One of the most important things we can do as camping parents is to pass along our love of the outdoors to our kids. Now, kids naturally love camping so this isn’t a difficult task, but we need to remember that our kids are constantly learning by watching what we do, so teaching our kids starts with us doing the right thing, too.
Keep a clean camp.
In the military we called it “police call,” walking through an area and picking up everything that doesn’t belong there. Fortunately my kids aren’t in the military, but that’s no reason to not “enlist” them in helping clean up the campsite. It’s a Scribner Family ritual that we perform twice; once to pick up any trash and debris that the previous campers left behind, and again after we break camp, to ensure that we don’t leave anything behind for others to deal with.
Don’t disturb animals.
My kids love animals. They want to feed them all and, given the chance, they would love to take them all home. It’s sometimes difficult for kids to fully understand the ramifications of feeding wild animals. It’s not only dangerous, but it can disturb the animal’s natural instinct to find its own food. It can also cause problems for the next campers who occupy the site, when those animals come calling expecting their snacks.
Don’t go off trails and paths.
Teaching our kids to stay on the designated trails and paths is something that we have to reinforce each time we go camping. In addition to the obvious lesson of protecting fragile plants and soil, we also use the opportunity to teach the about poison oak. I’m not sure, but Northern California might just be the poison oak capital of the world, so it’s an important lesson.
Respect other campers.
Along the lines of staying on the trails and paths, another difficult lesson for kids to learn and remember is to respect other camper’s space and privacy. Our kids are pretty good about not cutting through other campsites and not being too loud, but it’s easy to forget once they start running around with other kids in the campground.
Respect the campfire.
One of our kid’s favorite things about camping is the campfire, so teaching them to build a fire and, just as important, to properly extinguish a fire by stirring the ashes and soaking with water, is an important lesson. Of course the kids love doing this, and we usually have to clean them up before we hit the road.
It’s also important any time kids are around, to teach them to respect the fire. Our son burned both of his arms on one camping trip when he leaned forward in his chair and fell against the fire ring. Most lessons have been painless, though, and that’s one of the great joys of family camping; watching your kids grow up and learn about responsibility.