By Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer, Women’s Outdoor News
As a child, the start of summer left me crazy in anticipation of the adventures that lie ahead. I knew it would not be long after the final school bell, before I could eat s’mores, take in the sweet perfume of campfire smoke and explore the hiking trails near our favorite campsites. Some of my fondest childhood memories came from sitting around a campfire. Those were the days!
I never lost the sense of adventure that camping brought to me as a child. Today, however, I realize the struggles camping can bring to parents. In a world of electronics and other modern conveniences, how do parents keep their children engaged and excited about camping?
The first step is to leave the portable video games at home.
The second is to check out my recommendations of items for camping with your children.
Rome’s Original Pie Iron
There is no better meal than one cooked over an open fire. The Rome’s Original Pie Iron is the perfect addition to any camp kitchen. The Pie Iron consists of 2 cast-iron trays, hinged together and attached to roasting sticks. Dinner can be made in minutes by placing a buttered slice of bread on each half of the pie iron and filling it with your favorite toppings. My son’s favorite combination includes a spoonful of pizza sauce, a few slices of pepperoni and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Once the ingredients are in place, you simply hold the closed Pie Iron over the fire and roast for a few minutes on each side. You are left with a golden, gooey, warm sandwich that is sealed around the edges. Dessert is as easy as replacing the sandwich toppings with a dollop of your favorite canned pie filling, for a warm pocket pie! The Rome’s Original Pie Iron is made of durable cast iron, so it is a little heavy for my son to hold over the fire on his own, but he still enjoys helping with preparation, and of course, eating the finished product.
Alpen Optics Shasta Ridge Binocular
My son is always stealing one of my many pairs of binoculars for his own use. Finding a quality binocular with the right fit for his small face and hands, however, has proven difficult. I have found that some high-quality optics are much too large and cumbersome for his liking. Fortunately, we found the Alpen Optics Shasta Ridge 8×30 Binocular. The verdict — Shasta Ridge offers exceptional quality in a compact size, and all at an affordable price! Its small size allows for a super close interpupillary distance (IPD). The IPD is the distance between the ocular lenses on the binocular. Having a close IPD allows for a comfortable fit for narrow-set eyes. The Shasta Ridge is lightweight and offers a crisp view that children are certain to enjoy. Most importantly, the Shasta Ridge binocular is built tough enough for most extreme conditions (including being placed in the hands of small children).
Alpen Optics Special Web Pricing: $140
Pocket Naturalist Guide
I am not certain which is worse, taking my son for a hike and him being completely uninterested in the world around him, or having him subject me to a game of “20 questions”. “Mom, what is this plant?” “Mom, what kind of tracks are these?” Don’t get me wrong, I welcome any opportunity I can take to introduce him to the outdoors. However, as any parent knows, there is a point when the barrage of questions simply becomes too much.
Thankfully, I discovered the Pocket Naturalist Guide series, published by Waterford Press. These pocket-sized, laminated, folding guides are an excellent resource for a naturalist of any age. The Pocket Naturalist Guide is published in a number of general outdoor disciplines, with topics including trees, weather and animal tracks, among others. The Pocket Naturalist Guide is also published on more specific topics, such as “Yellowstone Wildlife,” and fun topics such as “Alien Invaders in Nature.” All told, the Pocket Naturalist Guide is available in more than 350 titles.
When we hike, my son and I now use his Pocket Naturalist Guide(s) to inspire our scavenger hunts. On more competitive days, we use a dry erase marker to mark the Guide when we identify a particular plant, animal or track. At the end of the hike, the person who identified the most subjects wins.
The complete series of the Pocket Naturalist Guide can be found on the Waterford Press website here. The Pocket Naturalist Guide can be purchased online from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The Guides are also available from major retailers nationwide. Click here to find a retailer near you. Note, not all locations carry the complete selection of printed titles.
Adventure Medical Kits Bath Wipes
Among the mud, grass, pine sap and the sticky left overs of well roasted s’mores, children will get dirty — really dirty — when camping. Traditional baby wipes do a good job of cleaning up the small messes, but larger, more durable bath wipes, such as the Adventure Medical Kits Bath Wipes, help make easy work of the bigger messes.
Adventure Bath Wipes come in a package of 8 disposable, pre-moistened towels. The 8-inch-by-8-inch towels feature a unique formula of aloe vera, Vitamin E and witch hazel astringent that leaves the skin disinfected and moisturized. Adventure Bath Wipes come in re-sealable packaging to help keep any remaining towels moist and ready for use after a tough day of play.
Life+Gear GLOW Stick
I have yet to find a child who does not appreciate a good glow stick. When camping, this simple toy can be a lifesaver. Providing each child a glow stick for use after dark not only helps to conquer any fears of the shadows of night, but also provides a beacon of light to help adults keep tabs on where the each child is located. My favorite is the GLOW Stick from Life+Gear. The GLOW Stick is a reusable LED light with built-in safety features, including a colored glow stick, colored flasher, bright white flashlight and whistle. Each GLOW Stick comes with a detachable lanyard for easy carry. Battery operated, the GLOW Stick will last for up to 200 hours. This is a feature any parent can appreciate, knowing the tears that inevitably follow the death of most single-use glow sticks.
The Life+Gear GLOW Stick is available in a wide range of colors. The GLOW Stick can be purchased directly from Life+Gear online, here.
Take your children camping, or perhaps introduce someone else new to the adventure. The memories you help make today are certain to last for a lifetime. What items do you recommend for camping with your children?
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