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"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." –Shakespeare

For today’s gadget-addicted youth, camping makes a lot of sense. Not only is it an inexpensive family activity, it’s also a way to offer your kids what they lack in their fast-paced daily lives – unstructured time away from homework, the internet, popular entertainment, and after-school activities. It’s an opportunity for them to experience fresh air, enjoy nature, and stargaze.

When you’re in the midst of nature, you expect nothing short of an all-out sensory encounter. However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies when you take kids camping. If you’re unprepared, it can be quite a challenge. Regardless whether you’re an old-timer or a newbie, here are some ways to camp like a champ.

Tip: Your child’s camping experience will be enhanced when other kids accompany them. Hence, see if you can plan the trip with another family or two.

Preparing for a camping trip

•It takes two to tango – meaning it’s not just your kids who should be excited; you’ve got to be enthusiastic about going camping as well.

• Involving your kids in the different stages of planning will pique their interest. Get their input when you select a campground, ask them to help plan meals, and get their ideas on things to do in and around the campsite. This will help keep them agog until you reach the site – and after.

• Pick a campground that supports your skills. For instance, if you’re a first-timer, it would be wise to choose a site where amenities are already in place, such as a pitched tent, bathrooms, access to food joints, etc. Experienced folk can pitch their own tents and cook their own food in a remote area.

• Getting kids to pack their own bags (with the help of a checklist created by you) for the trip is a good way to boost their interest and instil a sense of responsibility. Of course, you will need to check if everything has been packed or not.

• Make a list of necessary items that you will need to pack – wet wipes, hand sanitizer, mosquito repellent, appropriate clothing (warm wear/swimwear), sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.

At the campground

• When you camp with kids, the first rule is to learn to cope with inconveniences and always exude a positive attitude. Remember, your children are in unfamiliar surroundings. Lead by example with a can-do attitude!

• Set rules and regulations in place for the children to follow. For instance, stay within bounds, use hand sanitizer, stay away from animals, do not litter, douse unwanted fires, always carry a flashlight etc. Remind them it’s safety first and fun next.

• Get your children to help you with chores around the campsite. They could help fetch water, collect firewood, set up the cooking area, wash dishes, etc. It will make them feel independent and impart a feeling of accomplishment and responsibility.

• Make sure you keep food locked or put away safely as a precautionary measure. There may be insects, or hungry animals lurking around. Also, learn how to safely co-exist with wildlife and teach the same to your children.

Spending time outdoors

• Spend time examining nature and make the most of what it has to offer. Breathe in the fresh air, look for unique birds and animals, examine rocks and stones, check out colour bugs, identify flowers, spot birds, and teach your children to do the same. One does not get this opportunity every day.

• Try to keep kids active and entertained. Don’t keep them on a tight schedule. If they want to scout for birds, let them do so till they are distracted by something else.

• Spend time with your kids and do what they want to do. This will help create memories and stories that will be endlessly narrated to family and friends.

• Engage in outdoorsy activities like fishing, hiking, exploring the surroundings, etc. You can even come up with a list of animals, birds and plants to spot and send the kids off on a scavenger hunt!

Fun stuff to carry along

• A frisbee or ball – anything that flies or can be flung around. It’s a good way of passing the time and enjoying the moment. But try not to be too boisterous.

• Board games/cards/puzzles are a fun way to spend time with the entire family.

• It’s best to have a Plan B, especially if the weather gets bad. Organise indoor activities and games (charades, Pictionary, etc.) which will keep the kids entertained and not disrupt the trip.

Even after meticulous planning, the chances are that your trip may have a few hiccups and everything may not go as smoothly as planned. Whatever the reason is, roll with it. There’s no compulsion to tick off every single thing on your wish-list. The point is to leave all your stress behind, and bask in the serenity of nature.

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