Family Camping Trips: The Art of Camping with Kids

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When I was growing up in the late '80s and early '90s I felt fortunate to have a four-acre lot of woods behind my house to play in. The neighborhood kids and I would ride our bikes, build forts, and have all sorts of adventures. Sure, we also found time to play video games on the NES, but we were outdoors just as often as we were indoors. Sadly I hear that today's children are playing outside less, but it doesn't have to be that way. One of the ways modern parents can encourage their children to play outside is to go on a family camping trip.

Camping with kids opens up opportunities to enjoy the surrounding environment. But it's not always as simple as dropping your kids in the outdoors and letting them play. Some children need a little direction and encouragement when it comes to outdoor activities. This is where adults swoop in and provide opportunities for kids to interact with their environment.

The most obvious way to keep kids interested is through more traditional outdoor activities. Canoeing, fishing, hiking, and spelunking are all adventures waiting to happen. As many campsites have rivers, trails, and caves nearby, all it takes is a little planning to organize a family camping trip that incorporates the exploration of these sites. If you have limited experience doing these activities, consider working with a guide who knows the area well.

A less obvious – but more interesting – way to go camping with kids is to have numerous activities planned that are both fun and help children learn about their surroundings. The Learning Channel has several pages of outdoor activities for kids, many of which involve interacting directly with the environment. Depending on where you're camping, one of the easier activities you can do when camping with kids is to go fossil hunting. Other ideas include:

• Collect leaves of plants and make leaf rubbings. (Be sure to discuss poisonous plants before you begin.)
• Watch clouds and try to identify objects in the clouds.
Build a teepee with your kids.
• Have a scavenger hunt. (Prepare a list of things you expect to find before you leave. Modified version: have the kids find and document at least one thing that begins with each letter of the alphabet.)

Finally, be sure you bring all the appropriate camping gear you need to make the trip a success. Here are some items that may come in handy for your family camping trips:

• sports equipment like a Frisbee, soccer ball, or baseball and gloves
• dice and card games (great for when it rains)
• craft supplies: tracing paper, pencils, crayons, nature journals
• bubble-making supplies
• a family camping tent

The most important part of camping with kids is just letting kids be kids. They're naturally inquisitive about what they find. Sure, adults need their relaxation too, but be sure to stay interested in what the kids are doing. Who knows – maybe you'll have just as much fun doing what they're doing.







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