Camping with the whole clan can be a simple, relaxed and hassle-free affair. Just ask Dickie Fincher and family…
Camping is one of those formative experiences which most children have bizarrely fond memories of. Whenever our mob (aged 6, 8 and 10) are asked if they want to go, it’s seen as a proper treat. Madness, more like. Here’s the tactics, gear and activities we use to make it actually work.
1. Have enough space.
It’s not about spending a fortune on a fab be-porched palace; this refers to sleeping quarters. Make sure there’s wriggle room between all occupants, or there will be a ground war featuring noise and ferocity not seen since 1943. The basic rule is to have a sleeping quarter with an official size at least one person more than you’re taking.
2. Encourage independence
If you can encourage the children to sleep in their own tent it does make life easier – the main clump of gear can be kept in some semblance of order and they can operate in their own contained havoc.
3.Use space wisely…
… especially for wet stuff. This can be in the car boot, or a tent porch. Enforce a mud and filth discipline rigorously. That way no-one gets an earful of mud or finds a wet sock when zipping up for the night. If everyone has their own corner and bag to stow clobber in during the day, that helps.
4. Brings plenty of toys
Once you’ve taken the screens away for the eighth time, children will start to rediscover strange muscles used for things like chucking Aerobie rings, rolling down hills and making stuff out of mud. We do try to organise games of rounders and other worthy pursuits, but the best way we’ve found is to leave a selection of balls, air toys, blankets and sticks and they’ve soon invented their own games.
5. Explore nature
It is, frankly, tricky to get smaller children interested in nature unless you’re a pro, like Ranger Pete at our local country park. But it can be done as long as you’re not too precious, so set micro tasks like finding different leaves, listening for two minutes for a bird call, or foraging for dry twigs (and being shown the difference between dry and green or growing wood) if you’ve got a wood stove.
6. Get a wood stove.
Most kids are fascinated by fire, and cooking over a flame is a heady blend of the romance of bushcraft, suffocation by smoke and frustration and it can look like more of a hobby than a way to get stuff done quickly (but let the record state that I’ve delivered a slow-cooked leg of lamb with most of the trimmings, chicken and couscous and many, many breakfasts over various camp stoves).
Tending the fire is a perfect never-ending job, and one most children take seriously. Keep it clear of the tent, and don’t bother if it’s windy. The key to cooking with wood is to have plenty of dry wood to hand so you don’t suddenly grind to a half-cooked halt. Like I said, it’s fun, engaging and a proper faff. Perfect!