Camping With Kids
by Paul B.
There's nothing 6 year olds or older kids love more than being in the outdoors. Camping is an outdoor recreational activity involving spending one or more nights in a tent, a primitive structure, a travel trailer or recreational vehicle at a campsite with the purpose of getting away from civilization and enjoying nature. National parks and other publicly owned natural areas are popular venues for camping. Camping is often restricted by law to designated sites in order to prevent campers from damaging the environment.
Camping usually is a breeze with kids this age. They can help set up the tent and unload the car and can be trusted to remain nearby without continual supervision. One thing though—every child must have their own flashlight! Everyone loves making cool shadows on the tent walls and all hell breaks loose if sharing is required. Kids enjoy looking at the different kinds of insects that they can find. They might even catch frogs and minnows near the lakes and streams. You could let them examine these creatures and return them unharmed to the wild. Also, carry bug jars, nets, and buckets.
Hiking with six to eight year olds is generally a comedy of errors. Buy some of those disposable cameras or provide your kids with cheap cameras at the start of a hike. The novelty of being able to carry their own cameras will get you through your travels that day. Get the photos developed at a one-hour place if possible while you are still traveling - and then make a huge deal about their incredible pictures. Alternatively, you could provide them with some of the latest digital cameras that give an instant printout—however, you better be a "richdad" if you decide to make this choice. The next time you hike, the kids will be eager as long as you provide them with enough batteries and enough film or digital storage media!
Pick a theme for the trips. It helps you organize activities around a centralconcept. Much easier! Some favorites are "Western" including a chuck wagon meal, corn bread muffins and tea. You could come up with 20 ways to use a bandana around camp and practice tying knots with one-foot sections of rope. At night, you could have a small campfire with twigs and sing old western cowboy songs, try some cowboy poetry and learn a little about the stars.
The "Survivor" theme is another hit, focusing on back-to-the-basics camping essentials. Children this age can grate cheese, stir a cooking pot, fetch water, hand wash and hang laundry, clean up around camp and even pitch the tents with a little help. They love to hike (1 to 2 miles) with frequent breaks. Be sure to take along a trail mix snack the kids can make themselves. You could even make it a bit of a competition. Kids love competitions.
"Explorer" themes like Lewis and Clark are great for this age group, too. They naturally love to explore. Take along magnifying glasses, containers, nets and plastic cups to catch and examine insects. Set a firm, no touching policy for reptiles, insects and plants until they've been identified—this saves a lot of worry. Use handbooks to make identification.