Why take your kids camping?


So why take your kids camping?

Whichever way you start to answer this question it will undoubtedly be informed by the kind of camping experiences you had as a child.

Didn't ever go camping? Then this question probably makes you nervous or just mystified.

Have horrible memories of flooded tents, vomiting siblings, biting ants and an endless bumpy car journey to a campsite that turned out to look like the set of Deliverance? I can feel I you shuddering from here. Fair enough...  

However I'm hoping that you are happily reflecting on the joys that camping brings to small humans... (And big ones too when it all goes well).

Actually most of us who did and even still do camp can probably think of the good, the bad and the ugly when we reflect on camping but that's just it. Camping actually requires a bit of adversity to make the good times oh so sweet. If you want an effortless holiday please go book that 5 star hotel right now! 

The magic formula that gets us and the kids "in" is the package of the great outdoors combined with the specialist kit that's required….. a box of rope, the mallet and emergency camping essentials, special absorbent camping towels, a head torch, sleeping bags, a tiny stove, banged up old frypans to cook with, and the TENT! It must be because as a species we actually have spent far greater time living in temporary shelter than modern homes that we seem (well most of us) innately attracted to a tent. Kids love a tent. I'm warning you that as soon as you purchase that thing and bring it home you will have to pitch it in your garden or living room and spend a night in it with your kids right away. And this is actually a great idea as I reckon 50% of camping success is in the prep. Especially with kids involved. You just need to have thought through every disaster scenario going and worked out your plan of action should it occur. Then you can go and enjoy an incident free holiday. But pitching the new tent at a remote location for the first time only to find that there are no pegs??? Challenging to say the least. 

But once you've packed your first aid kit, emergency chocolate, extra clothes for every possible weather event and a complete replacement for every device and function of your home eg washing, cooking, cleaning, sleeping, shelter, if you can still get the boot closed on your car you are ready to go. 

Then the magic happens. Somehow everyone buys into this concept that a simple zipped up nylon sheet is the equivalent of a brick wall. (Except the toddler that wails all night next door and the guy at the end of the site that you can hear snoring at 3am... ) The kids’ excitement is tangible; every time you go, it never gets old. If it's a new campsite there is a whole world to explore; where to pitch the tent, trees to climb, the amenity block (eww those toilets stink Mum!) the neighbours, wildlife, where to ride the bike or walk to next. If it's an old favourite then there's nothing better than tearing around to check to see what's changed and if that bottle top is still wedged in the cleft of a favourite tree from last year. 

Fresh air and exercise makes for great appetites. Food becomes simple, comfort food. Stuff from cans and packets, fresh eggs from the farmshop nearby. Baked potatoes and lots of butter...and marshmallows. Which of course bring us to the fire. Back to the primeval in us all, who can resist a campfire? The kids will suddenly develop strong attachments to the best stick for toasting marshmallows. Whatever you do, don’t burn that one!! Sleepy kids, the grown ups nursing a glass of wine, a sing-song and the warm glow of the fire. Look up and see the stars, listen to those night time noises, discover a possum raiding your kitchen for unsecured food and be glad you’re not in North America with bears.

I even love the sound of rain on a tent so long as I don’t have to pack up that day and a day of entertaining kids around the campsite in the rain isn’t as hard as it might seem, just time to read, play games or embrace getting raincoats on and out in the wet. So long as it doesn’t go on all week.

I think it’s the chance to be a bit wild and feral, grubby and smelling of campfire, salty from a swim and not bothering to shower. The exposure to the weather and so much closer to nature – you’re just out in it and that tent and your snuggly sleeping bag give you just enough comfort to make it just fine. And that’s what I want my kids to take from camping: memories of fun adventures, so maybe one day they will want to take their kids camping too.

I asked my 6 year old son what he loves about camping and with a grin he rattled off: “being somewhere else instead of at home, playing crazy games with friends (they always form some kind of pack even when we don’t actually go with people we know), and the tent. And my sleeping bag. Hey can we pitch the tent Mum?”

Penny Sadubin, Mum and keen camper from Outdoor Connections



familyEmma WalkerComment