One of my passions in life is encouraging people to enjoy the great outdoors. To get them into the countryside where they can enjoy all the benefits it brings, both physically and mentally.
For me, the best way to do that is twofold. Firstly, camping in all its forms brings you closer to nature and is the ideal way to enjoy outdoor pastimes and sports. And secondly, start them young. Get children into camping and the countryside at a tender age and that way they will hopefully carry our great pastime with them through future years and in turn share it with their own kids. And hopefully their grandchildren too.
So rather than me just talk about it through the pages of Camping & Caravanning magazine, last year I put pen to paper on a slightly bigger scale and wrote Camping with Kids: Hundreds of Fun Things to Do, which has been published by the AA in conjunction with the Club.
I was able to draw upon a wide range of exciting and at times unusual camping trips with my wife Paula and our two sons Tom and Elliot, now aged 17 and 14 respectively. And it’s fair to say we’ve had some great and memorable adventures along the way.
Camping with Kids is not a technical manual about camping, though it is packed with handy hints and tips. Instead it’s more a book to inspire. There are 400 ideas for things to do when out camping in the countryside with your children or grandchildren. The suggestions include ways to help reconnect our tech-orientated generation of youngsters with nature and also learn traditional skills that, if we’re not careful, I think we could be in danger of losing.
But the book is not just about traditional skills. Trying to disconnect youngsters from their screens can often lead to tantrums so consider ways to harness the tech (I’m thinking apps that identify trees or star constellations, or digital cameras to make a scrapbook of your outdoor adventures).
The book covers fun things to do on the journey to the campsite itself, how to work together as a family to pitch up, ways to reconnect with nature and learn traditional skills, and a range of games and activities – both for inside the tent or caravan, and outside.
Camping with Kids also provides ideas for fun things to do in the countryside at night, and how to get active as a young explorer. And just to ensure the pangs of hunger are kept at bay, there are also 40 campsite recipes to enjoy that are ideal for youngsters.
Here’s a selection of camping ideas from the book:
1. Take a compass with you. That way you can determine which way is east and then pitch your tent’s front door in that direction so the early morning rising sun will warm your tent through. It’s much nicer to poke your head out of the door first thing in the morning on the sunny side.
2. Make a moth trap. Kids love yucky stuff so the most fun way to do this is to fill an old sock (dad’s is best!) with rotting fruit or even dip it in wine. Hang it up at night and return a short while later to see who’s been attracted by the sweet smell.
3. Create a campsite weather station. Rather than complain about the rain, catch it instead and measure how much has fallen. If camping near the coast, hang some seaweed in a sheltered spot. Seaweed absorbs atmospheric moisture so if it’s moist, bad weather could be on the way. Or find a spot where wild marigolds grow. If they’re wide open, it’s in anticipation of fine weather but if they’re closed they’re anticipating rain. And don’t forget to record the findings on a weather chart.
4. Build a den. It’s a great way for kids to visualise and plan the structure. They can also think about the best materials for shelter from the elements. And once it’s built, they can play in it too.
5. Enjoy a breakfast picnic. There’s a good chance the early morning sunshine and dawn chorus will wake the family earlier than usual. So don’t resist it – embrace it. The night before prepare a breakfast picnic. Tip-toe off the campsite and head into the countryside – ideally to the top of a local hill – for breakfast where you can enjoy the local wildlife as it too wakes up, ready for the day ahead.
Camping with Kids retails at £14.99 from bookstores. Club members can buy the book at the reduced price of £11.99 plus £3 delivery. Visit the Club website or call 024 7647 5449 for further details and to buy a copy.