Story by Tricia Edgar
Vacay.ca Outdoors Columnist
Summer is the season of freedom. School is out, and the kids are ready to explore. Here’s how to create an unforgettable experience as you explore the Canadian wilderness this year with your kids.
1. Camp with friends
While forcing your kids to hike straight up a 10-kilometre-long path is fun, doing it with friends is even better. But in all seriousness, camping is a lot more fun when the kids can play together, create imaginary games in the outdoors, and goad each other on to new heights in hiking and swimming.
Boundaries, boundaries. So much of being a parent is about setting appropriate boundaries. When you’re camping, set boundaries that are safe but allow your kids to have a taste of freedom. Use walkie-talkies to have them check in with base camp.
Check to see if your campsite welcomes bikes. Tearing around on a bike brings kids a taste of freedom, and it burns off a lot of energy that is best replenished with trail mix.
3. Light my fire
S’mores and hot dogs are the stuff of summer memories. Choose a campsite that offers communal fire pits for marshmallow-roasting sociability, and memorize some authentic campfire songs. Fires Burning, anyone? Before you go, check to see what the fire regulations are at your site and see what services are provided. Some campsites offer wood for sale, while others don’t. Be aware of local fire regulations and restrictions before you start a camp fire, and know how to put it out safely.
4. Groovy Food
Camping food is hokey, basic, and downright delicious. Make your own trail mix, and create bags of S’mores fixings to unpack every evening. Bring some biscuit mix or dough and place it on a stick to make bannock, and bring hot chocolate mix for cool evenings.
5. Get to know the local wildlife
Camping can be pretty wild, and I’m not just talking about those late-night partiers at the campsite next door. Provincial and national parks across Canada have nature programs where kids can learn about wildlife. If you’re camping in a less serviced site, bring field guides that the kids can flip through. Remote wilderness areas may have outfitters that offer daytrips for photographers and bird watchers. Most of all, enjoy the wildlife that visits your campsite. Spend time peering under rocks at the beach, or spend a peaceful evening watching the bats catch the mosquitoes around your campsite.
6. Hit the beach
Water is always a hit, whether it’s in a river, lake or ocean. Play on the beach, build a raft, or bring a boat, kayak or canoe along on your trip. Be sure to check out local safety recommendations before you head out on the water.
7. Get crafty
While crafts and camping may not seem like they go together, this is the perfect time to provide open-ended craft materials and see what happens. One campsite we love features rock painting as an activity. It certainly makes for a colourful campsite! Bring clay, paintbrushes, yarn, and other free-form crafting items so the kids have some crafting down time after a long day of hiking.
8. Take it easy
Camping is a lot of work: the packing, the set up, the take down, the unpacking, the lack of a shower. Choose easy food like pre-cut carrots, salad mixes, and canned chili. Choose tents that are simple to set up. Pack light: no one cares all that much if you wear the same pair of jeans two days in a row while you’re camping. The less you fuss, the more you’ll enjoy!
9. Keep the adults happy
If the parents aren’t happy campers, then nobody’s happy. The last time we went camping, my daughter unwittingly unscrewed the end of my air mattress, so that it went completely flat and I lay on the rocky ground all night. That was not a happy thing. Unofficially, I think that the main reason people don’t go camping is because of the beds. So get a good air mattress, bring your favourite coffee, and relax. Because that’s what camping is all about.
10. Start a family tradition
Doing something year after year makes it even more special. Did you have a place that you loved as a child? Go back there with the kids, and enjoy watching them experience it for the first time. Or create a new family vacation tradition. Maybe it’s a campfire evening, a giant scavenger hunt done with friends, or peaceful mornings sitting on the lake in a boat. Make summer camping your special time to do something you love with those you’ll love, and your family will have wonderful wilderness memories.