At first, our kids seemed to be annoyed at the amount of effort required to do anything, especially the hike to the outhouse. There was a great deal of whining out of the older ones. But slowly, they began to enjoy the process, the relaxing pace and most importantly, the beauty of their surroundings. When they whined they were bored, I offered a frisbee, the option of a game of tag or "I Spy". I was surprised at how quickly they adapted and even began to thrive outside their normal surroundings. Soon, they were inventing their own games and inviting children from nearby campsites to join in.
Camping not only encouraged creativity in the children, but also brought some amazing teachable moments. We talked about why we were using washable plates though other campers chose to use paper. We talked a lot about enjoying nature while leaving as little of an imprint on it as possible, so that others could enjoy it in the future too. It's amazing how even young children can grasp these concepts and the thoughtful comments they added to these conversations.
Our first camping trip was part of an amazing event where all our gear was provided for us, along with help and instruction from camping experts. All we had to do was show up with the kids, clothes and sunscreen. I still forgot pillows, but we managed to survive without them. In my opinion, the worst part of camping is getting there with everyone and all the stuff. The younger your children are, the more stuff that is required. The hard part is keeping it simple, making sure you have all the basics and nothing more.
While we were blessed to have this amazing experience and now feel empowered to do it again, I really regret that we didn't start camping with our children sooner. If I had it to do over, I would have started with simple overnight campouts in our backyard.
I recently learned you can often find camping gear at thrift stores, which is a great way to not only reuse, but save money too. A wise friend suggested getting a large, clear plastic tub to store camping gear. That way you can fill in the gaps of the little necessities over time and everything is easily accessible for the next camping trip, or even an emergency situation. A backyard campout is a great way to help you determine what you truly need and what you can do without. If it's a necessity, you can always run back inside to grab it. If you don't have a backyard, consider a nearby state park or campgrounds for your first outing, somewhere an hour or less from home if possible.
The key is to just get out there and try it. One of the beautiful things about camping is that it never goes exactly as expected, and there's usually some sort of obstacle to overcome. It's a great lesson for young children that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Do you camp with your little ones? What do you enjoy most about the experience? Do you have tips to share with beginning campers? Share with us in the comments below.