May 15, 2010
TEENS and Camping Written by Sue Kemper
Camping is a great experience for children, and our trips have been some of our greatest family experiences. Of course my children aren't really children anymore; they are 19 and 17 years old already... but we've been camping as a family since they were three and five years old, and we've got some great memories of those days. And yes, even at 19 and 17, the boys still want to camp with us whenever they can.
As I look back over the years, I have a few thoughts (in no particular order!) for anyone who is thinking about camping with their own kids.
-- I believe that the number one rule is: Keep it SIMPLE. Especially when the kids are little. Don't start out with long trips, don't pack every toy they own, and don't worry about filling every minute with an exciting activity. Studies show that families today are "over-scheduled." Time to just sit around and be bored isn't bad for kids. Do you remember being little and spending time with a parent watching clouds, picking out shapes? That kind of quiet, day dreamy. Sharing time is missing in our children's lives.
-- I suggest that on camping trips, the video games or hand held games stay in the car. I would hesitate to say that they can't have their games at ALL, but I seriously suggest you limit them DRASTICALLY. A kid playing a video game can be anywhere, and he doesn't care what is going on around him. If the rule is set early limiting video game use, and you stick to it, the kids will have a chance to really join in the experience of camping. They might not be too happy at first. I think it's like an addiction for many kids. But if they play video games the whole time they are camping, they might as well stay home.
-- In our family, we always had a rule that our tent is for sleeping in ONLY. I hate the tent opening and closing all day, with the bugs that brings in... not to mention the muddy shoes... So we told our kids from the very beginning that if they went into the tent, they had to stay in there and take a nap. No playing, actually SLEEPING. Well, that felt a little mean because of course kids LOVE to play in the tent. So as a compromise, we always brought an extra tent. It was a small pup tent, just big enough for the boys to hang out in. It didn't take up much extra space in the car, and actually it was pretty handy because at night we could stash their toys and some of our gear inside. The boys loved it, because it was like their own private club house.
-- I try to plan my camping trips far in advance. I make a list of everything I need. That list includes my menu, and the food and cooking gear I need. I have a section of my house that I call the "staging area" where I start piling things up that I know I want to bring. This way everything is together before I start packing the car; I think I'm less likely to forget something. The morning of the trip, I try not to be running around guessing what else I'm going to need. And if you camp a lot, some of your gear can just stay packed; for example, the boys each have their camping toiletry kits all filled with toothbrush, toothpaste sample, deodorant, hand towel, and toilet paper. Our cooking tote already has a frying pan and a large pot, camping dish soap and brillo, all of those kinds of things, ready to go.
-- Finally, even with all of the planning, try to BE FLEXIBLE. Sure, you have an idea of what the trip should be like. But sometimes you just have to go with the flow. If it isn't fun, try something else. If you are stressing out, the trip won't be fun for you and it won't be fun for your kids either. Some of our greatest memories now are the trips that were uncomfortable; "Remember the time it rained so hard and it wasn't stopping and we had to buy tarps and hang them all over our site?" If you are uncomfortable, you might want to try to stick it out for a while, because like my grandma always said, that's what builds character. But if you are just plain miserable? Hey, there's always another camping trip next weekend!
In the photo: My son Nick and his cousin Stephen still love to come camping, even though they are 16 and 17 years old! Here, they are swinging in a cheap hammock that we found in a dollar store.
Sue Kemper - Camping In Style Member
Iselin New Jersey
Campground is Pine Barrons - Where the "Jersey Devil" supposedly resides!