A couple weeks ago we ventured out on our second camping trip with some friends and my boys. I won’t lie, I was nervous. I remember all the trouble we ran into the year before of just not being prepared enough. Normally I am one who is very easy going when it comes to camping, but kids change all of that. If they are not happy and relaxed, you are not happy and relaxed. And I go camping to be happy. And RELAX.
I thought I would compile together some of the things we did this time around to make the trip more fun for everyone.
That Mom’s Camping Tips
Pack a special bag for each child:
I picked up these large clear plastic Cars bags at the Dollar store. I put each kids name on it, along with a couple of little treats for them. Activities, flashlights and let them pick out a couple of toys from home that they wanted to bring along. When they started to get restless, or needed some quiet time, we would break out their bags and let them do an activity.
Plan fun activities
I can’t take credit for this one. This was all my great friend Tammy (Crafting with the Gray’s, @ItstheGrays). She came up with this great idea of having a treasure hunt for the kids. Since we were using the exact came site we used the year before, we knew the layout. She drew up a special map for each of the children with their own path to follow. We would start off doing circle time to centre the kids, then find out who the secret camp pirate left the first map for. They ate.it.up. Who ever’s turn it was would lead the group along to their map. They would need to follow the specfic route with their friends towing behind – climbing across logs, under picnic tables, and in and around the tents. Their treasures would be found in the bushes, behind rocks, or tied in trees. 6 kids, 6 maps and one day = LOTS of entertainment. It was also a great way to get some structured fun in as well. Thank you again Tammy for the great planning!
Because we had a large group site, we also brought a small pool, and a hose with a sprinkler. HOURS of added fun for the kids!
Be one with Nature
Make sure to really embrace the outdoors. Don’t be afraid to go look for bugs and toads. Your kids will love it, and it will make you feel like a child again. I chased this toad pretty far into the bushes on one of our walks, just so I could bring him back for all of the kids to see. We played with him for a little while, and I may have even tricked a couple of them into giving him a little peck to see if he would turn into a prince. No such luck. Before releasing the little guy, we made sure to sing “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” letting him go on the last verse.
Don’t be afraid to get MESSY
Its inevitable. Your camping you and your children WILL GET MESSY. And if they aren’t, your not having enough fun. Seeing my kids covered in dirt and food at home makes me shiver a little. All I can think about is what those hands will be touching, and what I will need to clean. I don’t like to clean. I try not to worry about this while camping – extra stress you don’t need! Your outdoors, there is mud, there are bugs, embrace it. Camping in a large group made clean up at the end of the day more fun. After sticky-icky marshmallows, us mamas would head down to the bathrooms for what we call “Assembly line bath time”. One mama in the shower washing the kids down, another drying, one dressing, and another brushing teeth. Works like a charm. Quick, easy, and yes, loud and wet.
8:00pm bedtime? Forget it! While routine is great, sometimes you just need to let it go. Trying to get your children, let alone a group of children, to bed at their perspective bedtimes while camping is not something I would call fun. It may also lead one to drink a little too many beers once they are finally asleep.. then if the wake up…. well. Let them stay up a little later. Pack up some fun after dark toys like glow sticks, or these awesome finger lights we picked up at the dollar store. Run them wild and tire them out. Of course, if you let them, they would stay up later than you, but a little later than normal doesn’t hurt anyone.
And when all doesn’t go according to plan…..
…do what you need to do. This is one of the problems we ran into last year. H would NOT go to sleep in the tent. This year it was Q. We still have some major bedtime issues with him (a long ranty blog post to come – I promise), and I didn’t think it was fair for the entire campground to put up with his antics. Finally, out of desperation he went into his brothers booster seat, with Mickey Mouse on the vans DVD player. Yes, I did it. TV WHILE CAMPING. Roll your eyes, snicker those snickers. I did what I had to do. Mama has to relax too! (And don’t worry, windows cracked, me right there, and of COURSE he went into the tent when it was my turn to crawl under the sleeping bag.)
Anyways, I hope this gives you some good idea’s when it comes to camping with your kids. Don’t be afraid, take it slow, and put a little planning into it. Maybe start out with one night and see how it goes first, or even in your own backyard. I am a BIG fan of camping, and think that it is something wonderful to expose our children to early in life.
I would love to hear your tips and experiences below!