I've spent my whole life camping. My parents met in a mountaineering society and it pretty much set the tone for most of our family holidays. It was great, us kids had so much freedom and my Mum subscribed to the idea that there should be one camp fire for each kid and one for cooking. It was brilliant.
When Wild Man was 4 months old Spunk Rat, Blackie and Strummer and I took him camping at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains National Park . We only went for one night and it was great, although we did struggle a bit with getting food prepared because one of us was also holding the baby and I discovered that sleeping on the ground is less comfortable if you haven't been drinking wine around the camp fire because you are breastfeeding. I also lived in constant terror that the huge goanna who lived in the campsite viewed my beautiful baby as his next meal!
This Easter we decided to be really brave and take the two little kids to Wombeyan Caves. It was a big call because Wild Man is super adventurous and proan to roaming at will, and Princess can't walk yet and is an erratic sleeper at the best of times.
But you know what, it was great.
Wild Man thrived in the outdoors, it really played to his strengths. It took him about 20 minutes to hook up with the kids in the next tent over and he spent hours at 'their place', he tramped along on bushwalks, loved going through the caves and was suprisingly sensible about the camp fire (no, I didn't let him have one of his own).
Princess did disgrace herself by crying for an hour and a half one night and no doubt keeping all the other campers awake but was otherwise pretty happy to be carried around or watch everyone from the safe confines of her playpen. Amazingly, she really loved going through Figtree Cave and spent the whole time underground cooing in delight.
I think the best thing about camping with young kids is watching them experience the freedom of the great outdoors. Wild Man just blossomed and really didn't abuse his freedom at all. All the fresh air meant the kids glowed with health and sitting 'round the camp fire with your family, chatting and toasting marshmallows must surely be heaven.
So, a few tips for camping with kids (in no particular order):
- Think about where you are going - somewhere you can take bikes, that has flat grass, where other families camp, that has toilets, take allows fires and that has something appropriate to do each day will make for a better holiday.
- Get head torches, ideally one for each person. Its so much easier at night if you can see what you are doing but have your hands free.
- If you have a baby or small toddler consider taking a playpen and picnic rug. That way you'll know they aren't crawling into the camp fire!
- Wrapping potatoes in wet kitchen paper and foil, then carefully popping them in the fire will occupy the kids while you get the rest of dinner ready.
- Cook and freeze spagetti bolognaise before you leave home. It will last for a couple of days in an esky and if you only have to cook pasta and reheat the mince it is a really easy camp dinner.
- Take a hammock. I'd like to tell you that you'll be able to lie in it and read a book but actually it makes a fantastic play thing for kids. Part swing, part boat, part cubby, part wild fun park ride, it will provide hours of entertainment.
- Take a drink bottle for each child, keep them full and have a special spot where they 'live'. Getting a drink can be hard when you're a kid who is camping.
- Spitting the froth out of your mouth onto the nearest bush makes bruching your teeth fun.
- Long-life milk poppers are fantastic
- Trust them to be responsible, they'll probably suprise you
- Keep a clean change of clothes in a bag in the car and change the kids into them right before you leave. That way they won't smell of smoke for the car trip home.
- Take marshmallows, lot of marshmallows.