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My children are all grown up now, but we used to love to camp! This article was written back in our camping days...
Camping is just fun! Not only does setting up the tent, building a campfire, and just ‘roughing’ it a bit, help children develop a sense of the value of hard work, but it also helps family members bond as they work together for a common purpose ~ a fun night’s sleep!
It is that time of year for our family. With 5 children, it’s pretty hard to vacation if we don’t camp, so we have learned many things about the art of camping, through the years! Your family will no doubt camp differently than ours, since everyone enjoys different things, but I would like to share a bit of the fun and adventure with you.
First of all, camping does take quite a bit of work, but for the fun and savings, it is well worth it. All it takes is a bit of careful planning. You can go hiking into a wilderness site, but I don’t recommend that for beginners, and I recommend a trusty KOA or similar campground for those families just starting out. Here you will find electrical hook-ups, clean water, often a swimming pool, swings for the kids, and a little store to buy things you forgot, like the graham crackers for S’mores! These types of campgrounds are usually very reasonably priced too. For example, you can camp on a KOA tent site in Provo, Utah with 2 adults and 3 kids for about $40 per night. Other places are even cheaper.
Be sure to involve the children in planning and in pre-camping preparations like buying groceries, filling water bottles, and choosing a few small books and toys. My little ones like to pack Fisher Price people, cars, shovels and buckets to play in the dirt, or by the beach if you are near a lake. Older children can pack their own clothing in backpacks, or use laundry-baskets – 2 campers to a basket. (I place a garbage bag in the bottom of the laundry baskets for dirty clothes. Just be careful you don’t throw them out!) Laundry baskets are so convenient for looking for clothes or putting them back in, plus they stack nicely in the back of a station wagon! Enlist the kids to help roll the sleeping bags and pads. My boys love to use the dehydrator to make ‘Fruity Roll-ups’. If you have a dehydrator, simply spread applesauce in the top plastic shelf and then dehydrate for several hours! Roll up in plastic wrap and pack for camping! You can also dry bananas for a special, nutritious treat. Place these in an airtight container, not that it ever rains when we camp! (HA!!!!)
Don’t forget to make GORP too. My kids named it this years ago and it consists of a mixture of: sunflower seeds, raisins, M&M’s, carob chips, dried fruit and so forth. Each child can have his/her own ziplock bag of this mixture.
Taking Baby along:
We have always taken babies along on our camping trips and they do every well.
DIAPERS and clothes: You might wish to bring along disposable diapers if you normally use cloth, but I have done both to avoid the extra landfill litter. I have washed diapers out by hand and hung them up to dry, but laundrymats are also available in most areas. Bring along a few more clothes for baby than you would normally. They get dirty easily.
FOOD: If you breastfeed, you have it made as far as food for baby! No need to pack bottles and formula or worry about cleaning them. My babies really didn’t eat much in the way of store bought baby food. They nursed and ate whatever we were eating since we always eat healthily anyhow. You need to leave the seasoning out of baby food you make. They don’t need to aquire a taste for that anyhow!
SAFETY: I always carried my babies in backbacks or babyslings and they were not out of my site. When they do want to get adventurous, you might want to bring along a small playpen and toys. Always have someone in charge of watching little children, which goes without saying. You might want to keep 2 people as watch for toddlers!
SUNSHINE and COLD: keep baby and toddlers out of the direct sun. Many sunscreens are not safe for them, so read carefully. It’s best to keep them in shady areas anyhow. I made a sleeping bag from a pattern out of my head, when my oldest was a baby, and all 5 of my babies used it to camp. It was very simply made, almost like a baby quilt with a zipper down one side. I also slightly padded the head of the sleeping bag for a pillow. It was stuffed with poly-fiberfill and was very cozy.
Be sure to arrive at your campsite early enough to set up your tent long before dark. This is especially important with a baby along.
Must have along items:
Sunscreen (15 SPF or higher) and hats or caps, especially for
Bug-dope approved for kids. Don’t cover tiny hands with it, I prefer to put some on their sleeves, higher up than they suck.
Warm socks for night-time.
Extra Towels and a rope to hang between 2 trees, for a
Small mending kit with needle, thread and tiny scissors.
A bucket with lid for night-time pottying. I take along a clean ice-cream bucket with a roll of toilet paper in it.
A plastic collapsible water container
Small pillows for each member of the family
Matches in a water-proof container ~ an empty film container works well
Soap for dishes and hands ~ a plastic pan/box to wash dishes
small axe to chop firewood for the campfire
Rain gear! I hope this article helps all of you get started with some basic ideas of how to plan and take off on that special campout this year.