Experiences, anecdotes, tips, how-tos, hiking, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie

Monday, April 26, 2010

Occupying Young Children in the Car

You know all those plastic children's lunch boxes used during school time; well they are ideal for travel occupation. You need at least one lunch box per child, and depending on the length of the trip, bring a few extra packed lunch boxes. What you pack in them depends on what's in the toy chest or what your children like to do. You are looking for smaller, imaginative-play type toys, like Barbie dolls, G.I. Joes, Match Box cars, rubber creatures and Beanie Babies. Then stretch your imagination, and subsequently the children's, by including a wooden-shaped block or plastic ring or large paste jewel or finger ring, perhaps a colored feather or ribbon. These eclectic objects will spark the children's creative play on a small scale as the miles roll by. Don't forget Etch-a-sketches, story picture books, listening tapes, and sharpened pencils (with sharpener)and pads of paper for tic-tac-toe and hang the man.

Pack each lunch box differently and exchange boxes often to keep interests peaked. You can make each box a theme, like sports with sports cards and figurines or aquatic with underwater creatures and boats. Make play interactive and practice communication skills by writing notes to each other and passing them along via "child mail" to the recipient. Tic-tac-toe and hang man can work this way also. As the children matured, I added something new, like a "Yak Bak." It was a small tape recorder that recorded about two minutes of words or sounds. The receiver listened and then taped over a response or posed a new question. This was not a lasting tape recorder but rather for short chit-chat.

Whatever the children were learning in school, we took up on the pad of paper, like poetry and rhyming. Each participant would write one line of a rhyming poem, attempting to keep on the same subject, and at the close of the day's driving, we would share what we had created at camp after dinner, which tended to be quite comical as the rules required only that it rhymed, not make sense. We kept journals of our excursions both on the road and what transpired at camp or a particular park we visited. These didn't need to be long or involved, but each child needed to remember something that happened that day. These journals were shared in the evenings only if the person wanted others to know what he or she had written. I also kept a journal of our trips and shared with the children the more comical aspects of camping with the family. The children always appreciated being able to look back last vacation to see what they had experienced and what they had thought about it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

And Limitations

Besides time and money, limitations for a family may include the ages of the children and later when the children are teens, and more daring, the ages of the parents. In the beginning of our camping experience, we spent endless hours at playgrounds, lazy lakes, farms, and zoos, but then when the twins were 4, our son 6, and the girls 8 and 10, we decided to try the mountains. We started with a short hike, about a half mile roundtrip to a waterfall in the Shenandoah Mountains. Yes, it took hours...and hours...as we stopped at every boulder and tree along the way. Our son gathered rock rubble and acorns to weigh down his cargo pants pockets. We had snack breaks and drink breaks about every fifteen minutes, and I and my husband carried the twins on our backs most of the way, their little feet tucked into our back pockets, our hands clasped around their bottoms as they held onto our shoulders.

Nevertheless, the majestic mountain falls brought a hush over our usually talkative family as the water skipped and bumped down the mountainside. This was how we knew that the children would enjoy the beauty in nature also. Questions flew around and my husband and I did our best to answer all of them. Following the stream away from the falls a bit, we settled the children along the bank of the stream and instructed them to peel off their socks and shoes to look for fish and frogs as we refreshed our tired toes in the icy transparent water.

I told my son to empty his pockets on the bank to admire the "treasure" he had collected. After our investigation of the matter and elimination of the heavier non-descript rubble, we returned his treasure, a few choice pebbles and most of the acorns, to his pockets and discussed once again the possibility of collecting different kinds of leaves on the journey back down the mountainside. It didn't work; he had another ten pounds of rubble in his pockets by the time we had reached the car. That's okay; the twins felt heavier on the way back down the mountain, so our progress was slowed to a caterpillar crawl anyway.

Limitations. This approximately four hour hike would be our only family activity for the day, unless you count meals, but that's another story.