Cousins Camp - Reconnecting with Family

When do you see family?

In today's age of easy travel it is not uncommon to live in different cities or even different states than your siblings. So how can your children connect with their cousins if they don't get to run down the street to visit their cousins? One way to provide that interaction is, instead of sending them to an expensive summer camp, host a Cousins' Camp for the children.

Even if all you can afford is a weekend in the backyard the children will love the chance to play together. However, a good camping experience does not have to be overly expensive, and, as they are sending their children off to camp, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little money to cover the cost of food, crafts and other miscellaneous camping expenses.

Or if the thought of planning a whole camping experience is to daunting, you could divide the days with your siblings. Each of you could plan and pay for one day or one meal and activity (depending on the number of siblings and the time you have available). This is also a good option if you don't feel comfortable asking for money. Then if your sibling does not wish to take part in the planning you could suggest that they just contribute monetarily.

To have a good camping experience all you need is a little pre-planning and plenty of organization. Hopefully the ideas below will make both easier.

Where to Begin

If you are hosting the camp, then feel free to choose a location close to you that you are familiar with. However, chances are you will want so assistance from your siblings, which means they will want a say in where you camp. National and state parks are a good place to start. However, there are also a lot of private campground. Find out as much as you can about a campground before you decide. Location isn't everything.

Besides location you will want to consider the restroom facilities, available cooking options and activity potential. Some campgrounds are more pricey but are more like resorts than a typical campground. Other campgrounds offer little more than a piece of land upon which to pitch a tent. The pricier places will often require less work from you as they sometimes provide group activities and even meals. However, this will mean that your family function will also include a number of unrelated fellow campers.

For a list of campsites try Reserve America or Camping.com. Neither list is exhaustive, but it will give you a place to start.

What to Prepare

As you will be attempting to herd children during the trip it is best to have things prepared before hand. Choose foods that can be prepared ahead of time and/or that only require cooking on the grill. If you have your fruits and vegetables pre-cut and your hamburger patties already shaped then your cooking time will be significantly cut down. If the children are older you could also choose to allow them to help with the cooking--getting them to cut the fruits and vegetables or help preparing sandwiches.

Activities should also be prepared ahead of time and organized so that each separate activity is easy to get to and easy to distinguish from the other games and activities. The Ultimate Camp Resource has a good list of games. If you are camping by a river you could try making birch bark canoes. (Kaboose.com has easy to follow directions.) No matter where you are camping, if you do a little research ahead of time you can prepare a nature scavenger hunt. Instead of having everyone bring the items back to camp it might be easier to have the children use a check list. Another alternative, which the children will probably enjoy more, is to provide them with cameras to document their finds.

A couple of games that require no preparation, other than knowing the rules, are sardines and bear. Sardines is a version of hide and seek. One person is designated "it". That person then hides while everyone else counts. Then everyone tries to find that person. But instead of announcing when they find the person each new person to discover the hiding spot joins the others until everyone is hiding together. If you choose to play sardines you will need to designate the playing field otherwise there is no adult involvement needed.

Bear is a variation of tag. One person is designated "it". That person is blindfolded. There job is to try to tag someone else, who then becomes "it". Everyone else tries to bait the "bear" by getting as close as possible before running away.

Try to plan for a variety of games and activities. Also, it might be a good idea to have a few extra as backups. Then if an activity is unpopular or doesn't work out for some reason you will not be left with a group of children who are either board or needing intensive supervision.

Finally, any good camp has camp songs. If you, or someone who is attending can play, a guitar is always a nice accompaniment to singing around the fire. The Ultimate Camp Resource has a list of songs by type of song. Backyard Gardener and Camp Favorites have alphabetical lists of camp songs. Michael Leal also has a list of camp songs, which I have included because set 1 includes the song "Oh you can't get to heaven", which I remember fondly from my own camp days. Choose a few of your favorites or ask your children to pick a few songs they'd like to sing.

So, now that you have your location, your food and your activities prepared corralling your younger relations should be less stressful. Hopefully you will have a good time too as the family gets a chance to reconnect.

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