Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Camping With Young Children: The How-To Edition

We've been camping with Joan and Kate every summer of their lives, taking them for the first time when they were only 5 months old. (Well, technically, their first trip was in utero, when David and I went to the BWCA during my pregnancy... before I found out I was expecting twins). Here are some of the things we have learned:

1. Camp with friends. The best part about camping with other families is that the children play and the adults talk. You get several days of communal living (sharing meals, clean up, and supervision of children), so everyone gets time to relax and enjoy.

2. Be ready to be dirty. Celebrate how filthy your children are when you put them to bed. Do not fuss over the sand and dirt in your tent. You cannot keep it clean, no matter what you do.

3. Camp in a group site whenever possible. The best "adult time" happens after the children are in bed. If you each have your own campsite, you will be stuck at your own fire pit after the kids are sleeping. If you have a group site, the adults can all dance around the fire together and still be close to the sleeping (or not sleeping, but pretending) kids. Staying together on one site also makes combining meals, doing dishes, and other activities easier.

3.5 Many group sites also include a picnic shelter. This is KEY for rainy mornings. (If it's going to rain all day, get out of there! Go to a movie or bowling or cow tipping or something until it lets up.)

4. Avoid camping on the beach, if possible. The Sand In The Tent factor will drive you mad. Also, the children are waaaayyyy too close to the water for accidents to happen. Camping on a site further away from the water eliminates both situations significantly.

5. Teach your kids how to pee in the woods. This is handy in the middle of the night. Bring 1 adult bike and 1 child's bike (or bike trailer, for littler campers) for commuting back and for to the bathroom/shower house.

6. Don't expect much napping to happen. Often, the tents are too hot for sleeping during the day. If naps are Necessary for Sanity of the Family, then plan scenic drives for nap time.

7. Always stay at least 2 nights. It is not worth it to pack all that is needed for only 1 night's stay.

8. Plan meals that the adults will enjoy. Let the kids eat out of the coolers as needed (yogurt, juice, sandwich meat, cheese sticks, crackers, candy, chips, etc). They will playing so hard that they will always be hungry, except when you've gone out of your way to cook them a kid friendly meal on the friggin camp stove. They will not appreciate your effort. Nutrition is not a factor when camping with children. The adults, on the other hand, will savor every morsel of your lovingly cooked camp meal. (This last trip our meals included: ribs, pizza, chicken and steak fajitas, and breakfast sandwiches. The kids ate cheese and cereal and jelly beans. It was bliss, for all of us.)

9. A stroller doubles as a highchair for infants. It also makes for a good Napping Place (see #6). Make room for it in the van- you will not be sorry.

10. Bring music. And booze. And coffee. Do not put the cake you baked for your friend's birthday at the bottom of the cooler, no matter how well covered it is. It WILL be water-logged by the time you take it out to serve it. Apparently, ice melts.

Your turn. Please add your expertise and experiences to the list!


Jennifer Playgroupie said...

I should print this.

I'm always game for cow tipping!

Mommy Brain said...

I am printing this. Thanks for the great collection of tips. We've never been camping but it sounds like fun.