We loaded up the minivan (seriously, when did this happen to me?!) last week with our camping gear. In addition to our camping gear of yesteryear we had only a few EXTRA items than usual: a 2nd air mattress, 2 small chairs, extra pairs of tiny undies, TWO children under 4 years of age and a LOT less beer than usual. That's right we took the boys on their first overnight camping trip.
We wanted to keep it simple, keep it close to home and have some fun. We headed about a half hour away to Raccoon State Park. We chose this location because if the trip took a turn for the worse and we had to pack up and come home in a rush we wouldn't have far to drive. I am pretty certain we both knew we had nothing to worry about though. I knew both boys would be fine....
We got to our site, we chose to be close to the potty which I have to point out were very clean and tidy. I had no problem taking my toddlers in there and we all know how touchy feely toddlers can be. There was also plenty of hand soap and the sinks were clean too! No smells what-so-ever either! All BIG pluses! The site we chose was somewhat private too. We had neighbors to one side and others up around the road loop. We can only HOPE that Andy didn't keep those folks up too late (until 11:30 pm) with his random squeals and yelling and our persistent shushing.
We set up camp, built a camp fire, cooked some dinner, enjoyed some marshmallows, enjoyed the fire, and greeted some visitors. Visitors of the 4 legged, rings around the eyes kind. Yes, Raccoon State Park is properly named RACCOON State Park. Just around twilight, these little buggers came out of their dens and started to scavenge for food. Our site was as tidy as it could have been considering we were toting two toddlers... I'm pretty sure one furry "friend" got a noodle from some pasta salad and a half a bite of hot dog. Other than that, we didn't have much else to offer them other than the smell of food. They didn't hesitate to check out the site though. Frankly it was a little (read: a LOT) unnerving for me. I've got two little guys that aren't much bigger than a well fed raccoon so I was more worried about them vs. the kids than I was worried that one of the rascals might take my marshmallows.... the kids thought they were HILARIOUS though and are still talking about the silly raccoons.
Needless to say, we got the boys in the tent and tucked in, kept the raccoons at bay while enjoying some beers and once our little guys were FINALLY asleep (2 hours of shushing later), we too hit the air mattress. AS SOON as we were in the tent and it was zipped up we could hear a few raccoons enter the site looking for scraps.
It was a good time, a little stressful though, keeping a very active 2 1/2 year old OUT of a fire ring is NOT an easy task. In fact it's quite exhausting. Both boys enjoyed the campfire, enjoyed watching daddy cook dinner over said fire and they managed to kept surprisingly clean. In fact, I put the same clothes they came in back on them in the morning while we waited for breakfast to cook. Daddy makes a kick
What will I do differently for next time? Bring some toys! What was I thinking?! I didn't bring anything ANYTHING for them to play with! I gave them tasks like collecting twigs for the fire and looking for bugs but that only kept them busy for a little while. I'll be sure to remember their magnifying glasses and bug cups next time and maybe a few trucks, a ball, a bucket and some sort of toddler game. I DID have a toddler card game but it was too advanced for Andy therefore it was frustrating for Max to learn and understand while his little brother was kicking me and him while I played three hands of this game myself while they watched me move cards around... I think I was still expecting to arrive on site, set up camp and sit in my camp chair with a few beers and enjoy the great outdoors... not sure why I was thinking I could relax WITH my toddlers! ha!
I hope to have another camping experience this summer and instead of just doing a quick overnight I would love to spend two nights and hike and swim a bit during the day. I think doing something with them to wear them out would help with the falling asleep part in the evening. I also would like to go somewhere with LESS raccoons much to the dismay of my kids.
Have you taken your toddlers camping? What kinds of toys or activities do you take with you? What do you like to cook while camping?