Camping is a lot of work. It requires equipment you don’t use on a daily basis. You have to plan what you will need and make sure you bring it along! You still have to keep children entertained (and safe), make meals and hand wash the dishes. Camping is also relaxing, a great way to bond and for our group it was years filled with great memories of fun and laughter.
We have a group of other families that we started camping with 32 years ago. Our oldest son was 7 months old. He slept in a port-a-crib, thankfully with warm clothes because the temps got down to the low 40’s. He was one of the oldest in the group of 5 children. As a mom you might be thinking YUCK. We had a great time!
We have camped numerous times since that first, in several different places for up to a week at a time. We have talked to many people who have gone camping with young children and never did it again. Why did we enjoy it and sign up to do it repeatedly? We think because we work as a team while camping.
One of the best ideas we came up with was to split the meal responsibility among the families. On a weekend camping trip each family might be responsible for prep and clean up of one dinner and one breakfast. The longer the trip the more meal responsibility. We often had sandwiches for lunch so everyone pitched in and made those. When it was not your meal you were free to sit in a lawn chair, read a book, you could take a nap or go for a walk. Camping was better than being at home because someone was making and cleaning up meals for you.
We also teamed up for childcare. When the children were babies/toddlers the dads would put them in back carriers and we would go for hikes. If your child was napping and another parent was sitting around the campfire you could actually go for a walk with your spouse and have a conversation with out interruption. We came up with games for them to play, they learned about poison ivy, they collected sticks for the fire, and even crafted. Each adult brought their own skill set to the “group parenting” for the weekend.
As mentioned earlier camping requires equipment. Over the years we learned who had what and so you did not have to bring everything to camp. One family had the screened in meal tent, another had the nice camp stove. We came up with a checklist so we knew what each family was bringing so we had all the comforts we needed. We have even had lattes while we camped!
We know how to have fun! Above all I think this is why we have looked forward to our camping trips. We make games out of nothing and everything is a competition. We can make fire watching into a competition (we pick out a log and then guess how long before the fire will burn though it). We set up piles of rocks on the shoreline and then throw rocks at it from a predetermined distance. The winner is whoever knocks over the biggest pile. We have played Mafia around the campfire and told scary stories, played cards in the tents during the rain and had great real life conversations throughout.
We know camping is not for everyone, but we do think more people would do it with their children if they found at least one other family to camp with. Share the load and fun, build the fire, have a smore, make memories.