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Take command of your adventure
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By:    On: 2011-09-15

 If you’ve been reading my blogs you know by now that I have three kids, aged 6 to 10.  You likely also know we are a family of avid campers.  One of the most common questions I get from fellow (no kid) campers is “How do you manage to camp with your kids and still manage to say sane?!?”.  In the interest of honesty it wasn’t always easy – and sometimes we do have hiccups – but it goes a bit more smoothly with each season because we learn new things on each trip.  Today I will share some of my life lessons with you.

Let the Kids Help Plan the “Where” or “When” of Your Trip.

Are your travel dates flexible?  Maybe they aren’t but the location is.  For younger kids, try writing several dates/locations down on pieces of paper.  Put the papers into a jar and let the kids pick out the next place you’ll camp. Kids tend to enjoy trips more when they feel they had a hand in planning it. If you’re not crazy about letting the kids pick a location or if your location is set, write down the same location on several pieces of paper. 

Make a Kaper Chart and Let the Kids Pick the Jobs.

A kaper is a chore or job; I first started using kaper charts as a kid in Girl Scouts. There are always things to be done and anyone who can walk can help. Sit down with your kids (and anyone else who will be on the trip) and make a list of all the kapers that will need to be done on your camping trip.  Don’t forget food and cooking sections! (See below.)

Once you have your list of jobs, it’s time to pick who will do which one(s).  We use a small piece of poster board and lots of colors – each family member gets his or her own color.  The color system works well for two reasons: First, the colors can be seen at a glance, making it easy for each family member to find their job. Second, kids tend to feel a little bit more important when they have their “own” something.  Even if it’s just a color and even if they don’t say it out loud, they still take pride in it.

You can set up your chart however it works best for you; ours looks like a categorized checker board.  We have all kinds of jobs, from organizing the sleeping bags (for the youngest child) to setting up the camp kitchen (mom).  Other jobs we have include packing the vehicle, gathering kindling, hanging the dining tent lights, washing dishes, sweeping out the tents…you get the idea.  Our chart gets laminated and hung inside the dining tent so everyone can see it.  {Here’s a little tip: if you have little ones who can’t read yet, try drawing a picture of their job or using stickers that will represent the job to them. As your kids grow up and move on, these charts will be a really neat keepsake for you and them.}

Camp Kitchen, Meal Planning and Cooking

Hopefully you let your kids help out in the kitchen at home, even if it’s just stirring batter or making toast.  There’s no reason to exclude them when it comes to outdoor cooking! 

Kids love to help plan menus before the trip and to help execute those meals while camping.  Menus can be as simple as hot dogs and baked beans or as intensive as grilled chicken parmesan with pasta; the main thing to remember is to let the kids help plan the meals and then help make them.  Smaller kids can set out dishes and cutlery or condiments.  Older kids can help with cutting, cooking, serving, etc.

Just as kids empty and load a dishwasher or wash, dry and put away dishes at home, so too can they do the dishes and other washing-up at camp sites.  They can sweep the dining area, they can make sure garbage is cleaned up and taken away and they can even get the next meal’s fixings prepared in advance.  Believe it or not, your kids will (mostly) WANT to do these things.  Ok, maybe not teenagers, but that’s a whole other story….

If we let them, kids can and will be our biggest ally on camping trips – instead of being our biggest headache!  Kids who are bored are no fun for anyone; if you keep them busy they can’t get bored…and they’re more likely to sleep better too.

I’m a confirmed control freak – just ask anyone who knows me – but even I hand over the reins now and then.  I’ve learned if I give some control over to my kids (within reason) I relax more and I have a better time on the trip.  I have also learned some things about making road trips more enjoyable but I’ll save that for the next blog….

Do you have any tips or tricks to share from your own experiences?  Please share them us!  You could become our next guest blogger!


Happy camping,


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