Thursday, July 2, 2009
Camping with Grandkids: How to have a ball!
We were camping the past three days with three of our grandchildren, ages 9, 7, and 4. My husband mentioned it to another mature (that's a polite way of saying old) camper at the rest room who said, "Why would you want to do that?" Wow! there's a man who doesn't enjoy his grandkids. Maybe he doesn't know the tricks of the trade. We had a fabulous three days, but we planned it. Here's our recipe for a happy camping trip with grandkids.
1) Choose the right place.
Larry and I love campgrounds that are heavy on hiking trails, waterfalls, and great views; and we don't much care what else they have. Those aren't the places we choose when we camp with the kids. We pick a campground with lots of things the kids can do independently. For this trip we chose a KOA close to home that offers: free miniature golf, ping-pong, pool, a fishing pond, a washer toss game, a well-equipped playground, horseshoes, and a swimming pool. It's only a little over 30 minutes from home and nestles in at the base of the Massanutten Mountain. We could have travelled 100 miles to get something similar, but we'd have to deal with "When are we going to be there? How much longer? I have to go to the bathroom...." (Well, you know the drill.)
2) Give the kids guidelines, but also a little freedom.
Midweek camping is great because campgrounds generally have plenty of empty sites and very little traffic. We let the children know we needed to know where they were at all times and they needed to stay together. We could take care of setting up camp and breaking down while they went exploring and enjoyed the fun stuff to do. We did a lot of things together, but they had the freedom to run around a little by themselves.
3) Include some off-site activities.
We had planned to go to the Luray caverns, but the younger two were having such a good time they didn't want to leave. We decided to do something closer to the campground and visited the Storybook Trail on the Massanutten Mountain. It has lots of rock formations that are fun to climb and be king (or queen) of the mountain.
It's only 1/4 mile long and ends at an observation deck with a beautiful view of the Luray Valley. And there's a great custard stand on the way home. The outing was only about an hour and half -- just long enough with the reward of ice cream at the end -- perfect!
The 9-year-old and I also took a "girls' outing" to the Green Valley Book Fair near Bridgewater, about 30 minutes from our campground. We spent a happy 45 minutes browsing all the books and choosing some special treasures to take home. The boys, who didn't want to go, spent the afternoon with Larry playing more mini-golf and everything else at least once.
4) Do some chores together.
Nobody gets a free ride when we go camping. The kids helped set the table and clear up and we all went wood-gathering together. That was so successful we had a great fire even in a sprinkling rain. Most of the wood was so dry it lit easily and got good and hot for cooking hot dogs and s'mores.
5) Say prayers and have as much fun as you can.
We believe "the family that prays together stays together." We said a morning prayer offering our day to God and a decade of the rosary around the campfire at night ending with bedtime prayers. We believe prayer helps us stay safe and agreeable. Since three can be a difficult number (especially with siblings) we had a motto for the outing. The kids were the three musketeers. Whenever there was a squabble beginning we reminded them of the campout motto: "All for one and one for all." That usually nipped arguments in the bud and kept everybody smiling.
We didn't see much wildlife on this trip so we took advantage of a photo op with the bears decorating the front of the campground office.
After we got home Larry commented that he never spent as much time with his grandparents as we just did. Me too. I only had one set of grandparents who lived far away and I could probably count the number of times I saw them (after we moved away from Cleveland when I was nine) on both hands. We don't want the same thing to happen with our grandkids because they are some of our favorite people on the planet. We love camping and kids so combining the two is definitely a win-win situation. Can't wait for the next fun adventure!