Some of my best memories as a child are camping memories. I loved it then and I love it now. So I have been itching to get C-note out and sleeping in the wild.
Confession: It took three years to do it because I was terrified of bedtime. BEDTIME people! I. was. scared.
I pictured us up all night long with a little person who wouldn’t sleep on the ground in a tent. Then I pictured the crabbiness that would follow the next day – not just from C-note but from all of us as we trudged through the day on no sleep. The movie of our camping trip that played out in my mind was a horror flick. It was not a good image.
However, this year, I decided we needed to suck it up. He’s at the age now where memories start to form and we need to get him out there and let him experience the fun of spending his entire days and nights in the great outdoors. Now that we’ve done it, I wish we had done it earlier. If you’re planning on taking your littles camping for the first time, fear not, I’ve got tips.
Make a Plan: Before I had C I was a ‘winger’. I never had a plan and when it came to travel my motto was ‘let’s just wing it and see what happens’. This is not my life any longer. I plan everything, and camping was no different. I researched the parks and chose one that had a great beach – because when all else fails – the beach makes everyone happy. I even planned exactly what campsite we would reserve based on it’s distance to the bathroom (not too close, not too far) and the beach (the closer the better) and whether it was shady or not. I planned our activities and everything we would eat. I even had back-up activities (hey if iPads are good for anything they are good for back-up entertainment when all else fails- don’t judge!!). Planning is the way to go. Make a plan based on your family so you’re not left scrambling trying to decide what to have for dinner or trying to figure out what activity to do if it rains. If the kids are happy, everyone is happy. Having a plan and keeping everyone busy and fed is the key to that happiness.
Activities: I mentioned planning activities and I know…you’re thinking ‘isn’t the whole act of camping an activity?’ yes, it is, but we all know with kids, this isn’t going to be enough. We brought a few outdoor games – a ball to kick around and a badminton set. We brought art supplies to make nature collages and just plain old colouring. But for this trip, I knew the beach was going to be the highlight, so I focussed on sand toys and his ‘guys’ (his cars McQueen, Mater and the gang). If you have the time and space, bikes are always a good idea. I also had a scavenger hunt planned, along with ideas of creating a hopscotch with sticks and tic tac toe with things we find in the brush – but we honestly never needed to pull out the big guns of boredom busters. The beach kept everyone busy for most of the time. We rode the waves, and built a few different sand castles, searched for treasures and rocks for his rock collection, built car garages out of driftwood, and when we got hot, we rode the waves again. I’m not saying you have to be completely regimented in your activities, definitely go with the flow (we do!) but have a good list of things to do should everything go south on you.
Food: This is the fun part of the planning for me. I hate cooking and anything to do with my kitchen on a regular day, it’s just not my thing. But, I do love a good challenge. So put me in the woods with a fire and I will figure out a way to put some good food on your plate. But planning it all out before you go is super important. It’s not like you can just run to the corner store and pick up what you’ve forgotten. So make a plan before you go, buy all your supplies (don’t forget the things you’ll need to cook meals like tin foil and condiments) and make sure you bring lots of snacks and drinks. I will be writing a separate post on everything we ate if you need ideas, keep an eye out for it over the next few days.
Sleep: I think one of the most important things to consider when camping with kids, is their comfort when sleeping. Try to make it as comfortable as you can. We can’t expect a kid who has slept on a cushy mattress their whole lives to be comfortable on the floor. I say this not just considering the kids, but also the adults, because if kids aren’t sleeping, neither are the adults. So make it as comfortable as you can for them and everyone will have a better night. The great thing about being outdoors all day – it makes for tired kids.
Prepare the kids: I found that talking with C about camping and filling him in on the ins and outs and what to expect while camping, really helped. We have a pop-up play tent that we set up in his room and I put his pillow and sleeping bag inside to show him how we’d be sleeping in a tent, outside. We read a few children’s books on camping and I think it really helped him have an idea of what was going to happen when we went camping.
If it’s your first time camping with your kids you don’t have to make it a marathon camping trip. Just go for one night if you need to. I was scared that it wasn’t going to go well for us so I planned for two nights with the thought that if the first night went horribly, then we would just leave. But we stayed and loved it and could have stayed longer. C-note had a great time – actually as soon as we got home and were unloading the car, C was in his room setting up a campsite. I think we’ve got a camper on our hands!
Have you camped with kids? planning a trip with kids? if you have any other tips to share please leave them in the comments below!