Camping With Your Kids Builds A Lifetime of Memories

CAMPING WITH KIDS Written by CampingEarth staff writer, Shelly Maurer.

We began camping with our three young children about 8 years ago. Our camping ventures all began when we were offered a 1978 Palamino (pop-up) camper by a relative. It was the same relative that took me camping when I was a child.

We began to camp at State Parks only because you couldn't beat the price! We started out camping at parks that were not far from home just in case it wouldn't work out with the children. Little did I know that this first venture would be something we would continue to do for years to come several times a year!

The first few camping trips I packed everything you could think of...mind you the camper came with several items...silverware, pots & pans,...even lights to hang! I packed several toys for our kids to play with and lots of extra clothes. For a while the toys would get played with by our youngest daughter, especially on those camping trips where buckets of rain fell as we sat inside our pop-up. Board games were always a good thing to have along.

As years went on and we purchased our first "new", like brand new, 1999 Camplite pop-up, my packing went down quite a bit. I have learned to ALWAYS have enough extra clothes and shoes for the kids. On several occasions, my son has gotten quite wet while walking on logs in the swamp/woods.

I no longer take along the bags upon bags of toys for the kids. Although they have gotten older, they still like to have some things along to play with but their favorites are outside games although we still have a cupboard in our camper for the decks of cards, badminton, bocce ball, jump ropes, and sidewalk chalk.

Our favorite find is a can similar to a gallon paint can that has playground games inside. Inside this can there is a ball pump, a playground ball, sidewalk chalk, four rubber bases, and the can may also be used for Kick the Can. It also came with a book of suggested games to play with these items....kickball, four square, kick the can...All of this in one can for just a couple of dollars! Yet it is compact enough to fit in our game cupboard. We have added Washer Toss (Washoes) and Ladder Golf (Blongo Ball) to our list of games that we bring along on each trip. There are times that these games go untouched for the simple fact that the kids think of their own things to do with their time. They hike in the woods, ride bike, build forts, or just sit by the fire and whittle sticks. They have learned how to carve bow & arrows with their pocket knives. It is so enjoyable to see them use their imagination and come up with things to do outdoors.

On a recent camping trip, we ventured for our first outing of Geocaching. With our Garmin GPS unit in hand, we made our way to our first cache. The kids were excited to find it and even more excited to see what "goodies" it had. We managed to find 6 of the 10 at the State Park we were at (surprised to see how many were in the park) and had all we could do to convince our eager son, who wanted to keep going and find them all, that we wanted to save some finds for our next trip there in August.

The kids are very excited to teach and show their aunt and uncle the fun in Geocaching when they join us on our next camping trip. Not only are the caches fun to find, since they range in size and shape from a film canister (which usually just has a paper for you to log your find) to an army box, but the time spent getting to the cache like the walk on the trails through the woods and conversations with kids along the way, make the trip all the more memorable and special.

Oh and if you intend to give Geocaching a try, stock up on those little toys from cereal boxes or toys from kids meals at restaurants. When you get to the cache, you date and sign the log book and then you may exchange one of your goodies for one inside. Just remember that some caches may be in the smallest containers so it is best to keep your goodies to trade on the smaller side. It is also suggested to bring your own pen/pencil since some caches are so small they wouldn't fit one in there for you.......A camera would be another item to definitely bring so you can take pictures!

For us, the best thing about camping and enjoying Geocaching is you are outside taking in all that fresh air for the entire day...hours! Nothing beats bedtime when all are tired from the fresh air and venturing all day.