Family Camping Trip - Fun Or Not?
Are you thinking about taking your family camping for the first time? Perhaps it is always something you have thought about doing, but never actually have. Perhaps you're not sure if family camping is really your thing - after all, the great outdoors might be fun during daytime hours, but what about when you suddenly need to go in the middle of night, and realize you have to trek across the grass in your pyjamas with only the moonlight or a torch to guide you?
And aside from that, what exactly do camping families do all day? I mean, stuck altogether in a tiny tent (it might look big when you first pitch it, but get everyone inside and believe me, it suddenly shrinks) with nothing to do except fry up some sausages on a microscopic stove that blows out in the wind.. Surely a hotel would be easier - and won't everyone be bored and ready to kill each other after a few hours in such close proximity?
Well, actually no. Not in my experience, anyhow. We are not exactly what you would call 'seasoned campers' - we have only pitched our faithful tent three times. We are still very much in the novice category, new to this lark of family camping. We have been abroad together; we have stayed in hotel rooms, both basic and reasonably luxurious. But economic times are harder right now, and taking the family camping is a break on a budget. And anyway, haven't you read about camping in the lifestyle magazines and travel supplements? Taking the family camping is cool, man. Roughing it up under canvas (or polyester, these days) is the way to go if you want to be 'in'. Everyone is doing it.
Don't The Kids Get Bored?
Modern living, with all the technical gadgets our kids crave after, might seem to indicate that our children of today cannot entertain themselves without all manner of electronic devices and complicated toys. Don't listen to the hype. It's not entirely true. If a family camping experience teaches you anything, it will teach you this - children these days are not really that much different to the children of a bygone era. Taken from their modern bedrooms and placed in a tent, on a grassy field, with only other campers for company, your children will prove to you that not so much has changed after all. Children seem to have a natural affinity with the outdoors. Arm them with a few basics - football, frisbee, bat and ball - and they will show you that they really do know how to entertain themselves. If you are on a large campsite, older kids can explore the area by cycling or walking - a bit of independence in a safe environment is never a bad thing. And children often end up playing with the other kids on site - life on a family campsite is a whole lot more neighbourly than the typical residential street.
Camping Bonds Families
In our typical daily lives, families can tend to spread themselves apart from each other, particularly if the children are older. How many parents find themselves with children that take to their rooms with a comic, book, games console, Ipod etc. and don't come down until dinner? Or perhaps the children are cavorting around the living room, but the parents are too busy to pay a whole lot of attention. After all, parents are busy, tired people. One or both might have been at work all day, and now there are 101 chores to do. Perhaps the children have even asked to play a game, but the resounding answer is 'no, not now, haven't got time.' But since parents often 'haven't got time', it means that families often don't play together as much as they should. And that brings me to my point:
Living in a tiny tent, with little to do in the way of work and chores, means that there is plenty of time to reunite.
Perhaps you will find that you even get to know your children better during a short family camping trip. On a campsite, chores are often shared. Since you have to walk across to the wash up area to clean your crockery and cutlery, it's nice to have a bit of company to take with you. Perhaps you'll even get some help - strange as it may seem, children are much more interested in helping with the dishes during a camping break than they are at boring old home. Maybe they will even do it for you - miracles can happen. And even for those children who don't manage to wash the dishes, there is water that needs collecting, several times a day. Even quite young children can often manage that, and siblings can go together - camping is a good basis for teaching teamwork.
Then, when evening falls and the footballs and tennis bats can't be seen in the dim light, you will all find yourselves piled together under the canvas (polyester). Just like in the old days, you have to make your own entertainment. Children old enough often love card games, or if you've taken a board game then you could all play that. Games like these are great at bonding families - you can chat, play and laugh until it's time to snuggle into your sleeping bags. There's no dusting or vacuuming, or very much to tidy - and it's even better if the adults can enjoy a glass of wine or two.
We always buy new books for the children when we go camping, and pads of paper and pens are always useful, too.
Cooking in the Great Outdoors - The Routine of Camping
If you are new to this camping lark, you might feel a little unsure of the routine at first. After all, it is a little odd to wake up in your pyjamas and then have to toddle off outside and light the stove before you can enjoy your morning coffee. Rest assured there will be other people tottering about - and yes, it is quite strange to have to be seen in public before you've managed to get yourself going with a shot of caffeine or even combed your hair (of course, you can comb your hair before sticking your head through your tent door, but not that many people do). But you get used to it, and you get used to it quickly. After a day or two, you won't give a jot about how many fellow campers have seen you looking considerably less than best.
Of course, the kids will never care from the outset - not unless you have teenage girls. They will probably be up with the lark and raring to go. Usually you can hear kids through your thin tent walls from as early as 6am, but there's no privacy on a campsite. I suppose it must be a little like ancient times, when people lived in tiny shacks, all in one big community. It's not a bad thing - quite the opposite in fact. Nowadays, we have largely lost such closeknit, open communities, and a campsite is perhaps the easiest way we can reconstruct what we have lost.
At certain times of the day, it will seem like every family is lighting up their camping stoves. Random smells of cooking will permeate the air. Parents will be cooking, and the kids will still be playing football, or frisbee, or riding their bikes. Cooking is the main focal point of the day, on any campsite. It's the one thing you have to plan, and prepare. (After all, no meetings, cleaning or DIY to worry about.) It might seem a bit haphazard at first - if it's windy, the stove might go out; the kettle sometimes takes forever to boil (but then when you have little to do, forever matters less). Anyway, it's all part of the fun and charm. If you want a tip, try to have a idea of the meals you are going to prepare before you get there. Otherwise, you might find yourself standing in the middle of the campsite shop, staring at the shelves of food and wondering what on earth you can realistically cook on a couple of hotplates and a grill. Stirfry works quite well, so do pasta dishes. Fry up breakfasts are a must - even if you don't usually indulge, the excessive fresh air will make you hungry! Baked beans and other tins of things are useful, and don't stock up on too many items that need chilling, unless you have a fridge. Unless you are camping in the middle of winter, they'll all go off - modern tents are rather hot places, during a summer's day. A lot of campsites have shops that sell produce, but if not there will probably be a store within reach.
When you are new to camping it might seem as though everyone else is so much more proficient at the cooking thing than you are - but rest assured, you'll soon be up there with the rest of them!
So Is Family Camping Fun or Not?
Facilities might be basic, but family camping is great fun. A camping trip will be right up there on your list of great memories. For your children, it can be just as much fun as a package holiday in a posh hotel - at least, it was for mine. Cheap doesn't have to mean inferior. Come on, read those travel magazines - camping is cool, man, so get out there and do it!
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