Fall is coming, the back to school season is over and the Halloween decorations are taking over the stores, you can feel summer’s end but you can still enjoy outdoors activities and take advantage of the last part of the summer. In the Bay Area of San Francisco is not too late to go camping and enjoy the nature. And after going camping couple of times during the summer, that is the activity the family enjoys the most now and everybody wants to squeeze the camping season as long as possible.
During this camping season, there are a few points we have learnt that make camping with kids easier for parents, exciting for kids and enjoyable for the whole family.
- When planning where to go, pick up a place not too far from home. The driving time is tiring for young kids, especially if they don’t nap during the trip and they should be fresh to enjoy the outdoor experience. We pick up campgrounds which are about one hour from home. Some suggestions for people living in the Bay Area of San Francisco are:
Butano State Park
Portola Redwoods State Park
Little Basin Redwoods State Park
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
- Those state parks have plenty of hiking trails, when picking one of them, don’t forget the little ones, they need not too long trails and frequent stops. 1 to 2 miles trails are long enough for preschoolers and they will enjoy trails with access to creeks or places to rest, have a snack or play.
- Create expectations around the camping experience, Sleeping bag, tent, fire, marshmallows, wild animals, creeks, even bugs sound exciting to a preschooler. We tested our new tent in the backyard before going “real” camping, we intended to do so with the sleeping bags but the kids fell asleep before getting into them. Talking about the animals and plants you are going to see in the forest helps the kids to get familiar with the local nature and the visit to science museums or children museums is also helpful to make them familiars with owls, redwoods, banana slugs…
- Keep them busy while splitting the tasks to be done. Setting the tent up can be the most stressful experience with a bored preschooler trying to find something to spend his/her energy with. A good solution is to involve them in the process: transport the gear, find some pieces, get water, lighting the fire, cook. Cooking the food in the fire is one of our favorite activities and we all agree that the food cooked on the fire tastes much better.
- You really don’t need ton of stuff to survive. The truth is that packing and unpacking the camping gear for a camping trip is a pain. So keep things simple, make a menu for the trip and pack food accordingly, It is true that, you eat more after an outdoors day but you don’t need double rations. Same for clothes, use layers and reuse the clothes as much as possible. I have organized all our camping gear in a few containers: tent, sleeping bags, clothes, cooking/camping gear and food. The clothes and food containers are the ones, we have to pack/unpack every camping trip with the help of the kids. Meanwhile the other containers are kept in the garage waiting for being loaded in the car next time.
- Kids like to hang out with their pals. Even young kids have double fun if they can play in the camping site, or take part in activities with kids of their age. You can address this issue planning a camping trip with friends, or taking part in the activities some campgrounds organize for kids and where they can make new friends, like little rangers, campfire storytime.
Do you like to go camping with your kids?, what are your favorite places to go?, I would love to hear your experiences.