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First Camping Trip with Kids

Two weekends ago, Londo and I took the kids on an overnight camping trip. That's right, this Family That Travels went to the woods! And stayed in a tent!

I may not seem to be a camping or outdoorsy type of gal, but I actually love the outdoors and really have enjoyed camping. I have very fond memories of camping with my family, and I had a great time going with Londo and friends when we were in grad school. The trips haven't always been perfect, but that's part of the point. It's not just that I like the idea of camping, it's that I'm willing to accept that "roughing it" may be rough at time!

On the flip side, Londo has been camping regularly his whole life. He has all this knowledge about living in the outdoors, and he gets more enjoyment from nature (especially woods and mountains) than anyone else I know. He has all the gear and then some.

We've been wanting to take the kids for a few years, but Londo was concerned that the kids were too young. This year, we decided that they were probably old enough for us to try it. We decided we would go this year, this fall. Just an overnight at a nearby campgrounds to try it out. And that's what we did last weekend.

You know how you can like the idea of something but in reality it doesn't live up to your idea? Well, I'm happy to say that didn't happen! And it really was because of Londo. He made sure that things went smoothly, that there was enough to entertain the children, that we had everything we needed and that we were all set up.

It also went so well because we went with my brother, his wife, their teenager and their 5 year old twins. My brother and SIL were campers before having kids, their teenager is awesome, and the twins are fun and play really well with my kids. It was a smart plan to go in a big, fun group.

For this first trip, we rented a camping site at a state park about an hour from our house. My brother's family got the spot directly across from us. It was one of those spots that you pull the car up to and lay out your tent on a flattened, gravel surface. It had a metal, circular area for the camp fire, including a grill top for it. It also had a picnic table, an electrical outlet and was right near the bathrooms.

What can I say. We weren't going to rough it too hard for our first trip with a four year old and two year old!

The first unexpected issue we ran into was one I never suspected we'd have to worry about. Londo had laid out the tarp along the gravel and was just getting the tent ready to put up, when I realized that there were peanut shells EVERYWHERE. This was not some case of a few shells left behind and easy to clean up. They were all over every part of the gravel.

Okay, people. The first rule of camping is leave the area as you found. I don't care if peanut shells are biodegradable. They are litter when left behind all over the place. Not only that, but they are a serious health and safety hazard for my daughter who has a peanut allergy!

This campgrounds are specifically aimed at camping with families. And with peanut allergies on the rise, I find it irresponsible for people to leave behind peanut shells literally covering the ground. There were so many that Londo quickly abandoned the idea of sweeping them away. We ended up switching campsites with my brother's family, and then we all mostly hung out at our peanut shell-free campsite.

I know most people don't have to worry about a peanut allergy, and peanut shells are biodegradable, so I couldn't get too mad about it. It's just that we always have to be so aware of the peanut allergy. We can't leave it home even when we're camping in the woods. And that's why we bring the EpiPen everywhere.

Back to camping. It was my job to keep the kids occupied while Londo set up our tent and campsite. We started off looking at cool mushrooms, moss and bugs (that I didn't even flinch at, for the record). But after a while, they were starting to get interested in what Londo was doing.

So I came up with a game: Nature Scavenger Hunt! I gave them five things to look for (a red leaf, an acorn, a brown leaf, a gray rock and a white flower) and told them the boundries around the campsite where they could look. I helped them find the items and put them in their own piles on the picnic table.

One of the cutest things a kid said during the trip was my nephew who was looking for one of the items and having trouble. This adorable 5 year old says, "Oh who am I kidding. I'm never going to find it!" It was really hard not to laugh at that. Of course I helped him out a bit with that item, and then he ended up winning the Nature Scavenger Hunt!

After that, Londo and my brother taught my teenage neice how to build a fire, while the younger kids ran around inside our big, 6-person tent.

Food was a major source of entertainment. Londo cooked hamburgers and hotdogs for dinner, and we all sat at the picnic table enjoying the meal. Londo also brought a pan of popcorn to put over the fire, and my brother and SIL brought the makings for smores!

Londo also brought each of the kids a glow stick, which of course was a hit! Now there were two problems with those. 1. My kids did not want to put them down to go to sleep because they were so awesome, especially the Pookie who didn't understand why he couldn't keep it and stare at it instead of going to sleep. 2. There wasn't one for me. Hehe.

By bedtime, the kids were totally worn out and went to bed pretty easily--once I seperated them and put Pookie to bed first and then the Pumpkin, like I do at the beach house. When we try to put them to bed at the same time, they just feed off each other and go crazy and don't settle down at all. But Pookie first, then the Pumpkin works well.

Once asleep, the adults all hung out by the campfire, talking and laughing. My kids slept through it. My SIL went to hang out with her teenager for a while, and my brother, Londo and I stayed up a little later until I couldn't keep my eyes open any more. I crawled into the tent, snuggled up to the Pookie and fell asleep to the sound of crickets and two of my favorite guys talking about football.

You may be wondering how we all slept, four of us in a tent, including my not-so-great-sleeper daughter and my very-used-to-his-crib son. And the answer is: crappy--just as we expected. But because we expected crappy sleep, it did not ruin the trip or even really cause concern or dissappointment or frustration. We simply did not expect to sleep well, so when we didn't, it wasn't a problem.

The Pookie woke up crying and trying to get comfortable within 10 minutes of my falling asleep. I finally got him back to sleep by singing Hush Little Baby while jiggling him a little against me. He spent most of the night tossing and turning, sleeping on me more than not. Londo slept on the other side of the tent, next to the Pumpkin, and he said she helicoptered all night. So crappy sleep, but definitely some sleep. And we made it to morning!

One of my favorite parts about camping is waking up in the morning to the sounds of nature, remembering where I am and crawling out of the tent to see what the day is like. And it was a lovely morning.

We had eggs and bacon cooked on the campfire for breakfast. Then, my SIL and I took the kids on a hike through some trails, while the guys took down the tents and packed up the cars. The nature walk was awesome. We saw so many cool-looking mushrooms and moss, a catapiller, falling trees to climb over and even a white-tailed deer that ran right across our path only a few feet from us! We did take a slight wrong turn, so the hike ended up being longer than we'd planned, but no matter! There were piggyback rides and shoulder rides to help the kids along, stops for snacks and cool things to look at all along the way.

The trail ended at the lake, when Londo and my brother came walking up to us and finish the walk around the lake to where they parked the cars, with a brief stop at the lake's empty beach to play in the sand for a couple minutes.

The kids had an awesome time, as did the adults. Even the teenager admitted it was fun. My daughter even declared it the best time ever! In fact, everyone wants to go again as soon as possible! Because, you know, we're a Family That Camps!


mom2boy said…
Sounds like a really great experience!! I wouldn't have thought about how tossing a peanut shell on the ground could be dangerous for someone else. I'll definitely keep that in mind!
hush said…
Sounds like it was such an awesome trip. You, go you, Family That Camps! Glow sticks are now on my shopping list. ;)
Cloud said…
That sounds like a great time! We haven't tried camping with our girls yet- we want to do it before too long, though. We'll keep your tips in mind!
I just came across your blog while doing some research for our upcoming camping trip with our toddler who has a peanut/nut allergy. I know the peanut shell issue is a common occurance because until our LO came along, roasted peanuts were a favourite camping treat. Do you think it would do any good to call the state park ahead of time? Any suggestions?
hi there. I came across your blog post re: camping when I was doing a bit of research about camping with a toddler witha peanut allergy. We're heading to a state park for our first camping trip with our two-year-old. Until she came along, roasted peanuts were a camping treat. Now I'm concerned about the environment we're voluntarily putting her in. Do you think it would help to contact the state park in advance to inform them of the site. Not that it's their problem, but perhaps they could switch our site? I have no clue. Any suggestions? thanks for your informative post.

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