I’m a nature girl. I find it refreshing to be outdoors among God’s creation, surrounded by trees, listening to the sound of the river and the birds, swimming in the grotto, and star gazing at night. It really ministers to one’s spirit.
So last week, we packed up the kitchen sink (and the coffee machine), loaded seven young children under eight and five adults into two people movers, asked our friends who are the praying sort to pray for us, and headed for Dansey’s Pass. I would have been off on the motorway early if it wasn’t for my dear husband (bless him) who was still studying his very detailed packing list. Finally however we were off, and it was hi-de-hi, Camp Chaos here we come….
It was forecast to rain, and as predicted, the heavens opened as we arrived at camp. And putting a tent up in the rain would have to be one of life’s more character building experiences. We weren’t really looking forward to having seven little children corralled between two damp tents for a week. Fortunately and as an answer to prayer, the weather improved and we enjoyed three days of glorious weather, before it packed up again. My three year old daughter wasn’t initially too enthused by the whole camping experience. She commented ‘I don’t like camping, I only like going to Auckland’. She soon warmed up to the experience.
Camping with seven such young children is not without a few challenges, and while we are not camping connoisseurs, having only camped three times since having having children, we have devised our top 10 kiddie camping survival strategies. Every family is different, but these are strategies that have worked for us, ensuring a smooth camping trip.
1. Choose a child-friendly camping ground. This year we went to a very child-friendly, small camping ground which was a peaceful spot (well it was until our lot turned up). It offered free showers and washing machines, and daily activities for children and whole families.
2. If you can, choose your tent site carefully. While it would be scenic to be camping right next to the river, we felt we would always have to have our ‘parent antenna’ on more so in this location, and felt more relaxed being away from both the road and water. We were also away from other tents, so that if our children woke during the night (which they did!) we wouldn’t disturb others.
3. Invest in a good tent. We were given our tent by friends who moved overseas and I really like the t-shape design of it, with rooms for each of us. We have the west wing, the east wing, the north wing and the central wing. Just like on “Downton Abbey”, but minus the help.
4. We devised a simple camp menu and brought a pre-cooked meal prepared at home for the first evening (chicken nachos). All I had to do was heat this in the oven at dinner time. If one was really organised, one could take all pre-cooked meals, but I wasn’t that hyper organized, and cooking on the gas camp cooker was really fun.
5. It was nice to have a reprieve from my cell phone and internet for a week (albeit an enforced rest as there was no coverage in the remote location in which we were situated). I even wrote this blog post by hand! We were still camping modern-style however as we had access to a laptop and an i-pad in the tent and we were not the only family to set up a movie in the tent for the kids to watch when it was raining. It was also nice to watch a movie outdoors under the stars when the kids were in bed. The kids had a little i-pad time, although we did witness a few ‘i-paddy’s’.
6. Coffee, coffee, & more coffee – need I say anymore? We brought along our coffee machine, as part of our camping survival kit for the grown ups, along with a little red wine and some dark chocolate.
7. We found that taking bikes for the kids was a saving grace, even if we had to dismantle them to fit them in the car. The older kids loved biking around the campsite.
8. One of the biggest challenges of camping with very little children is that they don’t always sleep and settle as well as they do at home. One option that we have tried once before (don’t judge me now) is phenergan, It is harmless and there must be many other families who opt for this on holiday as a large pharmacy in the city that we live in had run out! And there are natural alternatives such as lavender balm.
9. Don’t forget to pack your sense of humour!
10. Adjust your expectations. We had a lovely time camping and are already planning next year’s ‘holiday’. Although we don’t refer to it as a holiday, we prefer the term ‘family trip’. And our motto? Keep Calm & Camp On…..