“Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.” –Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Giving your kids the experience of camping, even if just for the weekend, will be a gift that lasts a lifetime for your children, more so than any of the latest gadget they’ve been begging for. Here are some tips for making camping with kids successful and safe.
Don't Over Plan
You don't need to make a daily schedule and try to hit every vista point and hiking trail. Take it easy and only plan one major activity a day. It's ok if that major camping activity is only a 20-minute hike. You're in nature with leaves to collect, trees to explore, and bugs to study. There's little need to even leave your campsite.
Bring Active and Interactive Games
Bring activities such as sports equipment and board games that require movement, invention, and social play. Leave the gadgets at home and get involved with nature and each other.
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Meals are an Event
When camping with kids, cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all major tasks. Do plan for that and enjoy the process with your kids. If you are new to camping with kids, then you will find that camp cooking is something you have to learn through trial and error. Laugh at the badly cooked hotdogs and bring some extra food. Also, make the meal planning simple, hotdogs and hamburgers are perfect camping food.
Poison Oak and Poison Ivy
You don't need to fear poison oak or ivy. You do need to educate your kids about staying on trails where these plants grow and how to identifying these plants. If you don't know what these plants look like, then ask the ranger to teach you and your kids how to avoid these plants.
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Camping with Bears and other Wildlife
Like the poison oak and ivy, there's no need to fear the bears and other wildlife if you are educated on good camper safety. Part of camping with kids is learning and teaching to share the natural resources with nature. Do not feed any wildlife, even the squirrels and birds. Keep your camp clean at all times. Keep food and garbage locked in the bear proof containers provided. If you see a bear, get loud and big. Yell at the bear to leave, bang objects, and pick up small children. Ask the ranger for more wildlife safety tips for your campsite and practice these tips with your kids.
First Aid Kit
Do bring a first aid kit with the basics of band-aids, antiseptic, and other supplies. And if your kids come to you with minor bumps and bruises, scrapes and scratches, then you are doing camping with kids just right. They got those scrapes and scratches from being part of nature.
Set Up a Perimeter
There are no fences at campsites. And although you want your kids to explore and feel free, you do need to set limits based on their age and maturity. To keep kids who need more supervision within eyesight of the campsite or camping trailer, bring orange cones (you can buy these at a sports store) and set up a perimeter. Explain that they are not to go past the cones without an adult.
There should be some very stringent rules regarding activities around the campfire, whether it is lit or not. Ashes can still be hot and cause burns should a child trip and fall into the campfire. Kids should only be near the campfire if sitting. Teach them that they can walk only behind the campfire chairs or seats and not in the path between the seats and campfire pit. And never any running, skipping, hopping, or playing near the fire pit.
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