Monday, July 16, 2012

Camping with Preschoolers

We went camping with the girls for the first time this weekend, and it was a big hit. 

Now, let me clarify what "camping" means in this context: 

  • We drove across the state.
  • We drove into the woods.
  • We pitched a tent.
  • We cooked dinner over a campfire.
  • We slept - like sardines - in a small tent.
  • We woke up the next morning and made coffee and oatmeal on a tiny backpackers stove.
  • The girls loved the playground.
  • The girls loved the indoor rec room with all the toys.
  • The girls loved driving to the lake to go swimming.
  • The girls loved looking at the swimming pool, but didn't want to go in.
  • They thought the idea of coin-operated showers was interesting.
  • The girls loved going to Tanglewood and dancing to some amazing live classical music.

Hmmm, this doesn't sound like the camping that BestestHusband and I did before the girls were born...

Because it isn't. We didn't go hiking this trip. We required flush toilets and showers. We brought lots of familiar foods in an insanely-large ice chest. We tailored camping to the tolerances and abilities of a 2.7 and a 3.9 year old. But we got them outdoors. We were outside all day. We got them surrounded by plants, animals, and scenery. And we allowed them to have fun without electronics or their favorite household toys. And we let them run around without hovering over them. We let them run off with a new little girl to stay within earshot. They had a taste of freedom. They got dirty. They learned a few new things:

  • You can live from the back of your car.
  • There are a lot of bugs outside.
  • You can cook food over open fire.
  • You can be in the dark and be ok.
  • If all else fails, just lay on top of Mama.
  • If you leave bagels on the table and walk away, red squirrels will try to run off with them.
  • You have to take trash to the dumpster or the animals get into it.
  • Lake water is different from pool water, and you can control how deep you go in.
  • Binoculars help see things far away. If you turn them around, things look different.
  • Magnifying glasses help see things close up. If you put them to your face, things look different.
  • If you leave baby wipes on top of the car at a rest area, they disappear.
  • Camping is fun and we want to go again soon.

Someday, I would love to do backpacking camping as a family. But that is quite a distance ahead in the future. For now, we just want them to experience the outdoors, and develop an appetite for more.

In the meantime, I'm marveling at how we can spend as much time preparing and recovering from the trip as we do actually enjoying the trip! Ah well. In the future, they'll be old enough to help more...

PS. I forgot to mention what WE learned!

  • Summer camping trips will result in garden explosions. (Holy Bolted Spinach Batman!!!)
  • No matter how much you water things in advance, your front porch hanging baskets will try to die.
  • Your dogs might come back from the dog sitter's house with fleas. Lots of them.
  • Guard your only package of baby wipes like your LIFE depends on it.
  • Make sure you pack your glasses if you're blind without contacts in.
  • 2 children do NOT equal 1 adult when it comes to tent capacity.
  • Make sure you pack more than one match.
  • Pack earplugs if you don't enjoy crow serenades at daybreak.
  • Recovering from a camping trip might take most of the next week.

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