So often people shy away from camping because they have little ones (or teenagers). Camping with our kids is one of my favorite things. I want to share with you why I love it so much and some of my tips for getting outside with your offspring.
KNOW YOUR FAMILY
As I have mentioned before, our first camping trip with our “kids” was in the back yard. It should also be noted that I was pregnant with our youngest at the time and therefore did NOT want to sleep in the tent. I stayed outside and cooked delicious s’mores, kissed my sweet family goodnight, and then went inside and enjoyed the whole bed. All. By. Myself. Know your family. What can you handle? What would be too much? We knew that at 18 months old our son might LOSE HIS MIND and did not want to be stuck 2 hours from home with a screaming toddler. I knew that there was no way I was sleeping on a blow up bed (no matter how beautiful the stars might have been). Recognize your limitations and embrace them.
SCHEDULE TIME FOR CHAOS
I am hesitant to micro-manage any trip I take with our kids, camping or otherwise. Here’s why (in case you weren’t aware): kids and nature are unpredictable. I am setting myself up for failure and disappointment if I try and schedule every minute of my trip. Nature and children have a way of changing your plans. Maybe you are hiking and decide to stop at a stream and let your kids play in the water. That means lunch will end up being later than you had planned and most likely your kids are soaked through. Maybe you are making dinner and a random rainstorm whips through camp. Everyone is now soaked through (this happens a lot) and dinner is delayed (again). Both of these events actually happened to us this summer and both times we have made wonderful memories. None of us can forget hanging onto the canopy (so it wouldn’t blow away) in the soaking rain while we waited for the storm to pass. Burgers that night tasted better than anything else we ate all week.
Here is my advice. First, keep quick snacks on hand. A handful of almonds, apples, and fruit snacks have saved us from a hangry meltdown more times than I can count. Second, recognize that kids will be dirty at camp. And probably spend half of the trip wet. Hang the wet clothes out to dry and toss your sweet angels back in them the next time they take a dunking.
LET THEM GET BORED
I am sure this is not the first time you have read that statement lately and I think it is so true. Our kids will find the most amazing adventures when we STOP planning activities for them. When we go camping we pack minimum entertainment for our littles. We always take one notebook for each child, a box of crayons and a few pencils. They each take a book to read, one card game that we can play as a family, and then either a Frisbee or a football. Of course we take fishing gear, shoes for hiking and more often than not we throw in all of our bikes. Sometimes we will take digital entertainment (like a DVD or tablet) but they rarely get used. We spend our days slowly tinkering around the campground having a blast. It may or may not be hard to believe, but there are still times when our kids look at us and say, “I don’t know what to do.” In those moments when they have wonderful entertainment at their fingertips and still find themselves “bored”, I give them my patented “mom look” and tell them I guess they are out of luck then. It is always after I have left them to their own devices that they find their greatest adventures: discovering the vast array of nature around us, building an entire miniature kingdom from rocks and twigs, or making boats from river weeds. Those are the moments when all the planning, chaos, and discomfort are with it.
TAKE THE TEENAGERS
I do not have any teenagers yet (I do however have a pre-teen…eek). However, working in secondary education for over a decade has shown me that so many teenagers don’t know how to slow down. They are constantly jumping from activity to activity, class to class, post to post, and snap to snap. Help them take a step back from their devices and let nature (and boredom) in. Take your teenager camping, lock all phones (even yours) in the glove box for just one day. Yes, I know it will be difficult. It is difficult even for me to cut ties with my little black screen. But every time I do I have better conversations with my kids and my husband. I end the day with a clearer mind a spirit of gratitude. I believe it is worth it for you, your teenager, and your family too.