Camping with young children in no way resembles a trip without them.
That said, camping with my two- and (nearly) five-year-old kids was incredibly fun. We played, we explored, we laughed, and we even slept pretty well.
It helped that we stayed close to home, minimizing the car ride and giving us the option of bailing out for the sake of sanity or thunderstorms. We didn't need to bail, but the option was a comfort. We ventured an hour south of the cities to Nerstrand Big Woods Park.
This park is notoriously kid-friendly. The hike to Hidden Falls is less than a mile round trip from our (admittedly over-crowded) campgrounds. The Big Woods provides a cool, shady canopy, a shadowy fairyland of fallen trees to climb, and many little critters to watch. There are also several longer hikes to choose from, and after venturing to the falls a couple of times we tried the Beaver Loop as well. All told, those two and five-year-old little legs completed two one-mile hikes and a two-mile hike with minimal whining and only a slight stretch of piggy backing.
I packed a backpack for both girls, including a homemade journal and crayons, a magnifying glass (and gloves since they hate to touch the bugs but really want to try), a snack, and a few band aids. They loved their packs. Especially the snacks.
They actually used their journals too. Maya asked frequently if we could stop and write... which warmed my cockles to no end.
When we weren't hiking, we were throwing the frisbee, blowing bubbles, or playing on the playground.
Or crafting at camp. I packed a small box with pieces of construction paper, safety scissors, crayons, glue, and pipe cleaners. I intended to make animal masks out of the paper plates we brought along, but Maya likes to free form her art these days, and Elle simply must follow in her shoes. Still, it kept them busy.
Because this trip really was for the girls, Joe and I knew that long nights around the campfire were unlikely. We made our hobo packets and roasted our Hebrew Nationals early and jumped right into the tent with them.
That three person tent was a little cramped, but we enjoyed a full family slumber party anyway, complete with silly stories and excessive giggling.
Before we left, I wondered if we were crazy to leave a fully outfitted house and backyard not to go to the family cabin but instead to set up a simulated living space in the woods for two nights.
Once we reached our campsite, I almost immediately recognized why this camping trip, and the others to come, are worth all the effort. It isn't simply the connection with nature, though that is the big draw. In the Big Woods, there was no garden to weed, or load of laundry to get done, or handy-man project to assemble. There was no one else to distract us.
Instead, the four of us were together, uninterrupted, marveling together at whatever we stumbled upon. This time together recharged us all.
When we began packing up after the second night, Maya begged for one more night, or at least one more hike. And she asked when she would get to go to the Grand Canyon with us. At this rate, I'm guessing ten years or so. They're headed in the right direction!
Gems worth Re-Reading
About Growing Baby Doing Good Together Elliot Rose Family Rituals Fie Flora and Fauna For the Love of Learning Greenish In My Opinion Just for Laughs Just for Me Making Tinkles Maya Mindfulness Mmm... So Tastey NaNoWriMo News of the Day Noveling Photo Friday Sewing Sisterly Love Sweet Dreams The Chicken Ladies the end Tonsils We like to Move It Move It Wonderment