Let’s face it…if you don’t embrace the beauty of the great outdoors when you’re little, it’s definitely a steeper prospect to enjoy when you’re older. Becoming a seasoned camper is almost hereditary, and passing the torch to the next generation is more than just teaching them how to do a proper J stroke in a canoe. There are many lessons to learn from the best teacher of all, Mother Nature, and by getting your kids involved early in the game, they will have a multitude of benefits to carry them through adult hood.
So how does one exactly go about getting kids into camping?
First thing is first, get them outside and as hands on as possible from the start- from hiking in your local ravine, to gardening in your backyard, there’s plenty of opportunities early on to get them interacting with everything green. If you are a seasoned camper yourself then you know the best time to take them camping is pretty early on in life. I personally started camping at two years old, but decided a better fit for my kids was closer to four. Kids need to be decent listeners so they don’t either run away, play with fire, or mistake a black bear for a teddy bear. Talk to your kids about basic safety. Most Ontario Provincial Parks come with a designated fire pit, and I always like to get the kids involved right away with collecting rocks to create a ‘safety circle’ so there’s even more space between them and a potential burn. If kids are involved in the process, they’re usually more apt to follow the rules.
Another way to get kids involved in camping is to have them choose some of the meals to bring up. I always grab a bunch of those cute mini cereal boxes to bring up which double as a bowl for milk, but also for arts and crafts if we encounter rain. My kids once built a full campground with these adorable little boxes so let their imagination take over and repurpose some of the garbage that otherwise would go to recycling (or the fire pit). I also love to bake bannock bread over the fire, and with such a basic recipe the kids can get their hands dirty all while learning how our predecessors made bread back in the day.
Don’t forget to have fun!
Probably the most important aspect to remember when camping with wee ones is to have fun! Choose a campsite that has lots of activities your kids will be into, whether it’s hiking, swimming, canoeing, geo-caching or fishing, bring the gear and let your child choose what to do next. Not only will your tiny camper tucker themselves out, but they’ll also build confidence in themselves that will help throughout the rest of their childhood. Many Ontario Parks also feature story times, pioneer based games and educational events that help your child learn about animals, trees, the night sky and more.
Make them feel comfortable
If you’re still not sure if your kid is cut out for tent-life, then set the tent up ahead of time and have them hang out and play a board game or take a nap inside. Making the surroundings familiar and comfortable will ensure that bedtimes will go a bit easier when you’re actually camping. Explaining some of the nocturnal animal sounds that they will be hearing during the night will help ease their anxiety and aid in a good night’s sleep.
And lastly, be patient
One last thing to remember is to relax. Their love affair with the great outdoors won’t come overnight so pack your patience and emulate the happy camper you want them to be like!
By Libby Roach
Libby was born and raised in Ontario growing up with an avid outdoorsmen for a father who also kept a dark room for photography in their basement. Leveraging these two sports together, Libby is an avid camper, photographer and writer living and loving life in Toronto.
How would you like to raise a happy camper in your home?
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