pitching a tent can be frustrating, but don’t forget to laugh. Remember that this is an opportunity to teach your kids about more than camping; it’s a chance to really connect with them. Enjoy the journey, which begins during planning, continues into camp setup, includes watching the stars together, and finally encompasses cleaning up, packing and heading home. Your positive attitude during this camping trip will ensure success in the next one, as well.
Tell us about your best (and worst) camping experiences. We’d love to hear them!