If your family has a long history of camping and is totally outdoor-savvy, then you need read no further. But if your children haven’t been camping before and you’d like to take them, there are some important points to take into consideration.

Much as we would like it to be otherwise, many of our children have become indoor creatures. They don’t play outside unless they’re playing an organized sport. It seems that old-fashioned playing is a bit of a dinosaur these days. The indoor trend could be the result of technology. All of our computers, video games and other screened entertainments occupy children without challenging them to physical activity.

So there we are, with children unused to the outdoors. That said, there are so many good reasons to get out into nature; learning about the flora and fauna of an area, relaxing in the company of family and friends and building healthier bodies and minds. It’s a great thing to do.

As you begin to think about a camping trip, you’ll want to ask:

Where?

A first-time venture probably should be relatively close to home and shouldn’t be overly challenging in terms of comfort and endurance. Perhaps it would be best to choose a place with bathrooms and showers and maybe even a children’s play area. After all, you want the children to have a good time, and a Spartan trip, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate, will only ensure that it’s the last trip for your children. When you’ve found a suitable place, be sure to include some bona fide camping experiences such as day hikes, fishing, boating and the traditional evening campfire.

When?

Reservations usually have to be made at campgrounds a year ahead of time. Often, in addition to the nightly fees, you’ll have to pay an additional campground entrance fee. Be sure to arrive at the campground area as early in the day as possible. It’s no fun trying to set up camp in the dark!

What to do?

Taking some time to plan for this first camping adventure will pay dividends. First of all, plan activities for the drive. A small game to play in the car or games such as “find the license plate” will keep children occupied during the drive and avoid the “Are we there yets?” Plan quick and easy meals and include disposable plates and cups, etc. If you really want to be more “green,” then make the cooking and cleanup, including washing up dishes, part of the fun. Perhaps there could be partners, one adult and one child responsible for each meal. Remember how much fun the evening campfires can be with songs, stories and special treats, like s’mores. Some of the larger campgrounds have park rangers who will lead daytime activities or have evening slideshows and talks. Be prepared if the weather turns bad. Simple raingear can be a lifesaver as well as games and activities to do inside the tent if necessary.

Enjoy

When you’ve done all your planning, be sure to take along plenty of enthusiasm. Children will pick up on the fun if you are eager and ready to have fun too. Be creative—maybe you’ll see some wildlife, catch a trout or spot a certain bird or butterfly. Once again, knowing your children’s hobbies and interests may help you to plan things they will be sure to enjoy. This is also a great time to share your areas of expertise. Do you know all about wildflowers or can you teach the children how to paddle a canoe?

Now you’re all set. Be sure to take along a camera to document all the fun. Kids are certain to enjoy the camping event and all the stories and memories of their first camping experience.

Quick and Easy Meals for Campers

English Muffin Pizzas: Use English muffins, squeezable pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella. Toast muffin halves on oiled grill. Turn over and spread with sauce, cheese and any toppings your family enjoys. Serve when the cheese melts.

Grilled PBJ: This one is a cinch. Choose a hearty bread and be generous with the fillings. Butter on both sides and toast on your grill. They’ll stick to your ribs.

Coffee Can Stew: Cut stew meat into small pieces. Place meat in a clean coffee can with 2T butter. Brown meat over the fire. Add red potatoes, baby carrots and onions with 2T more butter. Cover with foil and place in the fire for 20 minutes.

Banana Boats: Slit unpeeled bananas lengthwise without cutting through. Fill the opening with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips. Sprinkle with brown sugar, wrap in foil and place either on a grill or in the coals of your fire. They’re ready in just seven minutes.

Eggs in a Hat: You may want a change from morning cereal or pancakes. Try this fun recipe. Grease a hot griddle. Cut a hole in pieces of bread using a cup or glass. Toast the bread on both sides and crack an egg in the hole. When the egg is solid, flip the bread. Top with a slice of your favorite cheese and a slice of ham. Serve when cheese is nicely melted.

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