At the end of this article is an answer to a note left regarding the article. The article begins here;
Bringing the whole family on a camping trip is one of the most creative, interesting, and natural things that you can do in your lifetime. You have come to the right page if you want to be as safe and as secure as you can be on any camping trip. First – safety and security begins with having the proper equipment and tools for your camping trip. There are certain rules of safety and security that you need to follow when you are camping out with babies and children. There are some tools and some equipment that will make your vacation easier and more fun.
Camping with baby:
If you are bringing a baby along on a trip, prepare ahead of time and buy a baby tent. This is a small enclosure that will hold one baby – with one baby infant seat. The enclosure is not really a “tent” but it is more a screen enclosure that you will use inside the tent or outside the tent. This will make your baby insect-proof. Your baby will be free from mosquitoes and spiders and their bites. Bring a sleeping bag for baby (for inside the tent, when the baby is not inside the baby tent. This kind of sleeping equipment will make your baby feel more secure than a regular blanket. Remember that your baby is not at home and might feel some apprehension about its’ new temporary quarters. Use the sleeping bag at home for a few nights before you go on your camping trip. This way, your baby will be used to it and will be familiar with it on the trip. Bring bandages, over-the-counter medicine, bottled water, a ball, some toys and whatever else is familiar to the baby.
Location: When camping with babies or young children, try the “family” campsites first or the private campgrounds to see how the baby or children will react to the outdoors experience. Camping at a private campgrounds or family campgrounds offer many amenities that state parks might not offer. For example, at the private campgrounds, you might find a kiddie pool and a regular pool, an indoor store for necessities, internet connections, game rooms for children, golf carts, abundant water spigots and fountains, and many other items that make camping with children more fun. After choosing your campground, the next mission is to chose the best site for children and babies. You will want to choose a site that is near the bathrooms, near the public phones (bring a cellular phone too), and or near the store or the more trafficked areas of the campgrounds. When choosing a site near the bathrooms, choose the right one, not one too near it.
Important Timely Note: **This note added, March 19, 2008: Wow! At least once a year, you have a perfect location to camp at with your children, especially if you are beginning campers. This year, and most likely every year thereafter, there will be camping (for families) in NYC for one night. Most times throughout the year, there is no camping in Staten Island, New York. However, over the past month or so, I read that they are going to be camping out for one night in High Rock park. Reservations are needed and on March 24, they are going to accept the first reservations. (If you have missed it for this year, save this information because it will be helpful to you next year). You call up and reserve your space. Tell them that you have no tent and they will supply a tent to you for the night (as long as supplies last). You can also camp out with them that night if you have your own tent but you must still register to take part in this. You supply your own food and beverages but they will supply the campfire to roast marshmallows and cook your hotdogs. Sounds like an awesome night in people in New York, for beginning campers. This is your opportunity to get used to camping in a safe environment with expert supervision. (You must be of legal age to register). Look up park rangers or High Rock park on the net to find the details). This is only happening once a year in in this particular area, so be sure and telephone be March 24th to register.
A few years ago, one of the news items that did not make it into the newspapers, but did disturb the campgrounds, happened at Hecksher State Park in New York State. One night an RV family came into the campgrounds very late, after dark and proceeded to back into a water fountain. The driver of the RV did not look behind him as he parked and his RV landed right on top of a water fountain. The water fountain tilted and tipped, flooding the surrounding area with water. Thankfully, no human being was hit in this accident. But think of what a close call that was. . This campsite was the one very nearest the restroom and the area all around it was flooded. Good that no one had camped out there, so the only ones affected were the park rangers and the camper who ran the RV. So choose one close to the restrooms but not too close. You might want to choose a site that is near other family campers. Perhaps the children can play together in the daytime. Sometimes as an added safety precaution, campers put lights on the outside of their tents, and sometimes they use special camping blinking lights. If any campers near that water fountain had those lights on their tents that would have been an added protection for them that night when the RV ran over the water fountain.
Rules: Sounds simple? Most everyone knows the rules of the campgrounds if they have been camping in the past. But newcomers and children generally do not know the rules. One of the most important things that you can remind your children about are the vehicle and road rules. Remind them that the lanes in between the rows of tents are just like city roads. Cars and sometimes huge RVs travel those roads, so if the children are playing at the campgrounds, they must look both ways before crossing these innocent-looking lanes at campgrounds. So many times during the camping season, you will see children running and playing in or near the campsites roads. This is a very dangerous thing to do as there are many cars going back and forth even if you do not see them right away. Remind all children that roads are roads even when the roads are in campsites. Remember that RV that hit the water spigot and knocked it over ? That could have been a child. Luckily it was just a water spigot. You need to instruct the children on the road rules before you leave your vehicle and stress the importance of obeying all rules, including the road rules.
Food: Food rules are the next important. If you have decided to camp out in a state park, you need to stress the importance of food rules. Most times children do not understand why they cannot eat inside the tent (especially in bad weather). If you camp out anywhere in the wild or in state parks in any state, you must not have any food in your tent, not even cookies or cookie crumbs. Trust us on this one. Even at the most civilized camp sites, if you bring any food inside your tent you are asking for big trouble. There are state parks where there are no bears, but still the food rule should be number one on your list to remember. We camped out at Hecksher State Park in New York once or twice. We knew the food rule so we never brought any food into the tent and we did not leave any food on the picnic table either. That’s almost a guarantee that you will have no animal visitors during the night. That’s almost a guarantee but not a real promise. Even when you are diligent about camping rules and regulations, what your neighbors do will affect your stay at the camp. Sometimes your neighboring campers will forget food outside and that will be enough to bring raccoons and little animals and insects into your campsite. That happened to a friend of ours. While he was careful about camping and careful about his food, his neighbors left food out on the table – overnight. All through the night, the pesky raccoons kept pushing through the campsite going into everything they could find. They kept everyone up at night be their scavenger hunt for more food. Our friend found out the hard way that any food left out, even your neighbor’s food, will attract small animals, raccoons and insects into his own campsite. He found out the hard way – by having the raccoons keep him up all night. You can learn the easy way, by just taking this advice. If your neighbors are inexperienced campers, tell them about the animals and raccoons that spill through the campgrounds at night. They will be glad you told them and you will have a good night’s sleep. (Raccoons are creepy at night in the dark at night -especially since they are so bold). Good thing to remember is that some raccoons can carry or have rabies. So, store your food inside your car. Raccoons do open coolers up. Funny thing is that the one thing they could not do was open the zippered cooler.
Restrooms: Another important rule is that no one goes to the restroom alone after dark or at night. In the daytime also, accompany all children to the restroom. This is an important safety rule for our state parks in NY, and probably everywhere else also. If you think that this is “too safe” , think again. In some of our state parks, there are homeless people camping out; in others, there might even be newly-released inmates, and in others there might even be perverts. Yes, this might be shocking to you and it is something that most people do not think or want to think about. But the truth is -that is the truth. So, watch the children when they go off to the bathroom in the daytime and if they do not come out quickly, go and check on them. And, after dark or near dark, the rule must be that no one goes to the rest room alone. You can wait outside for the older children and you go inside the restroom with the younger ones.
Don’t Feed or Pet Wild Animals: You need to instruct children to not approach and to not pet wild animals, no matter how cute they look. Remind the children that some wild animals carry or have rabies. Some of the bold raccoons at Hecksher and some other parks will approach you and the children if you leave food out at night. So the best way to avoid this is to keep all food in plastic containers and keep them in your car. Keep the family pets at home (find pet sitters for them). Family pets attract wild animals and insects. Besides, if you are on vacation, you will want to leave them home and enjoy their company when you return. If you MUST bring family pets, the best place to go is to family campsites that advertise that they welcome pets. There are one or two state parks that accept animals. Do the research online and find out where these parks are.
There is a difference between a storm and a rainy day. If you are prepared, relaxed and intent on enjoying your camping experience, even rain will not ruin your camping vacation. It is an interesting experience. That’s really roughing it. That’s camping! However, with babies and children, the wet camping experience is different and less fun. So here’s how to handle weather. Bring a solar-powered radio and solar-powered flashlight. Having a radio on stormy or rainy days makes all the difference in a camping trip. Tune in to the weather station and you will find out if the storm is temporary or will last for days. You can plan – that is so much better than just having bad weather happen to you. If the rainy weather is just going to last for an hour or three, you can rough it out and outlast the rain. So , do not pack up and go home. Having that radio makes a big difference.
Rainy Days: These are great fun days and a great excuse to sit in the tent and get to know each other better. You can talk, chat, play games, share stories, and read. READ? Who ever heard of reading on a camping trip. Yes, you can read. Bring enough flashlights for the night. You can wait out the rain and you can play and read until the rain stops. If it is a light sprinkle, this is great for blowing bubbles in the rain (no thunder, no lightening). Stay away from the trees for safety. Kids love to splash in puddles and why not? It’s vacation . It’s time to do things you would not normally have them doing. You can cook out, so you can take a short trip to the local fast food place ( Many fast food places have play rooms), so your rainy camping day will turn out to be a fun success instead of just another day in the rain.
Stormy Weather: With the storms or prediction of storms while you are camping, use the malls to your benefit. During the worst part of the storms, pack it all up (not the tent) ; bring the kids and put them in the car and drive to the nearest mall stores. You can spend hours there going to the movies, browsing the bookstores, having lunch or dinner, and you can party-out the storm.
First things first, get away from the trees and out of the rain. Hop into the car or RV. You don’t have to drive right away. Sometimes a storm can last ten minutes other times ten days. Knowing is being informed. Listen to your radio. Once at Hecksher State Park , all of a sudden it began to pour, lighting and thunder. It rained so hard and thundered so loud it sounded as if Noah would have to rebuild the ark. Most of the campers thought it best to leave the campsite for a while since the thunder was getting louder and louder. . There are malls not too far from Hecksher State Park, a short drive away. So, many times when the weather gets stormy, some of the campers pack up and spend a few hours at the mall instead of spending the entire day or night in the tent listening to the rain. If this happens to you, you can go to the mall, spend hours at a bookstore, have lunch in a fast food restaurant or at a pizza place and then head back to the campgounds after the worst of the storm is over. Everyone will be happy, entertained and feel that even the stormiest camping outing can be a total success. The rain will eventually lighten up, and you can experience your first rainy day camping but you will come away with a fun experience, not a griping holiday. Attitude is everything! Creativity is everything while camping. So many other people were there that same day – camping out through the storm but they were not as happy as as the campers who chose to leave the campgrounds and head to “CAMP MALL” . That’s the difference between planning a great camping trip and being surprised by something that you did not expect. Plan your trip, plan for a storm and then you will know just what to do when the storm hits if the storm does hit. So, be prepared, be wise and you will have a wonderful camping trip, no matter what the weather.
Restrooms and Showers: Always accompany children to the restrooms. Never permit anyone to go alone to the restroom after dark or near dark, that includes adults. One of the things that people do not think or or remember is that whatever is out in the world is at your campgrounds too. Somehow people think that camping is a ‘different’ world just because they feel safe and peaceful in the woods and outdoors in nature. And that false sense of security is what puts many children and adults in danger. Take the same safety precautions that you would take if you are in a large city. Everyone goes to the rest rooms in pairs or in groups. Even in the middle of the night. Tell your children if they need to go to the restroom in the middle of the night, they need to wake you up. You will all go together. When you first arrive at the campgrounds remind your children what the rules are and let them know that these rules are for their safety and protection. Children should never go into any stranger’s tent. And you need to remind each child that every other camper in the place is a stranger to them. At campgrounds, strangers and neighboring campers are always very friendly and after a day or two it can seem or feel like you all know each other. You need to remind your children that all over campers are still strangers and they shouldn’t go into neighbor’s tents at all -without you. Following this rule can keep children alive and safe. Keep the same rules that you keep at home. When at home, you don’t allow your children to go home with strangers or go into strangers’ homes. So when camping out – those tents are people’s homes -even if only for a night or two. The tents are temporary homes so do not let any of the children to into any strangers’ tents. Hecksher State Park has electrical outlets in the restroom. These are convenient to charge up your cellular phones, or other batteries needed. Stay with your equipment while it is charging. No state park is secure from thieves. Although the parks are serene and full of nature, you need to remember that in our country, thieves go on vacation also. So, protect your equipment, even in the state parks.
Hot, Hot, Hot! No matter what, always pack sunscreen, sunblock and insect repellent. These are essentials. If you don’t have these, don’t bring the children or babies camping. Bring a screen hut. This is an open-enclosure. It is open on two sides, closed on two sides. These go for around forty dollars, but we picked one up for ten dollars at a dollar store. This is a great tool to put over the picnic table. It brings you less mosquitoes and insects over your plates and food. Plus, it is fun for the kids. They enjoy sitting under it. Part of the enclosure is screened and part is cloth, so it provides some shade on hot and sunny days.
Those are just some of the basic essentials of camping out with babies and children. Some of our upcoming articles will focus on tents and choosing the right tent for you. There are many more ways to be safe and secure.
Thank you for leaving your note regarding camping with children. I read that the article scared you a little, which was not the intent of the article. But rather, the intent of the article is to bring some things to the attention of moms, dads, guardians or others who will bring babies, tots and children on camping excursions. As far as being scared, I am sorry to hear that it scared you. But as with all life, having some fear is a natural thing. In fact, it is our fear that usually protects us from other dangers. Imagine a child without fear? That child might get into serious trouble that the natural fear might not allow. For example, if children were not afraid of fire, they could be more easily burned and more often burned. But once they are told, and made aware of the dangers of fire, those children lead healthier lives and they are protected from third-degree burns and even in some cases –read the news– protected from death. I am changing the title of the article to be more specific and more revealing about the actual topic that I am writing about, which is safety and security.
And it is in that spirit that I wrote the article about camping. I wrote it to reveal things that people would not ordinarily think of when they are about to go camping with children, babies or toddlers. And yet the things that I wrote about are actual things that have happened in campgrounds. For example, the big RV that backed up into the fountain, that actually happened. And, luckily there were no children around the spigot at that time of night. No one was hurt, just the water fountain was hurt. Before seeing that happen, I never, ever would have expected that a large RV would back up–without the driver looking out for what was behind the RV. Who would think that? But obviously that happened. So I pass on this information, not to scare, but to inform and to remind people of the dangers that really are around some campsites.
I hope that I can relieve some of your fears by saying this– that none of what happened or could happen is anything that would keep someone from camping out. Camping is a wonderful, relaxing experience, that thousands, if not millions do, every camping season. And some even camp out in winter too. And some of the camping problems occurred in larger cities, not in small towns, like the RV backing up. That happened at a campsite that has millions of people visiting each and every year. So, you see, real occurrences do not keep campers from attending state parks or from camping out. Sincerely, I hope you camp and camp and camp again, at as many places as you are able to.
I, as many campers do, believe that everyone should be aware of what happens in campsites and of would could happen or did happen at campsites. Being aware of these things does not put us in fear, but rather strengthens us. Everyone in the NY campsites know that most times it is always safer to accompany children to the restrooms rather than let them go alone. That is just a New York thing. If you do not have to do that in your smaller towns, kudos to you. But I guess just growing up in NY and having the all-around NY experience, we just use your common sense and our training to do what we have to do to keep babies, toddlers and children safe when we are camping out. For us, New Yorkers, camping is never a fearful experience, but to the contrary, it is a very comfortable, relaxing and usually peaceful experience for all of us. And we hope that happens for you too.
For other camping suggestions and ideas, for babies, toddlers and children, during camping excursions, I will write another article. I do appreciate your comments, questions and feedback, all of the time, whether you agree or do not agree, I welcome your remarks and emails. Thank you so much for reading and participating.