I'll be honest, I'm not really the "camping-type" of girl, but I really want to give our boys the experience! Since these crucial outdoor skills don't exactly come naturally to me (or my husband!), I did some research to see if taking our kids camping was really THAT hard. I have some great friends with terrific equipment, so all I needed were some tips to help all of us get the most out of this experience, enjoy nature to its fullest and be safe.
Here are the camping tips and tricks for all first-timers like us!
1. Make reservations- who knew that you had to reserve a spot in the woods? Seriously, you will want to find a place that is an established campground with some of the facilities (read- outdoor toilets) that will help make your experience more comfortable. One great site is Parks Canada.
2. Keep it short- you can still get the experience of camping in one or two nights. No need to do a week, your first time. Keep it simple and best to stay closer to home.
3. Practise First- set up your equipment in the backyard for a night, before the big trip. Kids can get used to sleeping bags and a tent close to home. It won't take long to figure out if your kids are ready for camping.
4. Make mealtime easy- if this is your first time camping, you might not have all the cooking equipment you need and you might not want to invest in it until you know if this is going to be an annual thing. Why not try taking prepared foods in coolers; bagels, cream cheese, cold meats, fruits, veggies, hummus dips and pre-made sandwiches to make your camping days a bit easier and safer.
5. Entertain the kiddos- what a great time to create nature crafts (like leaf man pictures, nature frames and bird feeders), go a scavenger hunt with a homemade compass, make binoculars, go hiking or even bird watching. Stock up at the dollar store so that kids can have some fun and new activities that they don't usually do at home.
6. Get your licence- Did you know that you have to have a licence to do some recreational fishing with the kids? Kids can fish on your adult licence, so be prepared and apply for your licence several weeks before your planned trip. Here is more information on getting a fishing licence in Canada.
7. Where to go, when you have to go- established campgrounds will likely have a spot to share with neighbouring campers. Some might even have real washroom and shower facilities for first timers. If you are just going to do your business in the woods, be sure to learn the appropriate ways to "dispose" of the evidence. For the kids, be sure to bring lots of extra diapers with you and you might want to bring a small child's potty, even if your child is trained, so that they have an easy spot to do their business! Remember to pack wipes and toilet paper (leaves can be uncomfortable if you run out!).
8. Get cozy at night- temperatures dip at night, even after a hot day! Pack extra blankets and warm pjs for the kids. Sleeping bags can also get damp during the day, so it's best to hang them to dry out during the day, so that they are perfectly cozy for nighttime!
9. Be safe- pack your first aid kits, bug spray, clean water, sunscreen and water safety equipment for peace of mind. Being prepared means you always have what you need, just in case.
10. Camping rules- sit down with the kids and discuss the do and don'ts of your camping trip before you leave. Keep reinforcing the rules so that the kids remember them before you arrive at your campsite. For example- have a meeting spot if someone wanders off, kids might want to keep a whistle around their necks, no going near water without mommy and daddy, etc.
Most of all, don't forget the number one camping rule….. HAVE FUN!!!!!