#getoutside: Veteran Scoutmaster talks Family Camping (Part 3 of 3)
Joe Brandl has been a Scoutmaster in Dubois for so long, no one even remembers when he started. Most of the kids (and a lot of the adults) he’s mentored are now sharing outdoor memories with their own children. Joe is also a father and an accomplished survivalist who appeared on the hit Discovery Channel show Naked and Afraid. In this 3 part #getoutside feature, Joe shares some of his family camping wisdom. #getoutside, a series focusing on our County 10 outdoor lifestyle, is brought to you by Wind River Outdoor Company in Lander.
The summer is in full-swing. You can get to almost all the good camping spots and camping makes so much sense right now.
It’s an inexpensive family activity in a tight-budget economy and a way to give your kids what they may lack in this go-go era: unstructured time outside, away from screens, homework, and an avalanche of after-school activities. Camping provides a rare chance for them (and you) to be a kid, and what could be more important?
These nine pointers will help make your vacation in the great outdoors fun, safe, and enjoyable.
In Part 1 of 3, Joe talked planning…
In Part 2 of 3, Joe talks bedding, meals and safety…
#8 Keep Boredom at Bay
There may come a moment when you’ll need to ward off an “I’m bored!” or two, so be prepared with a pack of cards and some books and favorite board games. Although I am not a fan of this, you could allow your kids bring along a few tech items, recognizing that an iPad-obsessed 9-year-old may have a tough time going cold turkey. Load your phone with cool apps for tracking animals through scat identification. I like star charts. Use that love of technology and skill set and apply it to the outdoor world. Or try sending kids on a low-tech scavenger hunt around the site. You can give your children Baggies and a list of things to gather: pinecones, a rock with stripes, a wildflower, a stick that looks like a slingshot, etc. You can also make a checklist of items to find and mark off, such as a bird’s nest, a chickadee, and an anthill.
When booking at a national park’s campground, always ask if it has a Junior Ranger program (most of them are free). Here, young campers meet with rangers, then follow a workbook to do a series of nature-focused activities that allow them to explore the park. A completed book, checked and certified by park staff, earns children a Junior Ranger badge.
#9 Above All, Play
Something magical happens when you are outside that doesn’t happen in other places. Studies show that when kids play in a natural play-scape they are far more likely to invent their own games. What’s more, kids who are normally on the sidelines at the playground join in when they’re in the natural environment. Which is one of the best parts of camping for kids: making new friends.
Kids find camaraderie with other kids they might not normally meet. They go on adventures together, and there’s a whole new vocabulary of make-believe to embrace. A lot of fast friendships are made on camping trips. And if an adventure involves, say, putting a hike on hold to spend 20 minutes watching ants bring home dinner, don’t worry. There are no deadlines when you’re camping, except when to eat!
Lastly, Get over the dirt factor when it comes to your kids, a little dirt’s not going to kill them. They are going to have grimy hands and faces, and that’s okay. Clean them up with wipes before bed and then clean them up when you get home.