Camping With Kids
Welcome to our new blog series – Mom Friends in the Valley!
As a parent it can be difficult to find reliable resources when we have questions concerning our child’s health, education, and general well-being. Oftentimes our two most trusted sources are our children’s medical care providers and our friends and family. So, here at Castle Valley Children’s Clinic, we decided to combine the two together! We have asked some of our trusted resources – other parents in the Valley – to give us their best advice in their areas of expertise. Each week we will bring you an article written by a parent who lives with their children in the area. These parents are teachers, care providers, medical professionals, and all around awesome in their respective fields. They are who we would go to with questions! I hope you enjoy this series and let us know if you have a parent you would like to see write an article! Or if you would like to write one yourself!
Instagram moms make it look easy, don’t they? The adorable fluffy buntings, the perfect sunset photo by the lake, the healthy snack container and trendy water bottle – their partner’s ever-present, warm, supportive smile.
The reality, as we all know, and as most influencers would likely admit, is that it’s always tougher than it looks. I have three kids of my own, currently ages 9, 6, and 4, and while our camping trips have never been perfect, they’ve always been worth it. The experience can feel like a lot of work, but it’s work that keeps me wholly present with my kids, away from my phone, and without the time to sit and think about all the other problems I could be solving.
Those hours we’ve spent together in the desert, in the high country, or just rolling around in our sleeping bags first thing in the morning is time as a family that we will always have had together. But often, when faced with the daunting task of packing, the uncertainty of weather conditions, and probably a few difficult sleeping situations, sometimes it can feel impossible to get out the door.
Below are just six things I’ve learned somewhere in the midst of slathering sunscreen, slinging snacks and staying (relatively) sane.
1. Release the nap – This was my first big lesson as a camping mom. I remember sweating my face off in a tent at 7 p.m. in the desert when my oldest was 18 months because it was his bedtime, and I’d be darned if I lost any ground on that hard won sleep schedule. The reality that I came to accept, however, is that being outside, active and stimulated all day on a camping trip had pretty much erased all of that sleep training anyway. I’ve found (and keep in mind that others have different opinions) that letting kids respond to their natural rhythms, within reason, of course, brings more rest for them, and more joy for me. Don’t force it.
2. Banish the word ‘Easy ’- The goal of camping with your family is not to have an easy time. It is to have a shared experience and memories you will treasure forever. And if we’re being honest, you’re gonna have to work for it. My husband and I always catch ourselves if one of us dares to utter the phrase, “I think it’s going to be easier this time around.” Some things will become simpler, and perhaps fewer mistakes will be made with practice, but do not let yourself expect it to be easy, or you will inevitably be disappointed.
3. Never camp for only one night – I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me, it’s true. If you only take single night camping trips with your kids, you will stop taking them altogether because the first night is the worst. There’s usually been a long drive, and lots of new things, and a tent (oh boy!). Winding down is tough, and to this day, I never get my best sleep on the first night. But the second night, that’s where the magic happens. The kids are exhausted and ready to sleep anywhere, and the cuddle pile the next morning is the stuff of parenting dreams.
4. Find a mentor – If you don’t come from a camping background, it’s totally fine to feel overwhelmed. The best way to get past that though, and to support you through the inevitable anxiety of ‘what did I forget?’ is to have another parent who’s been in the trenches a little longer than you. Reach out on a Facebook group where you feel comfortable, or ask around until you find a friend who’s ready to go with you. Also, if you go with other families, the entertainment piece of the puzzle is taken care of!
5. Pricy isn’t always better – There is an undeniable privilege in being able to camp. The gear is not cheap. But it also doesn’t have to be quite as expensive as some have led us to believe. Second hand is always the way to go for the kid’s gear. Sleeping bags and cookware can often be found at local thrift stores, and I never turn down hand-me-downs. And knock-off brands for clothing which the kids are just going to grow out of? Yes, please.
6. Don’t underestimate online resources – In our day and age, the reality is that the internet can teach you everything you need to know about everything. Camping is no exception. Facebook groups offer support and tips, then there are multiple websites like TheDyrt.com which allow you to see pictures of campgrounds and filter your searches with words like ‘family friendly.’ Public land agencies have websites with information about conditions or safety concerns, and even our local library has state parks passes to check out!
So remember, camping with kids is never easy, but always worth it. It’s your trip and it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Don’t overthink it and count on making mistakes! Also, expect to dig lots of holes, throw about a thousand rocks into the water, and quickly develop surprisingly
specific family rules about taking sticks home.
Camping with Kids is written by Lindsay Defrates. She is a longtime valley resident, former freelance writer and mom of three.