Bonding Around the Campfire: The Joys of Camping with My Kids
Camping as a family is one of the most memory making activities children and parents can take part in. There is just something so special about sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows, making S'mores, telling stories, and sharing time around a campfire.
The campground my family and I experienced camping in is Acorn Acres in Bozrah, CT. As campgrounds go, this one is rather older, originating in the 1960s, and is celebrating it's 44th year this year. It's run by the same owner, Sis O'Neal, who has rather strict rules about what campers can and can't do, but we never cared. We were just happy to be camping. The campground is tucked away in the woods in a small town in rural Southeastern CT. It has over 200 campsites, including tent sites, cabins, and trailer sites.Each campsite, no matter what type, has a picnic table and a place to build a campfire, either a ring of rocks or a metal campfire ring. It has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, mini golf, a 2-acre pond for fishing and swimming, a camp store, and rec hall complete with pool tables, a ping-pong table, video games and a library. There's a beautiful stream that also runs down through the woods and is a little hike to get to, and kids love it there.
Camping with the Kids
I have three children, and when my twins were years old, and my son was six, I got the idea of taking them camping. My then-husband told me I would hate camping because it was dirty and there were tight quarters, and the kids would drive me crazy, etc. But a friend of my Dad's had a camper he was willing to let us use, and I wanted the opportunity to experience camping. So, off we went, for three nights and four days to a local campground about 20 minutes from our house. The camper had four bunk beds, which I slept in with the kids, and their dad slept at a different part of the camper, down in front because he wasn't going to stay at the campground the whole time. The camper also had a small kitchenette, a table with two upright bench seats, and a small bathroom. We set everything up with the help of my dad's friend, and he left as we started the campfire.
My son loved helping build the campfire.There was just something very enticing to him about gathering kindling, setting it up with crumpled up newspapers, and learning to set the logs up just the right way. He wanted a fire every chance we could have one. Although there were a stove and microwave inside the camper, it was also fun to cook over the campfire. My son had brought his bike, and we had found a campsite on a circular camping area with the only traffic being from the campers at the ten different campsites in that circular area. It was a fairly safe area for a 6-year-old to ride his bike and he took advantage of that as much as possible.
My first thought about the campground was that it seemed like a city of campers, all next to each other, and too close for comfort. I didn't really like that part of the camping experience. I had thought we would have been way out in the woods somewhere, under the stars. Since this was my first camping experience, I didn't know that there are many different sites in a campground and having young children, the owner of the campground had set us up in an area that was close to the pool and the camp store for our convenience. The second day, we took a walk around the campground. I saw many different campsites, from just areas where you could pitch a tent, to areas with small wooden cabins that had electricity and small refrigerators. I already started dreaming of the campsite we would get the following year, and it would be more out in the woods. The kids enjoyed the campground store and the video games, and ice cream. We played miniature golf, swam daily, sometimes twice a day, and at night, all activity centered around the campfire. We became very good at making S'mores, and burning marshmallows! The 3-year-old girls decided they didn't like the taste of burnt marshmallows, so improved their technique quite quickly, even at a young age. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we asked to stay one more night that first year.
Each year after that, for six more years, we went to that same campground each summer. After the second year, their dad didn't go with us anymore. It turns out it was really him that didn't like camping, and the dirt and the cramped quarters but not me! There must have been some projection there when he first made that comment that I wouldn't like camping. But the kids and I continued to go. We stayed in various types of shelter after that first year, sometimes in a tent, sometimes in a cabin, and once in another camper that was given to us.
We made so many wonderful memories in those carefree days of Summer. We will always remember:
* Making the campfire and then sitting around it, telling stories, sharing thoughts and memories
* Swimming in the unheated swimming pool which was quite refreshing in the Summer.
* The kids being able to ride bikes around the campground all by themselves
* Mom giving the kids quarters to play video games in the camp store for an hour each morning so she could have coffee and read in the peacefulness of the woods
* Cooking over the campfire and then heating the water to clean up the dishes, as they did in the "olden days."
* Showering in the campground bathrooms with lots of the strangest looking bugs you have ever seen that liked to come out in the bathroom at night
* Walks around the pond at dusk, listening to the bullfrogs croaking and trying to spot them before they spotted us and leaped into the water...
* Mom reading Huckleberry Finn and Little House on the Prairie books every night around the campfire before bed. These books are great because those were the days that they did actually make campfires and live in cabins in the woods, and sweep the floors, etc. just like you do when you are camping!
* Roasting marshmallows and making S'mores
* Heading out around 11:00 P.M. with flashlights to lay on a blanket in the baseball field to watch for shooting stars. We always camped in August, which is prime time for falling stars in the form of meteor showers and we were never disappointed
* Hearing the owls hooting in the trees at night, seeing squirrels and chipmunks all over the campground gathering nuts. Sometimes at night, there would even be a skunk or raccoon creeping through the campsite looking for any leftovers a family with three kids may have left outside, or behind by the fire!
Our camping days as a family are behind us now. I hope someday when my children have children of their own, they may be up for another family camping experience, and start the tradition in their own families. And maybe someday they will let "Grammy" come along to make some more camping memories with the next generation.
Little House on the Prairie Books are Great Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids, Especially Around a Campfire!
Have You Ever Gone Camping With Your Kids?
© 2012 Karen Hellier