Contributed by the Camping & Education Foundation
A camping trip as a single adult or as a couple does require planning and strategy, but when you are ready to take your children on their first camping trip it is a whole new adventure. Not only do you need more supplies, you also have to have a plan on how to keep the kids occupied, how to convince them to go to the bathroom in the woods and how to teach them about respecting nature while staying safe. Suddenly camping goes from a relaxing getaway to nonstop work and vigilance.
Camping & Education Foundation has been introducing kids to their first wilderness experiences for over 90 years at Camp Kooch-i-ching. Parents planning a first camping trip with kids can benefit from those decades of experiencing what can go wrong and how to plan ahead by following these tips:
Test-drive your campsite. If you have never camped at the location you are planning on taking your kids, plan a trip without the kids to get the lay of the land. You will be able to plan the best place to pitch the tent, identify if there is a good source of firewood nearby and have a better idea of what to pack and what jobs will need to be done when you and the kids arrive.
Keep it simple and short. For the first time out, don’t plan an elaborate four-day trip. A simple overnight with two full days to spend investigating around your campsite is enough to start. Kids will get a taste for how much fun camping can be, but they will not have time to get bored and you won’t have to spend as much time planning logistics.
Plan easy meals. Most of your time on this trip will be spend keeping an eye on the kids and keeping the entertained so it is important that mealtime be simple and quick. Do your meal prep at home – make burgers into patties, pre-cut any fruits or vegetables, and don’t forget the ingredients for S’Mores. Also, be sure to pack wipes for messy hands and two trash bags – one for garbage and one for recycling that you can take home and dispose.
Put the kids in charge. When you get to camp there will be a lot of work for the adults, unloading the car, pitching the tent and setting up camp. Be sure to assign the kids jobs as well so they feel like they are part of the experience and not just in the way. Let them unroll the sleeping bags and set up the sleeping area inside the tent, collect wood for the fire and clean up any trash they see in the campsite.
Have a backup bathroom. If you thought potty training was hard, try convincing your kid to use a rock or tree trunk and a hole as toilet. In case this idea fails head to your local camping supply store and pick up some bio bags and a bucket. In the middle of the night you’ll be glad you did.
Leave technology at home. Or at least in the glove box turned off. Instead of relying on electronic devices for entertainment, try looking for star formations, playing simple games and telling stories around the campfire.
Pack the essentials. Making sure you have a couple of pieces of crucial gear, like rain jackets, bug spray, flashlights and a good pad for your sleeping bag will help your camping trip go off without a hitch. A good ghost story book or other good campsite storytelling books is always fun too.
About The Camping and Education Foundation
The Camping and Education Foundation’s mission is to develop young men and women in body and spirit through wilderness experiences that celebrate a love of the outdoors. This mission is as strong today as it was ninety-two years ago when Camp Kooch-i-ching first opened its doors to young men on Deer Island and for the past twelve years that Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe has been open for young women. For more information, visit: www.campingedu.org.