10 ways to keep the kids happy when camping these school holidays
So the question begs…. ‘How do we keep kids happy when camping these school holidays?’ As I started to write this blog and as a parent myself, my mind drifted back to memories of my childhood camping trips & it made me wonder, ‘Why were we so happy as kids when camping and what was it that mum and dad did for us?’ So I thought to myself, ‘That’s it…. I’m going to ask some experienced professionals & call my parents (now hitting their 70’s) to pick their minds!' Here’s the best part, their answer stunned me and it was genius! Here’s their response:
‘WE didn't have to keep you kids happy when camping,
we gave you ownership of our camping trips from a young age and you
created your own fun, happiness and memories!”
What an epiphany and how simple was that? So with that said and after a lengthy discussion with my oldies, here’s what I have come up with.
- Choosing the destination
Have your kids design their perfect School holiday camping destination? Irrelevant of whether you allow your kids to use technology when camping or not, let them use it at home prior to help aid in the organisation of where they would like to go! Or, maybe even engage them using a traditional Map & have them mark out where they’re like to go and how long for. They could well surprise you with an adventure hopping camping holiday in 2 or 3 varied destinations - you never know! I guarantee two things will more than likely come out of this:
- If they choose the destination, they will enjoy it more.
- They will more than likely choose a place (or places) you’ve previously been, know well and it will make your life easier. Put it this way, this is exactly what my kids did!
- What’s there to do?
So you’ve been allocated your camping destination and I have no doubt the research has started on what your kids ‘think’ they can get up to once they’ve arrived! Here’s where a calendar or diary will come in handy. Have them research all or any activities you could do and as you can imagine, allocate them accordingly (Once again, their fun will extend from their ownership of the experience creation). We had to laugh with our kids here - if we let them organise the whole camping experience themselves…. we’d have had no time for sleep! They don’t need to come up with what you do each day, just come to you with a list of options and work out together what your possibilities are each day. As long as they get some ownership, your half way there!
- Meal Planning
Let's be honest here, if we gave our kids the freedom to choose our camping holiday dietary requirements, we’d probably end up with endless bags of Marshmallows - Chocolate - Pancake mix and cheese Jaffles over the fire. So it’s a case of setting out some clear guidelines and boundaries around food and meal options. Maybe it’s one meal each day they have to come up with. Breakfast one day - lunch the next & to get some real buy in from the kids….. desert when appropriate. You could well be pleasantly surprised…. your kids might just step up and cook you a camping meal (or at least help you anyway!). Regardless, it’s getting them engaged & looking forward to the upcoming trip is where the fun begins & that will add to the fun time to be had
- Night time around the fire
Here’s where our kids really took the bull by the horns (so to speak). We asked them to research some activities to do around the fire after dinner at night. We ended up taking board games, playing charades and best of all…. one night (the first night), we had a dancing show put on for us that had been pre choreographed at home. Kids love to create… get them involved, give them the responsibility and allow them to achieve.
- Help set up camp
Now here’s a hard one and that’s usually because we’re stressed setting up camp ourselves! But to be really fair on our kids (because they don’t understand that!), as adults and parents who want our kids buy-in to a happy and fun camping experience….. we need to be more organised before we go and allow them to contribute (we all want to feel valued). Before we head off on our camping trip of a life time, if we organise and run our kids through a list of ‘simple' jobs they can help with before we arrive…. more often than not, they will get involved with us. It might be the easy things like, getting the camping chairs and folding them out, taking the sleeping bag out of its shell, helping mum or dad pack the camping pantry, or maybe even helping to scope the area for sharp sticks & stones before we set up camp.
- Kids health & fitness first (But don’t tell them!)
As parents who work hard all week, it’s too easy to sit back and do nothing when camping (we’re exhausted & want our own down time). But guess what…. Kids don’t understand or think like that & neither did you when you were young (never forget that!). Kids bodies crave exercise, they have endless energy and if we do have a little bit of self-interest as adults….we do want them to hit the sack nice and early and sleep well at night! I can’t recommend highly enough to organise some sort of bushwalking - kayaking - swimming or cycling if the bikes will fit. It’s not exercise to them… it’s fun & it’s good for their mind, body & soul!
- Educate them on camping bush skills
I was very fortunate as a child, my parents taught me everything there was to know about camping from a young age! I was only young, but my father still taught me how to light a fire and just as important, he taught me to respect fire, the heat & the risk it posed. Kids thirst for knowledge and they watch everything little thing we do with the hope that they too might be able to do that when they’re older. The skillset that I obtained from a young age has been invaluable to me later in life - it’s engrained in my DNA and are some of the fondest memories of my childhood camping experiences. Now that’s fun!
- Photo’s form lasting childhood memories
We all think of the fun whilst we are camping as children, but how many of us have looked at old photos of our young camping adventures and had an overwhelming sense of fun and excitement run through our mind. It’s controversial, but there are some times when camping where technology can add value to our fun (it might not be now, but it will be in the future). Rarely, but occasionally, we let our kids use their portable electronic devices but for pictures only. Not only is it fun for the kids when camping - it’s great to share with their friends, extended family and even their class mates back at school (ideal for school projects!). It’s fun now & in the future!
- Night time adventure
Night time can be just as fun as day time when camping. Kids love to hold a camping torch (thank goodness L.E.D camping torches were invented…. their battery life is amazing!) and even more so, they love to explore. Having your kids research Star Gazing and native Nocturnal wild life before they head out camping, will be sure to give them some excitement to look forward to when they go camping. It’s as easy as printing it off before you leave & send them out on their own created adventure!
- Kids attract kids…. it’s fun for adults too!
Sometimes in life, things work in your favour with little to no effort at all. Whenever we go camping and there are other kids camping nearby, at some stage through the weekend they will more than likely meet (kids attract kids!)! Our kids love to meet new friends. In fact, what is amazing, is how kids also bring adults together. We now have new friendships that have been forged from family camping trips that would never have happened if it wasn’t for our little ones interacting with other kids. It’s so simple, its often missed and it’s ideal to think about when organising your next family camping experience… head somewhere where there will be kids camping too!
- Creating lasting memories.
So we’ve packed up, headed home and unpacked the camping gear…. what could possibly be fun now for the kids? It’s really quite easy - my kids are around 10 years of age and are now at a point where they can create their own camping video / movie. I know it involves technology, but in my defence it is at home after our camping trip & I believe it will ingrain our kids with long time lasting memories of their fun camping experience. We are now at a stage where our kids can’t wait to get home and create a new movie of what took place. We always watch the movie once they’ve finished it and that is invaluable fun for all of the family! It’s a Win / Win at the end of the day!