As your kids grow up, there will be many “firsts” in their lives. Many of these “firsts” will take place in the summer, like their first camp-out and their first day hike, so you’ll want to be prepared to help ensure that these firsts are positive and lead to a lifetime of love for the great outdoors.
While this summer may already be winding down, pretty soon you’ll want to start gearing up for next summer, particularly if you want some of your child’s firsts to take place in National Parks.
In fact, the best campgrounds within our National Parks book up months and months in advance. So if car camping or RV camping is on your list, you want to plan ahead (like, way ahead) because you can only have one “first time” and you want it to be perfect for your kids.
Here are five of our favorite summer firsts and how to get ready for each of them:
1. Car Camping
An overnight or weekend car camping (e.g., pitching a tent) adventure is a great way to get your feet wet when it comes to camping. Even better, you need little more than a tent and a sleeping bag, which you can easily order online or pick up at any outdoor or big box retailer.
As a bonus, there are loads of resources online to help you prepare and pack for that first car camping trip. You may also want to download a camping checklist. Given this list is quite comprehensive, certainly feel free to focus on what you really need, which may or may not include roasting sticks, a frying pan, extra blankets or coffee mugs.
Book your campsite well ahead of time, invite friends to go along and keep meals simple. And, don’t forget about s’mores. During the day, plan to hike and explore, then sit back and look at the stars at night or get in a round of flashlight tag.
2. RV Camping
RV camping may seem more challenging than car camping, but it’s really not, and there are so many pluses about RV camping that you may not have considered. There’s no need to worry about rain (like you might when car camping), you’ll probably sleep better and everything is right there at your fingertips – a stove, a refrigerator, a microwave. As a bonus, air conditioning.
When it comes to cooking, you’re not limited to grilling or cooking over a campfire. You can cook inside your RV or you can even bring along a slow cooker. Is there anything better than coming back from a day hike to a cooked meal in the Crock Pot? Nope.
As with car camping, just keep it simple when it comes to meals. Print out this RV Kitchen Checklist to help you stock your RV, and definitely peruse this Pinterest board full of RV Camping Food. A few more tips for a perfect “first”: get out early to enjoy the outdoors (especially on travel days), avoid trailer-park style campsites and only rent from a trusted RV company with reliable vehicles.
You’ll always remember that first fishing trip with your kids, so do what you can to make sure it’s special. Your kids will need the right fishing gear (not just your old rod) and it will help if your kids catch a fish or two, so you may want to seek out a stocked pond for that first outing.
Start your kids out with a bobber and live bait, instead of a lure, which can easily get caught and hung up on the bottom of a lake. It’s no fun to have to cut your line and re-set over and over. Plus, live bait is squirmy and fun. 🙂
To help keep frustration to a minimum (on the part of both parents and children), Outdoor Empire has put together a guide to planning your child’s first fishing trip, including tips on where to go and what types of fish to seek out, as well as best practices when it comes to conservation and catch-and-release fishing.
Hiking may seem like a simple activity to manage, but it’s also one of the easiest summer “firsts” to goof up, particularly if you don’t have enough water (or snacks), you mis-judge the distance or you’re unprepared for the weather or any mishaps along the way, like cuts or scrapes.
The biggest tip here is to over-prepare and expect the worst. You’ll always be pleasantly surprised if you do and in most cases nothing bad will happen. No tumbles, no bug bites, no meltdowns. Bring along a first aid kit, bug spray, sunblock, a water bottle and snacks in a backpack.
Every 15 minutes or so, check in with your kids to gauge how tired they are and how willing they are to keep going. It’s also a great time to break to re-hydrate and re-fuel with snacks. Stay positive and turn back when your kids are ready to help ensure a second hiking outing.
5. Family Road Trip
Everybody remembers that first family road trip, whether it’s to go camping in the mountains or to splash around on the beach. After any family road trip, you want your kids to ask, “Where are we going next?” not grumble at the prospect of going on another road trip as a family.
When it comes to road trips, snacks are king. Kids are always hungry before you even leave the driveway, so make sure to pack healthy snacks, as well as a few fun favorites, like packs of cookies or chips. Try to avoid chocolate or anything that easily melts and could make a mess.
Get your kids involved too. Let them have a say in where to go and what to do. This is an easy way to secure their interest and buy-in for a road trip. Research what to do in your destination, but also allow for unplanned stops to explore farmers markets and parks along the way.