Dos & Don'ts of Taking Kids Camping
Peter Brown Hoffmeister, author of Let Them Be Eaten By Bears: A Fearless Guide to Taking Our Kids into the Great Outdoors, offers these tips for parents who want to take their kids into the woods.
- One great way to get to know the campground or wilderness area at the start of the trip is to play hide-and-go-seek (or a variation like kick-the-can). Set boundaries, then have people hide. They will be running and smiling and feeling comfortable in the first five minutes.
- Unstructured play builds creativity and problem-solving skills. Once the tent is set up and the beds are laid out, tell the kids to “go play.” Repeat that mantra over and over.
- If it’s cold at night, fill a Nalgene bottle with hot water and place it inside a thick wool sock. One of those in a sleeping bag will keep a sleeper warm all night long.
- Turn off technology for the entire trip or limit it to 15 minutes a day. Replace it with what hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail call “caveman TV”: a campfire.
- Take and make really good food: fruit and vegetables, cold pizza, dark chocolate, avocados, and s’mores—no camper should be without a few s’mores.
- Skip locations known for high mosquito counts. Check online. No one wants to eat mosquitoes with breakfast or watch the toddler’s eye swell shut.
- Avoid a middle-of-the-campground site on July 4th. If it feels like a line at Disneyland, it’s not quality camping.
- Make a group-wide rule that there’s no whining. Nothing kills a trip like a group whine-a-thon. One friend of mine makes a rule that each whine earns the person five pushups. That gets people in shape quick.