Take Your Kids Camping

  Today, it seems like you are just supposed to "do it." Referring of course, to taking the kids camping. It must say somewhere that a dad -  mom - or both, must take them camping at least once. There are many of us - who were once kids - which have been left scarred by that first introduction to camping. We learned that they (parents) can't do everything, don't control the weather, that black flies, burned holes from cinders, and mousquitos can test even the patience of Job. That old thing about growing up to be like our parents as we pass along the family traditions of fire making, fish cleaning, and outdoor survival skills - despite our best efforts - will probably come home to roost. I sure found out it did.

Parents, as you twist the four corners of an old newspaper together to make a fire balloon - remember... check the wind to make sure it is blowing out over the lake, woods can -and do, burn down (which might ruin your camping trip,) and that smores are safer. Oh, and try to keep in mind that this trip really is for them, not you.

If you decide that a back yard camping trip is just too risky due to the criminal elements, codes, regulations, and laws prohibit it, or you just cannot wait to hit the trails, then you might want to really first consider a car/truck/van trek.

When the weathermans predictions for clear sky's and cool nights turns into raging storms and icy temperatures, the car/truck/van is near by. That way the kids and you are keeping safe and warm. Let them snack on some of the food that is left inside the vehicle too. They will be very happy knowing that breakfast doesn't have to be caught and cleaned because you forgot and put most of the food in the tent, which became a gourmet' meal for the local game animals while you were out teaching them how to fall out of a canoe gracefully - if you brought our own, like I did.

When choosing a campground save yourself some gray hair by not camping next to people with gray hair already, and no kids.  If they happen to get up sometime during the night and find the frog your boy put in their dentures glass for safe keeping, it may upset them. You might want to try to locate a campground with some amenities such as canoe/boat rentals. Guided walks, and ranger supervised kid activities can be a lifesaver.

Once set up, it is a good thing to let your kids help around the camp site. The little ones can be given a stick to keep the snipes away while you teach basic firebuilding/outdoor cooking skills to the older ones. That is one way to get your morning breakfast cooked while you slumber. The grounds in the coffee will help clear the tartar from your teeth, there will be no snipes around, they will have gotten the water already, and you just KNOW that egg shells are good for your body somehow.

Should you decide to try a trek type camping excursion, it is well to remember that everything you bring with you - you will carry - in and out. That the cave you remember so fondly as youngster will seem so much farther away now. Portacribs do not fit in backpacks. Disposable diapers are meant to be used, and you can't leave them behind, and there are no stores to buy more if you should run out. DO take a tube of chap stick with you to put on mousquito bites, and the old rule of "leaves of three, let it be," should be followed.

If - again - you need to trek to your intended camp site, keep in mind that little legs walk twice as far as you. Three to five miles in one day is about their limit even though they might run ten at home. Little eyes and hands will probably want to see, touch, and feel everything along the way regardless if it crawls, slithers, or just looks pretty. Let them set the pace, and enjoy their curiosity while trying to keep them safe. Flexibility is the rule here, as well as a backup plan of action. If it seems as though you are less that halfway there and that nightfall will come before arrival, turn around and go back.

An important aspect for your kids (and your sanity) pleasure, is to make sure they have the proper equipment. Yes, I know they will outgrow those expensive hiking boots, but it is less expensive than the Dr. visits for damaged feet later on. One of the surest ways to have a miserable time for everyone is to have a child with sore feet, wet clothes, and/or is cold. Any combination of the three, or even one by itself, can spell disaster.

While on the trail, it is a good thing too if you happen to know something about the local flora/fauna/insect life, and can explain a little about them. Your kids will not know the difference until they are in high school biology if you do not know it all, so be prepared to at least make it sound good even if you are not a naturalist....

When all is said and done, your kids may decide that this is more fun than they can handle, and is just not for them. That camping is just not their thing unless it is done on the fourth floor of a hotel. If that is their choice, then you have accomplished as much as if they have decided to continue on into greater outdoor adventuring. Why? Because you have taught them that they have the right, the capability, and the courage to make up their own minds. You done good!

Chris Spangler

Copyright 1999 - 2006, Chris Spangler, Livingonthe.net,  All Rights Reserved
updated: 10-27-2005

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This page was last updated on: September 19, 2007
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          How to make a "Fire Balloon".

Take a page of a newspaper, bring the four edges together and twist them so that they are joined. Pick it up like a parachute from the top, and ever so gently lay it - twisted end first, onto some hot coals while trying to keep it as level as you can. The bottom will catch fire filling the "balloon" with hot air, and lift it up high while it is burning. At night it is quite a beautiful sight, but one which you have to use extreme care with! First, not to catch yourself on fire, and then to not catch anything else on fire by falling embers, or the balloon as it descends.