Planning to go camping with your family this summer? Read on for tips and some of the best camping guides to get kids ready (pragmatically and emotionally) to have a truly enjoyable outdoor experience. Included in the list are books to bring along for blissful family read-alouds as well as adult resources for parents.
BEFORE YOU GO
Help children learn about equipment by playing the What’s This? game: sit kids in a circle wearing bandana blindfolds. Place a common camping or hiking tool in a child’s hand and ask her to feel it and pass it on, then ask kids to name the object aloud. Repeat with different items. If they don’t know what it is, tell them to guess. Wild guesses are part of the amusement!
Trial run: set up your tent in the back yard, use it as a fort during the day (read books or play with toys and board games). Sleep in the tent at night (with at least one parent) and talk about the experience in the morning.
Backyard Exploration (field journal and/or camera optional): Practice being a nature detective in your back yard or neighborhood park. Activities can include Birding – look and listen for birds and identify with book or computer as a guide, Bug Hunting – look for and identify insects, Animal discovery – search for signs of animals other than birds or insects (look for footprints or feces) and identify, Plant discovery – identify plants by characteristics such as shape of leaves, fragrance, and bearing fruit or flowers.
Be prepared with conversation starters at the ready to get family members reflecting, talking and listening to each other. Examples: If you were a season what would you be and why? What superpower would you like to have and how would you use it to help others? If you could be an explorer, would you choose to explore the land, the sky, or the sea, and why? If you could be any animal what would it be and why?
LEISURE TIME DURING THE CAMP OUT
Read books together and discuss. Make up stories (use prompts if desired) or do story round-robins where each family member takes a turn continuing the story. Integrate animals, plants, objects, or landscapes encountered during the day (age applicable).
Sing around the campfire, during family downtime, or as a useful diversion when kids are getting tired or hungry on a long hike. Music brings pleasure to most any situation.
Helpful hint: always have plenty of water and snacks ready!
ADDITIONAL POINTERS AND ENTERTAINING TITLES
There’s still plenty of warm sunny days to create lifelong memories of fun nature adventures with your family this summer – your backyard, a national park, or a week in the wilderness.