This weekend I took my daughter on her first toddler microadventure. She’s just turned 3 years old and I figured that this first trip will either make or break her taste for the outdoors, for camping and for adventure in general. Realising this I made sure I carefully planned each aspect of the trip so that there was never a bored moment or soggy spirit. Read on for my experience of how my careful plans panned out.
Inspired by Alastair Humphreys
Bring another child
My 3-year old daughter is an only-child and as optimistic as I could have been with the activities I had planned they were never likely to entertain her enough for the whole day. So I invited my 6-year old nephew along for the fun. Kids seem to just be able to just keep themselves entertained so that at those times when I had to pitch the tents, cook a meal or just sit down for a bit, I could just leave them to it with their sticks and leaves and things they’d found (which were far more interesting than toys!).
Bring another adult
Not to be outnumbered by kids, accompanying my nephew was his Dad (my brother). Kids want attention all the time and they seem much happier when there’s two adults around to provide it. If one adult’s busy, there’s always the other adult to go and pester.
Check the weather
The forecast for our Saturday trip to the campsite was rain and strong wind but as the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” I made sure my daughter had warm clothes, spare clothes, a coat, and a rain poncho. Despite the preparation though, the weather was very dry. There was a strong wind all day, so we pitched our tents in close to the hedge for shelter and this seemed to work fine. We hardly noticed the weather at all on the day.
Pack in advance
I made a comprehensive packing list for all the things I thought I might need. After all, we were essentially ‘car-camping’, there would be no carrying of gear or backpacking involved in this trip so I pretty much brought everything I could possibly need. This turned out to be a bit more hassle than I thought it would since everything I needed was in a box somewhere in the car. I could have taken half what I took and everything would have been much more accessible. Part of the reason for bringing too much was that I wanted to make sure that if my brother forgot to bring something with him, it wouldn’t ruin the weekend for him and his son so, for example, I brought two camping stoves, spare jackets, spare food, cutlery, sleeping mats, etc. This, it turns out, was unnecessary.
To ensure I didn’t forget anything, my packing list was created a week in advance, and I began packing two nights before the trip.
Bring plenty of food
Because the kids were outside the whole time, they were generally much more active than if they were at home. This made them hungry. Thankfully, we had provisioned for a large cache of cereal bars, apples and crisps that kept them running between meal times.
Plan lots of activities
In preparation for the trip, I had read up on some outdoors activities for kids. I selected a campsite that wasn’t far from a wood where I intended to host most of the activities in the hope that if the weather was sunny, we would be in the shade, and if it was raining or windy, we would be reasonably well sheltered.
The woods were 1 mile away and both the kids coped fine with walking the distance over the fields, cross a dyke and down a bridleway to the woods.
The activities in the woods were:
- Make a den – Make a den using fallen branches
- Nature matchbox – I brought matchboxes which I covered in white card prior to the trip. The kids then got to decorate the white card with some crayons I brought along and then they had to find interesting things in the woods to put in their matchbox.
- Magnifying glass bug box – We have a small, circular, transparent box with a magnifying lid. It comes with some plastic tweezers and we managed to catch 3 bugs and look at them in the box.
- Twig towers – Who can build the tallest tower out of twigs from the woods?
- Leaf crowns – I brought some white card with me and a stapler. I stapled the card in a circle sized to each child’s head then told them to go find some interesting leaves to staple to their card crowns.
- Make a nest – Using grass, leaves, twigs, or whatever, make a birds nest and put it in a tree (this was much more difficult than it sounds. How birds manage it, I have no idea!)
Back at the campsite, games like swing ball, football and one-knee went down well. The kids had brought their electronic toys (a LeapPad 2 and an iPad 2) which occupied them for all of 5 minutes before they were bored. Ultimately, chasing each other around with wooden twigs was much more fun!
Have a campfire
A mandatory prerequisite for the campsite was the ability to have a campfire. I have very fond memories of campfires from when I was in cub scouts. With our sheltered position, getting the fire going was no problem. Before long the heat from the embers was keeping us nice and warm as the sun began to set. I got my stove going to make some hot chocolate and my brother helped the kids with their marshmallows on sticks, melting over the fire. The kids absolutely loved it, and why wouldn’t they? Fire, sweet food and drink, staying up late, it’s all there ticking the boxes for an awesome time. The fire also has a calming effect on the kids, they seemed quite content sitting on their camp chairs watching the fire and not fidgeting.
Keep the bed time routine
As much as possible I tried to keep the bed time routine as normal as possible. After brushing teeth and having a wash, my daughter gets two stories, a review of favourite things for the day, a “love you, good night” kiss and a lullaby on her mobile. All of which occurred on this trip, but in our tent. She settled down, no problem and I didn’t hear a peep from her all night. I partially attribute this to the fact that we arrived at the site in the morning so they had all day to wear themselves out and get tired before bed.
Both the kids loved the camping trip and in the morning they didn’t want to leave. This is probably the perfect result and I can’t wait to take them out on their next mircoadventure.
About the trip
Campsite: Summerfield Campsite, Tilbrook