Ready, Set, Camp!
When it comes to any new experience, remember that your excitement is infectious—if you love camping and the outdoors, chances are your child will too. But there are those youngsters with whom camping may not immediately agree. Simple star maps; bug, bird, and plant identification booklets; supplies for nature projects; and so on, are all great items to bring along to engage a reluctant camper.
A fun project for exciting a reticent camper is creating a camping scrapbook. Pack tracing paper, disposable cameras, and crayons. Collect fallen leaves and flowers for plant rubbings (be careful not to disturb native or protected species). Let your toddler experiment with taking pictures and add the developed photos to your special book. Gather small items from your trip, such as pine needles, shells, and campground brochures, and keep a daily camping log. After you return home, your child will enjoy reminiscing with you about her experiences.
Location can be everything for that first-time outing. When looking for a good spot to car camp, hunt out parks where campsites are spaced widely apart with some privacy from main roads. Traffic can become problematic for inquisitive toddlers and babies trying to nap. Many larger parks have a special area just for tenting, which makes for a quieter camping experience.
A good resource for outdoor recreation is The Great Outdoor Recreation Pages. Be sure to also check your local bookstore for regional camping books and information.
Exploring the great outdoors with even the youngest child instills a respect for the world around him, and provides a valuable foundation on which to build not just love for the natural world, but respect for all other living things. Starting early will put you and your family on track for a long and fun-filled outdoor relationship together. And remember that children are inherently intuitive—your excitement and love of the natural world are contagious. Going wild with your child can open a completely new world for you both. Happy Camping!