Camping is great way to get kids outside and reconnect with the natural world. Why not prepare for such an adventure by reading a well-chosen book, as well as sizing them up for their sleeping bags?
Story books, activity books and even poetry books about camping will help prepare a first timer and even make a campfire bedtime story. And don’t stop at the bookshelf, bring along a few things from the toy box. Watch out though – not all toys suit a tent!
Babies and Toddlers The youngest in the family may just need to understand the whole concept of sleeping in this strange new thing called a tent. Maisy goes Camping by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick Press, 2004) is a good place to start with a very simple story of tents, friends and flashlights.
Storybooks and Poems Toasting Marshmallows – Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George and Kate Kiesler (Clarion Books, 2001) has poems on everything from how to scoootch into your sleeping bag to how to toast a marshmallow. Warm, friendly paintings take you from open fields, lakeside and caves back to a campfire beneath the stars. This book could become a real family friend on future camping adventures.
When We Go Camping by Margriet Ruurs and Andrew Kiss (Tundra Books, 2001) is another beautifully illustrated book of a simple lakeside camping trip. Share images of kayaking and gathering firewood even when you’ve packed the tent away until next year.
For experienced campers, try Stella and Roy Go Camping by Ashley Wolff (Dutton Juvenile Books, 1999) where the car is left behind and everything is carried on the campers’ backs up to Lone Pine Lake. This makes a great read-aloud storybook, including lots of animal spotting but be prepared – the bear does turn up at the end. You know your child best – read it through first to see if it’s suitable for your camping novice.
Looking wider than just camping, Follow the Trail by Jessica Loy (Henry Holt and Co., 2003) also covers hiking and other outside activities. This is a great reference book for children from gathering wood for the campfire to spotting animal tracks by day and stars at night.
Kids Camp! Activities for the backyard or wilderness by Laurie Carlson and Judith Dammel (© 1995, Chicago Review Press) is another great choice for camping crafts and activities; these are going to be things you’ll be trying before, during and after your camping trip.
As well as these bedtime stories, what else can you bring along to entertain the children as well as the usual swimming gear, bats and balls? Some things work in a tent and some just don’t.
- Take along glowsticks for kids running around the campsite as the light fades. Some are worn as bracelets or hang from a chord like a necklace. They also make a great portable nightlight lasting till the early hours, tucked in a tent pocket. Available from camping stores.
- Take pails and shovels even if you’re nowhere near a beach or lake. There is always the chance to create something from mud on a campground.
- Take along one new, but inexpensive, item to bring out if little ones need distracting – maybe when you’re pitching the tent. A new card game. A few small bouncy balls. If the situation never arises, save it for next time!
- Take along an old bed sheet so the kids can mimic Mom and Dad and set up their own tent – throw it over a low-hanging branch or hang it over the end of the picnic table.
- Take along a few washable, plastic animals or action figures. They’re great for make-believe games amongst rocks, trees and grasses.
- Take a precious white teddy bear which will be beyond saving after a weekend in the dirt.
- Take anything that is potentially going to make a mess when found later at the bottom of a sleeping bag. Forget wax crayons and marker pens; stick to colored pencils for rainy day scribbling.
- Take anything that consists of small pieces that are easy to lose. Camping and Legos don’t mix!
So get prepared, choose your entertainment carefully, then relax and have a great camping adventure!