Before We Go
- We enjoy reading children's books about camping. I just do a search for "camping" at the library and come home with a big stack of them.
- Practice camping if you haven't gone before. Either set up the tent in the backyard or the living room. Gives the parents a chance to set up the tent, but also, the kids can get used to the tent. We have a family rule about "respecting the tent" - no dangling off poles or crashing into walls - so the practice round lets the kids get used to that. :)
- The practice round also lets you see if there's anything you need to buy before you go. We've learned that all the kids needed good cots, sleeping bags, and camping pillows. The more comfortable they are, the better we all sleep.
- The first time camping, I *highly* suggest it's one close to home. When we went with tiny ones, we were only 15 minutes away.
- Make a packing list for the kids - using words for readers, or pictures from a magazine for pre-readers. Shoes, how many socks, etc.
- We like packing into storage tubs and not duffel bags. They're better if it rains, and easier for the kids to sort through them.
- Ask children for their input on food. My kids would live off s'mores at a campground if they could, but once I assure them that's written down, they come up with great ideas for other foods as well. Making a fun outing to buy the food builds anticipation too.
At The Campground
- Some families have kids carry a whistle, and you can buy them cheaply. At our kids ages, we make sure we can always see them, and require the Buddy System.
- We make sure that every child is involved in the set-up and take-down of the tent, sleeping bags, etc. They certainly vary in their ability, but all of them feel involved.
- You know those foam, colored "swim noodles" at Target? You can make a slice down half of it, then slip it over the wind-ties that anchor the tent. I can't tell you how many times I tripped over those at night before finding a solution.
- We give each child a spelunker-flashlight to wear. It lets us track them in the dark, and they're useful for the child too. We had great luck with the ones we bought from LL Bean.
- I stock up on many glo-sticks and other glo-items from the dollar store. Once I found light-up foam swords. Excellent campsite toys, because it can get dark before the kids are really ready for bed.
- Geo-caching is a great camping activity. You can find out more about it at http://www.geocaching.com/
- Make sure ALL of your food is tucked away. Animals come out at night, like the toys come alive in Toy Story. A good solution we found was putting everything in the hard-sided cooler, even if it wasn't cold items, and then putting our cast-iron pans on top of the cooler.
- Fruit makes a nice, quick breakfast that doesn't involve starting up the campfire. As a morning person, this was important to me. :)
- Keep your matches in a Mason jar, so they don't get wet!
- A frisbee is a great way to pass time while camping, and takes up hardly any space.
- I save a lot of our art items, like painting, for when we camp. If there's some mess, it's easy to clean up. If it gets on a picnic table, you can sand off the paint (literally) with sand or dirt.