In this series I will be talking about some tips and tricks to getting outside with your little critters. Traveling with kids can be challenging and in this installment I will discuss age appropriate activities and simple equipment to help your next camping trip be safe and enjoyable.
Take your kids camping often and consistently show them the proper way to act around the fire.
Part 2 – Ages 2-4
When considering heading out into the woods for the first time with kids most folks might be overly concerned with heading into nature with the littlest critters, ages birth to 1 (see Camping with Kids – Part 1) Personally I think that is the easiest age because babies who aren’t walking yet are easy to keep track of since they don’t have the physical ability to wander off quite yet. They are also are pretty easy to distract and entertain at this stage.
So, what is the most challenging age to start camping with kids? Ages 2-4. There are two reasons for my opinion here:
- Children this age are naturally curious and haven’t developed a healthy sense of fear yet which means they may reach into the campfire, may try to wander out of the campsite or might try to chase a squirrel or other critter around the camp.
- Children this age need more sophisticated means of entertainment. Babies are often satisfied with hanging out on mom or dad’s back and chewing on their hand for an hour or two. I cover this more in a bit, but rest assured I am not simply talking about bringing a hand held device to occupy your bright and curious little cub while you set up the tent or cook breakfast.
Challenge #1: Children’s lack of understanding dangerous situations.
Handling this one is really a matter of having the right tools and I’m not talking about playpens or leashes to keep your kids out of trouble. Try hooking a small bell to the tent zipper. If you are a heavy sleeper this may not wake you up, but is a great way to alert mom or dad to someone who might be trying to escape the confines of the tent at 2 am. Alternatively (or additionally), use a small carabiner or even a twisty tie to the zipper to thwart the fumbling fingers of a potential prison break. For safety, don’t use anything that isn’t easy for you to remove in case of an emergency.
I have found no easy trick or tool to keeping kids out of the campfire except this: take your kids camping often and consistently show them the proper way to act around the fire. It goes to say be vigilant at all time with little ones around hot stoves and fire. This being said, the age-old art of misdirection can be very helpful when trying to keep your little ones out of your hair so you can make dinner. This will lead us to challenge #2: entertainment.
Challenge #2: Entertainment.
We take our kids into the great outdoors for many reasons and I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most children will gravitate towards the toys that nature has given them…rocks, sticks, dirt, bugs…you get the idea. Just the simple act of getting your little critters outside and into an unfettered environment will be enjoyable enough to entertain your cubs for a time. That being said, there are times when you may not want them to be eating fistfuls of twigs and whatnot and may want them to sit quietly near you while you relax. Make room in your rucksack for plenty of coloring books, crayons, simple (less than 12 pieces) puzzles and lacing cards, as these will be a godsend to your personal sense of peace while simultaneously providing developmental stimulation. I have had a good experience with Melissa & Doug products as they are quite robust for the price.
Finally, I would like to add that there is no shame at all in bringing an electronic device as an emergency back up. Using an iPad (we use an older generation dedicated specifically for kids stuff) downloaded with a couple of movies or games (Toca Boca and Sago mini series are wonderful!) can be a very effective way to calm down kids after an exciting day of hiking, swimming and frolicking in the woods. Don’t give yourself a hard time about using the tools that technology has provided for us and remember, these trips are for you too ☺