If you sat around our campfire you'd hear some wild tales. One year Opa set a lantern on fire, tripped over a stump, and rolled down the hill with a flaming duffel bag. The next year we were pelleted with hail stones while the ground beneath us shuddered in a thunder storm. The annual Gathering of Heroes has become a cherished tradition.
Our family camp-out is sponsored each year by Heidi and Jac. This summer their four little girls were 5, 4, and the twins barely 2. In an interview for Marta's blog Heidi gave these expert tips:
MAKING THE OUTDOORS REALLY GREAT
My advice for camping with kids is that you can never be too prepared.
I believe in outfitting little ones in rugged jeans or pants that I don't care about, so that I don't care if they sit on the ground and get completely filthy. I like to bring a place for them to sit, like a highchair or saucer, even the car seat carrier is handy for the tiniest ones. A highchair (the ones from IKEA are cheap, and perfect for hosing down afterwards) makes it is easier for them to eat, be up out of the way and it was great to let them sit and color for awhile.
Watered down cocoa is great in a sippy cup. I prefer uncooked s'mores for 2 year olds! I bring books and all of their nighttime paraphernalia for tent sleeping. I bring their winter jammies with feeties, and make a bed out of an unzipped sleeping bag and blankets. The twins are still in cribs at home, so I wasn't sure what they'd be like sleeping. (I discovered the first night that they didn't like to be inside the sleeping bag, so I did it different the next night. Creativity is key!)
Getting them to bed is always an adventure. I make sure every kid has a flashlight and then turn them all off at the same time to listen to tent-time Dora Adventures by mom. Once they are all settled and snoozing, I don't freak out to leave them in the tent alone. The adults are always very close, the campfire is just a few steps away and I check on them often. It's great for us to enjoy some fun time around the fire sans kids. I try to have everything ready before dark so I can get right in my sleeping bag after zipping down the tents for the night.
Another tip: Kids noses get stuffy while camping... maybe campfire smoke or something. This year I brought those cool Triaminic Vaporized Patches. We cut them in half and stuck them on their jammies and they slept soundly.
I look back on pictures and realize my kids get really dirty. We try to brush teeth, but we don't do hair too cute. The clothes they wear are grungy and I always bring washable shoes. This year since I knew it would rain we brought galoshes to roam in. They were perfect! With their pants tucked inside, the pants are clean enough to wear another day.
We scout out perfect campsites and reserve them early. Even if we're booking our site in winter, we try to get a feel for what it's going to be like by driving to where we're going. We know just what we like about the sites we want; shade only, no one wants to bake while making lunch! It's lousy being hot and kids get grumpy. (The typical group sites are great, but are usually cement without tons of shade.) We like to invite others, because it's just easier that way.
My husband is awesome enough to set everything up and take it down as long as I take care of scrubbing down the kids. It's a perfect trade off. We only camp 15 minutes away from home, so it's easy to pack our whole house! We make it worth it by staying a few nights (it is definitely not worth all the packing when you go for just one dinner and one night). May as well make a whole vacation out of it! My kids remember the fun times with their cousins and have come to love our family camp outs.
We always have yummy food, because the best part of camping is the meals and snacks for me. Opa & Oma introduced Jac and I to their GINORMOUS sleeping pads, not so easy for lugging along but they are soft and cushy and make sleeping in a tent totally do-able. I like to take a stroller for walks around the campground, or you can always drive the canyon to get kids to take naps. Most of all, you and your husband can't have huge expectations. Jac gives me breaks so I can enjoy and read my book and I try to give him time to sleep and unwind too. We can't wait for the years when the kids are old enough to do long hikes and we can all sleep in, etc. But until then, we'll just deal with it. Plus we have to make the most of it! We can make them go now while they're little. What happens when they're all saying, "Camping?!! Gross mom... can't we just go to Disneyland?"
We only do this once or twice a year. But, every time we come home we say, "We gotta go again." I feel anxious to just set up the tent to sleep in the backyard this week!
Marta had tips, too. She said:
camping with kids checklist.i've received a few emails inquiring about camping w/ kids, so here goes. i am a novice about camping with small ones, but i've learned a thing or two from my older sister. heidi and her husband have camped with their - oh so darling - 4 kids (in tents, mind you) every year since their family began. this year included her two year old twins. if they can do it, so can you. here are some ideas i picked up.
details. let loose and be flexible. give the kids each a place to sit. heidi brought her itty bitty princess camp chairs; perfect for the girls to roast marshmallows and minimized quarrels over where to sit. i brought up our small portable high chair for benji (it was perfect for keeping him from swallowing sticks). use off wipes to keep bugs away from li'l ones. bring sunscreen and lots of it. set up your tent in daylight and put the rainfly on, just in case. put a port-a-crib inside your tent for the baby (keeping him off the ground means he feels warmer and is lot more like home). pack all the baby food / spoons / bibs together in a separate ziplock gallon size baggie, it will be no nonsense to fix up when he gets hungry and anxious. oh and there are even coleman battery-operated fans available to attach inside your tent, perfect for hot afternoon naps. what will they think of next.
This post is a TravelinOma rerun from 2009. Our 4th of July camp out gets better every year! This week I'm working on my Oma Tent kits, so I'll be repeating myself with ideas that have worked for us!