Camping has always been a tradition in my family. For the past 30 years, we have been travelling en masse to a small provincial park in northern Ontario. This year, my husband and I decided to be brave (or crazy) and take our twin girls (2 years old), Madeline and Riley, camping for two nights.
Even though we were only going for two nights, my preparation began weeks ago. I started by making lots of lists, and stressing about all the potential disasters that awaited us—bugs, dirt, water, open flame—not to mention how we were going to handle napping and bedtime! Here are a few things I learned on our trip:
- You can never have too many clothes. We went for two days and two nights. When we got home, I did four loads of laundry. Each girl went through two pairs of pants, three pairs of shorts, five T-shirts, two sweatshirts, four pairs of socks, two bathing suits. That’s a lot of clothes, and I was grateful for the extra socks and T-shirts I threw in at the last minute.
- Bring lots of never-before-seen activities. I started checking out my local dollar store a few weeks before our trip to pick up some fun activities the girls had never seen before. I had my little bag of tricks, and every time someone got fussy, or bored, I would pull out a new book, some stickers, or a new colouring book and markers—anything to grab their attention.
- Remember there are new experiences at every turn. Before we left, I was worried about what we were going to do with Maddie and Riley. Once we were there, it became obvious that there were so many new things for them to see and do. The beach held hours of fun, as did collecting pine needles at the camp site. A walk to the store, or around the campground meant we got to talk about what we were seeing. This was their first time in a tent, sleeping outdoors, seeing a frog up close—it was great to see it all through the eyes of a pair of two year-olds.
- Take the change of scenery as an opportunity to make changes to your routine. Ever since the girls were born, our bedtime routine has included a bottle (or sippy cup) of milk. Now that the girls are two, I was anxious to eliminate it from our nightly routine. We took advantage of the fact that everything about camping was new to switch our night time cup of milk to a dinner time cup of milk. Since we made the change while we were away, we were able to keep it up even when we came home and the girls haven’t even really noticed.
- Relax. The most important thing I learned was to just go with it. Our girls didn’t sleep that well, but it was okay. We don’t usually give them a lot of treats, but when their grandma wanted to give them money for the store, we walked there together and bought chocolate and ice cream. We were on vacation and it was a perfect opportunity for us to relax our rules a bit and have fun.
We were all exhausted by the time we got home, but had a great time and I’m already looking forward to next year. Maybe we’ll go for three days…
What are your camping experiences with kids?