Today’s kids are more scheduled than ever before, and there are so many options of how to spend their free time, with multiple sources of technology topping the list – TV, computer, iPad, iTouch, iPhone to name a few. Whatever happened to the days of kids playing sports in the yard with neighborhood friends, or imaginative play, or board games, or the simple things? Admittedly, it is hard to get away from it all. I have a solution for you: take your family camping – a great family activity, inexpensive, and fun!

A few weeks ago, we took our three children to a campground for two nights. Though they are young – ages 6.5, 4 and 22 months – this is the second year that we’ve done it. We went swimming and hiking. We played at the beach and on the playground. All of our meals were cooked over a campfire, including s’mores after dark.

We took this trip with my cousin, her husband, and their two girls, which also made it special. The kids played games, made up a show to entertain us, ran, laughed, and had a great time.

The whole weekend was an adventure from the start. We all helped unpack the car and set up the camp site. The kids were excited to help put up the tent and put their sleeping bags and pillows inside. We used a map to find the bathrooms (yes, there were flushing toilets – a mommy requirement), the water tap, the hiking trails and the path to the beach. When night fell, we looked for the stars, sat by the campfire, donned headlamps and took out glow sticks.

It was one of those weekends when you know you’re making great memories for your kids, and there was something even more special about the fact that we were teaching them to appreciate and have fun outdoors without toys, technology, and pre-scheduled activities.  It also didn’t hurt that the weather was near perfect – warm by day and chilly in the evening. My kids were disappointed to leave and are already asking when we can go camping again.

While it may seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve never gone camping, you could always start small – camp out overnight in your backyard. You could still make s’mores over a small charcoal BBQ, wear headlamps, bring out the glow sticks and look at the stars.  But, it’s easy to move inside if it doesn’t go well.

If you’re ready to dive right in, you don’t need much equipment – a tent, some sleeping bags, a few chairs, headlamp or flashlight, and some basic cooking tools. Don’t worry if you don’t own equipment, you could always borrow, or even rent (REI offers a lot of great rental equipment).

I recommend doing your research in advance so you have appropriate expectations. Are there toilets/running water? Are there showers? Is there a beach/lake? Are there hiking or biking trails etc.? We have a good resource called New England Camping (Foghorn Outdoors) that helps navigate a lot of this information and rates them accordingly. Also, if you are a New Englander, has a list of Top Ten Places to Camp. There’s also a great article from Real Simple Magazine that gives great tips about camping with kids wherever you may live.

No matter if it’s your first time camping or if you’re an experienced camping family, you should feel good knowing that you are taking a break from your usual non-stop schedule, giving your kids unstructured time to explore and just be kids in the great outdoors.

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Lauren Fishman M.Ed, is a former Fifth Grade teacher. In her “life after children,” she is the family CEO – now if she can only figure out how to get paid like one! She lives in Natick with her husband and three young children.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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