With Memorial Day pretty much here, we're pretty sure that many of our Macaroni Families will be spending the weekend camping. Here's a short, but sensible list of tips and activities and a quick reference to "Low Impact Camping." Have a great camping adventure with your family!
1. DON'T FORGET THE SUNBLOCK! Children burn easily and because not a lot of adults wear sunblock, it can be easy to forget to cover your children. Having a major sunburn by the age of nine can increase the chance of skin cancer later in life by nearly 45%.
2. When you have children that like to wander off, it's nice to have BOUNDARIES set up in advance. What parents can do is mark their children's boundaries clearly by tying pieces of ribbon or even crepe paper (bright colors work best) around trees, rocks or other things found around your campsite and explain in a "family meeting" that children are not to go past the markers.
3. Remember a FIRST AID KIT. I can honestly say that I have not been on one camping trip where someone didn't get hurt in one way or another... a lot of the time it was me. :) Really though, it's nice to have some stuff on hand. Everyone's first aid kit will vary bit by bit, but all of them should contain at least alcohol wipes, various sizes of band-aids, antibiotic ointment, instant cold pack and for those with severe allergies, Epi-pens are very literally life savers.
4. Some type of WATER SHOES, even if you are not camping near water. A lot of children like to walk barefoot from place to place while outdoors. Remember that, although you might be generous and responsible enough to pick up garbage from your excursion, the people before you might not have been. In the past, we've come across fish hooks, broken glass, jagged cans and more. Walking in the water with protection on is also recommended because these hazards, along with others, can hide under sand, under leaves, between rocks and in other inconspicuous places. Water shoes may not completely protect you or your child, but can reduce the risk of serious injury.
1. Go out and take a RAINBOW WALK! What is a rainbow walk? The challenge is to find something in nature of every color of the rainbow. This is a great way to get kids to notice nature and really explore their surroundings. Bring your camera on the walk to take a picture of all the colors you find. Afterwards you can create a photo album keepsake with all of the pictures from your walk. Label the picture with the corresponding color to also create a wonderful learning tool for your child. (Thank you to Katherine Lydon, Windham ME's Publisher Mom for this cute activity)
2. Create an ADVENTURE BOOK. Bring a camera, notebook or sketchbook and some markers. Go for a nature walk (or the Rainbow Walk) and try to spot interesting things. This could be a specific bundle of dried pine needles, a curious shaped leaf, an empty cocoon... anything that grabs the attention of you and your children. "Really cool bugs," interesting rocks, an old log... Take pictures that can be printed out and placed in the book later. At the end of the day, help your children remember the fun things they saw and have them draw pictures and/or descriptions. Be sure to leave room for your photos! Doing it this way, rather than collecting items for a scrapbook will not only help preserve nature, but will limit the amount of camping debris you will find in your car and home afterwards!
3. BUBBLES! Who doesn't love bubbles? They are easy, compact and make for a good amount of entertainment for pretty much all ages. Crayola just came out with colored bubbles too. Whereas I don't suggest using them at home or in your driveway (they can stain), camping in the great outdoors could provide the perfect opportunity to play with colored bubbles. *Please keep in mind, they can permanently stain clothing.
4. SHADOW PUPPETS. Need I say more? :)
5. Set out a few bowls with various TRAIL MIX ingredients. Give each child a baggie and let them create their own trail mix. A few common ingredients are nuts, chocolate chips or m&m's, cheerios and raisins. You know your children better than anyone else and can fit their likes to their trail mix selections. Do this before a walk or hike.
6. STARRY NIGHT. When we live in cities, it's hard to imagine how many stars there truly are. Once away from the city lights, we can truly examine the night sky. Every time I get away from the city at night, I find myself staring up. The night sky is a beautiful thing and to children, it's full of mystery. Some of my fondest memories are of my dad telling me the constellations. Have fun pointing out the Big Dipper or watching for shooting stars.
7. TOY TRUCKS. It's amazing how much fun little ones can have with trucks while camping or at the beach.
8. WADING POOL! Bring along a small wading pool and fill with an inch or two of water and watch the fun begin! Be sure to supervise all water play!
9. SCAVENGER HUNT. Create a list of fun things to find while camping and send the children on a scavenger hunt (with clearly defined boundaries, of course). The first one to find all the items on the list gets a special treat.
S'MORES!! Never doubt the power of a s'more while camping. Children look forward to that first bite of warm gooey marshmallow on melted chocolate sandwiched between two crunchy graham crackers. Everyone has their own technique, so have fun!
11. SONGS AND STORIES. It may sound cliche, but it's true that children like to sing and like to hear stories. Take turns telling a story. Have one family member start the story and then pass it on to the next and the next until you've woven an incredibly un-predictable story! :)
Also known as Leave-No-Trace Camping, this refers to a way of camping that disturbs nature as little as possible.
1. Clean up after yourselves. Be sure to take ALL trash with you including napkins, plastic utensils, cups, water bottles, toilet paper, etc. This is easiest when you start from the beginning. Bring a garbage bag and use it to toss all waste into. This includes glass. Some people like to throw their glass or cans into the fire-pit but this is not an adequate way to dispose of things. Not only does it create a hazard for future campers, but a hazard for any animals that may come across it; remember that during the winter months or off-seasons, animals roam campsites frequently.
2. Leave the area how you found it. Alright, so if there were glass or cans or something at your campsite when you arrived, that stinks and it was rude of the people before you to leave it, but please consider picking it up; it could be a hazard to your own family. "Leave it how you found it" refers to not picking a multitude of plants or leaves from where they are (they are food and shelter to wildlife) and leaving the terrain mostly undisturbed except for what's necessary to use/move.
4. Respect the wildlife. Please don't feed the animals or disturb them and be sure to burn food scraps thoroughly or take them with you when you leave.
5. If your area does not have bathrooms (or even if it does, if your kids are like my daughter, they won't use those bathrooms) consider purchasing a portable potty, rather than digging a hole. If you have to dig a latrine, be sure to bury it completely before leaving
6. ALWAYS make sure your fire is dead-out. (Another reason not to discard glass in a fire pit: glass can keep embers hot long after you've left.)
There are several ways to practice Low-impact Camping. These are just a few suggestions. :)