Summer is over now and kids are back to school, but I am here to remind you of some of the “fun” things you could have experienced (or maybe missed out on!) this summer while camping with young kids, more specifically three kids 4 years old and younger.
Place: Priest Lake, ID
When: One week in July
The set-up: Leaving late Friday afternoon (did I mention three young kids?) with no reserved campsite meant an unexpected two nights “roughin’ it” on forest service land. Then moving to the actual campground within walking distance to the lake; this meant fresh water, plumbing, and was near the in-laws campsite where breakfast and dinner was served daily.
The cast: Me, my husband Joe, our four-year-old Brian, 2.5 year old Monica, and four-month-old Peter.
(We also spent time with cousins, some older and some younger, and really couldn’t have made it through the week without the help of wonderful aunts, uncles and grandparents.)
From mom and dad’s perspective:
When your four-year-old remembers that a bear broke into grandpa’s truck last year and ate the chocolate for the s’mores; he had to keep checking his surroundings the first night saying things like “what’s that??”
When, after “roughin’ it” for two nights, your 4-year-old frequently forgets there is actually a bathroom to use at the campground.
When your babies are forced to nap in hammocks, risking mosquito bites, because the inside of the tent is just too hot during prime nap time.
When you should have just bought a bigger air mattress since all the kids end up in your sleeping bag anyway. Four-year-old: “It’s so cozy!”
When the only “bear” in your campsite is a stuffed bear that the two-and-a-half year-old can’t go anywhere without. It deserved its ride in the washing machine once it got home.
When you take the double stroller down to the beach as a cargo carrier because everyone wants to “walk.” Well that is until they want to be carried—while you are pushing a stroller.
When your 4-year-old remembers a specific memory from the last year—that he shouldn’t run off by himself because it will worry his parents—and then proceeds to run off by himself the next day.
When you are putting long pants and socks on the kids when it’s 80 degrees out at 6 p.m. Because, again—mosquitoes.
When your four-month-old is one of many babies crying in the afternoon to interrupt the otherwise peace and quiet of the woods.
When someone starts playing guitar around the campfire and all the cousins start to “sing along.” Hey, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” can be a round, especially if one kid starts crying and another starts singing “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”
When “relaxing” on the beach really means stressing about keeping track of toddlers near the water and then panicking when one needs to use the bathroom.
When the RV dump station is the four-year-old’s favorite part of the campground—enough to have to visit it on every walk. And now his sister also says she has to see the dump station too —At least it’s something they can finally agree on!
And remember, the smaller the kids, the more stuff you need—from extra clothes to activities, to the “just in case” things you threw in the van until there was no more space. But the kids are happy as long as they have a view of the DVD player during the drive while surrounded by their entire house.
Camping from a four-year-old’s perspective:
Tent poles are great for sword fighting and fun when setting up the tent, but you have to play with them when mom and dad aren’t looking.
Filling the “cows” (water jugs) at the water spigot is quite exciting, well maybe except when your cousin suddenly abandons you to use the bathroom and you don’t really want to carry it by yourself.
A campfire in the morning? What was that about? Aren’t they just used at night? For s’mores?
Always take the chair by the fire that your sister was sitting in even though it always causes a fight.
And make sure you always yell at mom for fixing the sleeping bag you are trying to straighten out by saying, “Mom you wrecked it!” and proceed to mess it up again so you can fix it the right way.
Camping from a two-and-a-half-year-old’s perspective:
Where’s my beary?? I had to leave the beach a few times so I could get my bear at the campsite. Was I tired, sure, but did I nap? Not much!
Did you know that an air mattress doubles as a trampoline? Yeah, it’s the best part of setting up the tent. But now everyone is wondering why it has a slow leak…
There’s never any room in mom and dad’s sleeping bag. They keep squishing me when I move to their bed in the middle of the night no matter how much I tell them to “scoot over!”
Remind your dad to bring a table when you are “roughin’ it” because sloppy joes on a paper plate on your lap does not boast good for keeping my clothes, or campchair, clean.
Even though you can put your own sandals on, cry for mom and dad to help when it is too hard and then keep taking them off and putting them back on because you don’t know whether to stay in or out of the tent.
And always take the chair your brother is sitting in even though it causes a fight. Make sure to fall down multiple times in said chair when getting up because you really didn’t want to sit anyway.
Camping from the baby’s perspective:
I’m not sure what all the hype is about the beach; the water is way too cold, the waves are too loud, the sand is too sandy, and the sun is just too hot.
Make sure you go camping with your extended family then you never have to be put down because everyone is happy to hold you as much as you please.
Finally, our experience camping with young kids is always unforgettable (and mostly enjoyable) with all the unexpected adventures that the little ones will bring to the outdoors.
However, even though they may seem all smiles in the pictures (because you can’t do anything fun on vacation without at least one photographer holding a phone telling everyone to say “Cheese!”) —we can now have a more realistic outlook on the so-called “happy campers.”