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Camping The Camping forum is for discussion that relates directly to wilderness camping (commonly referred to as car camping).


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  #1  
Old 01-30-2008, 05:18 PM
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lgiusto lgiusto is offline
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Four year old camping (camping with children)

My son is four and he really shows an interest in what his father does. I would love to take him out this spring, somewhere other than our backyard. Does anyone have any experience with taking younger children into the backwoods? I was thinking about car camping on the Cherohala Skyway, with maybe a small hike somewhere up there.


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  #2  
Old 01-30-2008, 07:59 PM
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Seeker Seeker is offline
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cold, wet, tired, or hungry are very bad things at this age. the first couple times out MUST be positive, or he'll lose interest. teach him first to love nature, be inquisitive, and how to stay comfortable. THEN hike. then camp.

have no goals in mind. he doesn't. he just likes being with you. so just go anywhere. it doesn't have to be far or fancy. just stopping by the side of the road next to a big field is perfect. but go slow. move at his pace, not yours. he will probably wander around to look at stuff. don't try to keep him moving in a straight line. kids don't have that concept down yet. get him a cheap plastic magnifying glass and look at the stuff he finds 'up close'. later on, you can bring along a guidebook to id things like trees, bugs, tracks, or whatever, and a better magnifier, binos, etc.

don't just answer his questions, especially 'dad, what's this?' once you tell him it's a maple tree, that's it... ask him what HE thinks it is... and he'll come up with something more than 'a tree'... he'll look at the bark, and the leaves, and those little spinner/helicopter seed pods. examine all that with him, and see it new through his eyes. tell him you can make syrup from it, by boiling down the sap... THEN tell him it's a maple tree...
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  #3  
Old 01-30-2008, 08:56 PM
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tjd tjd is offline
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I started car camping with the kids when the youngest was 4. They love the outdoors - sleeping out, cooking on a camp stove, camp fire, marshmallows on the fire, running, playing, swimming, etc. It's all fun for them. We do day hikes while camping - from a couple of miles to 10 miles. I've taken them out in good weather and in bad. They know it's part of the outdoor experience. Now the youngest is going to be 7 and he's asking when we are going back to specific campgrounds.

I've taken them to a variety of campgrounds in CT, NY, NJ, & MA. Most are state parks. One thing that really helps is to arrage a trip with friends and have them bring along kids of similar ages and have adjacent sites.

The car tent is a giant thing - it probably can sleep a platoon. There are 3 rooms, one for the kids on one end, one for the grown ups on the other end, and a big common area in the middle for bags, etc.

The kids get to play together, the adults get to relax together, and there are extra eyes to look out after the kids. We may bring a small number of activities, but the kids find things to do, invent activities, and just get to be kids.

For a first trip, i'd wait for good weather, have the gear and destination set, arrange for a friend and father to camp too, and head out for some fun. I hope this is helpful.

On a side note - I hope to take my oldest backpacking this summer - her first trip.
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Old 01-30-2008, 09:12 PM
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Surveyor Surveyor is offline
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My three year old has made several campouts when we go with the Cub Scout pack. As the others have said, it needs to be an enjoyable experience, but mine has survived rainstorms, cold and a lot of hiking for his age. He loves it and will sleep in a tent any time I set one up.

The most important thing you can do as his father is to spend time with your son. Nether you nor the activity has to be perfect; you just have to be there.
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  #5  
Old 01-31-2008, 10:57 AM
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tpeterson1959 tpeterson1959 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surveyor
The most important thing you can do as his father is to spend time with your son. Nether you nor the activity has to be perfect; you just have to be there.

Very well said and very true.

We took our kids camping and hiking with us from the time they were still in a stroller (we didn't have fancy off road ones, then). Now they're in their twenties and both still love it. My son hikes and backpacks with friends at college, and my daughter hikes with friends from work. She recently surprised me when she mentioned wanting to hike the new Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains NRA with me!

Last edited by tpeterson1959 : 01-31-2008 at 11:17 AM.
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  #6  
Old 01-31-2008, 10:11 PM
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yippikiyo yippikiyo is offline
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My youngest started car camping at age 2. How to keep it successful depends a lot on the personality of the child yet there are some basic tips.
1. Great food. Nothing new should be expected to be eaten on a camping trip. You can take a new taste of something or an experimental item but never plan on a new food as a major part of the meal. The Coleman oven is fabulous for making brownies! I also like making muffin cakes for breakfast by using muffin mix and pouring into a pan to bake. lots of warm drinks and snacks but watch out for too much sugar
2. Animal tracks and scat books to see what's been around the area.
3. National parks have Junior Ranger programs which are perfectly designed for various ages
4. lots of small, easy games like cards, pigs, dice games like Blister can be played by youngsters since they rely more on matching than adding. story books are also very valuable. easy music intruments are good, too. crayons and paper are great for bark rubbings. collect a few small rocks and when you get home you can turn them into souvenir jewelry for someone special
5. his own headlamp and a small battery lamp for in the tent
6. most important is to slow things way down. get in the moment and let him set the pace. even having a specific 1 hour period where he gets to be leader and choose everything for that hour is great!

can't wait to hear about it!

yippikiyo
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Old 02-14-2008, 09:06 PM
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Rambler Rambler is offline
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Great suggestions . I especially like # 6 above. I started my three kids young. They still remember some of out trips. It's hard not to start in on some of the stories. You do not have to go far. Ponds and streams are great attractions. Just do it! My son lives in Utah, one daughter lives in Vermont so they can get into the mountains. My youngest, lives in DC, but I can still get her out of the city to go backpacking. My Vermont daughter plans to join me on the JMT in August. There are no guarantees, but if you can just expose them to the outdoors maybe it will become important in their lives.
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  #8  
Old 02-15-2008, 11:04 AM
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cloudswinger cloudswinger is offline
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We just took our 3.5 yo on her first camping trip in Jan(we're in Florida though, so it was only in the 50s) with some cousins. She's now obsessed with what she calls "sleeping outside". There was a great loop that we biked around, and short trails off the loop we hiked around. I didn't bring many games for her, she found playing in the dirt with her cousins quite fun. I brought a harmonica, they can play that pretty easily. We were at a state park that had a little museum and restaurant, so there was also the wild orange ice cream treat at the end of the trail.
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  #9  
Old 02-28-2008, 11:14 AM
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dxt178 dxt178 is offline
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I grew up in the mountains of PA (Ridgway) and I basically lived outdoors with my family doing everything from fishing to camping from age 2. Basically, and it has been touched on already, is to make it fun and comfortable. With a 4 year old is not the time to go ultralight or heavily rough it. Car camping with a solid supply of everything from home is best.

My parents love camping but car camping was the predominant method for us and there were big rectangle sleeping bags, blankets, sheets, favorite pillows, etc. Also my mom had darn near an entire kitchen with a big Coleman propane stove, pots, pans, full size bottles of condiments, and a cooler of food and one for drinks. Essentially everything we could cram in the vehicle and still allow my father some visibility to drive.

I learned almost everything I know from these trips and they cemented a love for life and the outdoors even though we were "poor" and had some rocky times. My life would have been a shell of what it is had it not been for their patience and willingness to get us outdoors and active. Fishing was what our trips centered around, but hiking and animal/plant education would be every bit as good and rewarding. I grew up this way so I didn't know anything else, for a child who it is not so inclined make sure to gradually introduce him/her.
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  #10  
Old 02-28-2008, 12:39 PM
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tjd tjd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dxt178
My parents love camping but car camping was the predominant method for us and there were big rectangle sleeping bags, blankets, sheets, favorite pillows, etc. Also my mom had darn near an entire kitchen with a big Coleman propane stove, pots, pans, full size bottles of condiments, and a cooler of food and one for drinks. Essentially everything we could cram in the vehicle and still allow my father some visibility to drive.

ROFLMAO - That sounds like my wife's idea of camping now! When I mention backpacking - I get a grimace and and "no" from her - LOL.
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