Whether camping, hiking, backpacking, or canoeing/kayaking as a family, there are a few special considerations, that if ignored, can change your trek into the wilderness from an adventure full of memories of a lifetime into a stress-inducing nightmare that you will all just as soon forget. It is important to remember when enjoying these outdoor activities with children, and we need to make it about them. This approach can be a hard thing for parents to keep in mind. If you start with this mindset from the planning stages, it helps contribute to a trip that can be enjoyed by all.
Don’t Forget the Fun!
As parents, we may be perfectly content to get away from civilization and melt into the beauty of the nature around us. Ahh, complete relaxation. However, kids need activities to keep them occupied. For younger children, this may be a few of their favorite toys (from experience stuffed animals are not your best choice). Coloring books, crayons, and craft supplies used in conjunction with some of the items you can collect are also excellent choices. For the older kids, it's a good idea to allow them to bring books, or music (better to keep the cell phone usage to a minimum). A good football or soccer ball isn’t a bad idea. Card and dice games can be an excellent choice for the entire family to enjoy. Nature-themed scavenger hunts are great, as well. When children's bodies and minds are kept busy doing fun activities and not just sitting around at camp, mom and dad get rewarded with happiness and laughter instead of groaning and complaining.
Don’t Forget To Break
Whether camping, boating, hiking, or backpacking, always remember to take frequent breaks when doing these activities with kids. They need something to break up the trip and get their attention. You may need more frequent stops for bathroom or snack breaks. Just remember that when enjoying the outdoors with kids, its more about the journey than the destination.
Keeping everything organized at camp is not only very helpful; it is a must. Place all your camping gear, food, cooking supplies, toiletries, toys, and activities in separate clear totes/storage boxes with a large label listing what is inside. This trick is a must as it allows for easy identification and access to all of your stuff. No more “Mom! Where are the_____?” For small items, keep everything in labeled ziplock bags or zippered pencil bags. This hack works great for items such as phones, chargers, keys, cards, and wallets. Make sure that you have a foot wash station and a mat near the entrance to your tents. This wash bin cuts down on tracking in so much dirt and sand.
Always have a fully stocked first aid and medicine kit, including any home medications that you may need. Some insect repellant (there are many effective natural repellants widely available). Trust me, a trip that begins with everyone covered in mosquito bites, or ticks does not go well! Sunscreen and lip balm are necessities as well. Everyone should have an emergency whistle with them at all times. That way, if anyone gets separated or injured, they can get everyone's attention. Just be sure that they have been taught to stay in one place and blow their whistle until someone finds them. Another item that is great for at least one person to carry is a PLB or personal locator beacon. When activated, these satellite GPS tracking devices can help rescuers find you much faster. This device would be more of a necessity when backpacking or hiking unknown areas. Don't forget about nighttime safety. Everyone needs their own flashlight/headlamp. Glow sticks are also an excellent way to light a path; they also make great bracelets or necklaces to help you keep track of everyone.
While this list may not be comprehensive, these tips will go a long way in helping your family make some great memories when venturing into the great outdoors!