July 2, 2010

Tip of the day—Camping with Children

This is a post that I wrote last year—an oldie but goodie, if you will.  Have fun!

When I was a kid, we didn't really camp. My dad had a Winnebago that we drove across country, but that was about as close as we came to camping. I resisted camping for a long time because I'd forever heard about the one camping trip that my mother and father made years ago. Without going into a long story about their adventure, I'll just say that they ended up spending most of the night at the Holiday Inn. My husband had many camping trips as a child and spoke of them fondly, and he convinced me to give it a try a couple of years ago. Even making note that I slammed my own finger in the car door at the end of the first trip, I was completely hooked with the camping bug from the very start. There is something so enjoyable about communing with nature and watching how happy our daughter becomes with every little bit of the experience.

We went camping this week in honor of Mother's Day--yes, I requested a camping adventure as celebration. We camped with some older friends of ours who have traveled all over and have camped in all sorts of weather conditions. The following are some tips that our family have learned along the way and some new ones that our friends shared with us this week. Happy Camping!

  • Bring a few toys and books for children. A ball or Frisbee is nice for older children. Many campgrounds and trails allow biking, and if you have room, those are fun to bring.
  • If you plan on cooking and/or using real plates, bring a dishpan to help you wash them after use.
  • Bring your own bar of soap. Almost all of the campgrounds we've been to with bathrooms do not provide soap. A plastic baggie with soap is handy to carry back and forth to the bathhouse. Many campgrounds do not have real mirrors. I guess they figure you really don't want to see what you look like after roughing it in the woods for a few days. If you do want to look at yourself, bring a hand mirror or just use your car mirrors.
  • Bring your firewood, leave your firewood. We opt to bring firewood with us because it is significantly cheaper than buying it near campgrounds. Even if we do not use all of ours, we leave what is leftover so that we do not have to haul it back. It makes for a nice surprise for the next camper.
  • Pack a first aid kit. Remember reading about my finger in the car door experience above?? I even pack a few bandages in my pockets when hiking.
  • Our friends just showed us their "refrigerator" when camping. They have a large cooler packed with ice and drinks. Inside of that cooler they have a tall rectangular pitcher in which they store items they want to keep cool but are concerned about becoming water-logged. (Many stores sell these types of containers in which to store cereal.)
  • When camping in bear country, make sure that you do not leave any food or anything that remotely looks like food out in the open. Cover your coolers or food in your car with a blanket. I had a friend tell me that their car was totaled by a bear when camping out west simply because they forgot to put a blanket over their cooler at night.
  • For child fire safety, use a stick or shovel to draw a "safety circle" in the dirt or gravel around the fire. The circle should be at least 2-3 feet wider in diameter than the fire circle. It is important to review fire safety with children, but let's face it, kids are impulsive little creatures. The visual cue helps to remind them that they are getting too close to something dangerous.
  • Dress in layers, as the temperature outdoors and based on your activity level shifts throughout the day.
  • Bring wet wipes--they are handy for all sorts of things, but especially for cleaning hands after eating a sticky smore. Yum, yum!
  • Visit your ranger station. You know how I love free stuff! We have picked up all sorts of free goodies at these stations--maps, crayons and fire safety coloring pages, posters of wildflowers, and reading materials.
  • Want a discount when camping? Go to this site for info on national park discounts. Go to this site for information on discounts at Tennessee state parks. Are you fishing when traveling? Go to this site for information about the TWRA lifetime sportsman license. We bought one for our daughter as a Christmas present last year.
  • Bring a pair of slip on shoes for going in and out of the tent. These are especially handy for late night trips to use the restroom.
  • Have fun! Camping allows you to not only value the beauty of the outdoors but better appreciate the comforts of your own home once you return back to it. Share it with your children, and if you aren't up for pitching a tent, well then try for an RV. Our good old Winnebago served us well for many years.

The photo above is from our first camping trip. The arch above is one of the Twin Arches in Big South Fork National Park. This was a wonderful hike, but one where a sling or baby carrier is a must for smaller children.

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