Camping trips are a great way to get away from the city and spend some quality time with family and friends. However, when children are involved, it is essential to be prepared and ease them into this new activity. Here are some tips to help make the process easier:
- Dress rehearsal. Before you set off on your first camping trip, arrange a trial run in the back yard (as long as it is safe and secure). This will get children used to the idea of sleeping in a tent while still having the security of familiar surroundings. It also allows parents to get used to unfamiliar or new equipment in an environment where a setup mishap or forgotten component can be easily remedied. If there are hiccups with equipment, food preparation or forgotten items, do a backyard camp every few weeks until everything runs smoothly.
- Stay close to home. Once the art of backyard camping with children has been mastered it’s time for the first outside camping trip. Look for a suitable campsite that is 30 – 60 minutes away from home. Arriving at your first family camp with children that are tired from a long road trip can start the experience off on a bad note.
Camping closer to home also means that it is easier to pack up, cut the camping trip short and go back home if children become scared or unsettled and don’t want to continue. Forcing them to complete a camp that they are not enjoying will only lead to resistance the next time a camping trip is suggested. Returning home is also a simpler option if the weather turns really ugly or major equipment failure is experienced.
- Go with friends. If at all possible go camping with at least one other family with children. Having friends of similar age around helps to keep the kids amused and makes the experience more fun for them. The children will enjoy discovering things together and showing each other their treasures.They will also look out for each other and call for help,for exampleif one child trips and falls,.
Another benefit of camping in a group is that it allows parents to take turns watching the children and preparing meals. This reduces the workload and pressure and makes the trip more enjoyable for all.
- Have a Box of Tricks. Most of the time children will find plenty to do in a campground – especially in the beginning. Sticks, rocks, pinecones and insects can all be sources of amusement. Certain campsites also have a playground or other facilities aimed at keeping children from being bored.
Sometimes, though, the novelty wears off after a while. Be prepared and have equipment for ball games and other fun activities handy. Another scenario to be prepared for is if the weather turns nasty for a while. Small children confined to the inside of a tent or caravan will become bored and irritable very quickly. Board games, books, comics, small toy cars, dolls, etc. can all be taken with and kept in reserve for when boredom strikes.
Don’t let your children be the reason you decide not to go camping. Instead, make introducing them to the outdoors and instilling in them a love of, and respect for, nature one of the reasons you camp more often. Prepare well, factor in child-friendliness when choosing your campsites and destinations, and keep your arrangements flexible enough to accommodate the needs and special requirements of children, and you will find that regular camping trips become a favourite, memory-making, event for parents and children alike.