Camping is a fantastic bonding activity for families. Many kids grow up in a city where life is generally more heavily scheduled, influenced by electronic entertainment, and with limited opportunity for playing, adventuring and appreciating the natural environment.
Camping with kids provides time with parents minus the usual constraints of everyday life. The opportunity allows children to explore creatively; building cubbies, forts and dams, exploring bushland, discovering bugs, learning to fish and enjoy endless free play.
As a family you cook together, plan activities together, and set up camp together.
It involves everyone and creates memories that will last a lifetime..
If you want to test the family dynamics, then you are going to love this exercise!
If this is your first time camping, make sure you have erected the tent at home to ensure you know how, and that all the equipment is present. No one wants to be ‘that family’ providing entertainment for other campers! (ps. don’t forget a hammer!)
Position the tent on your allocated plot with room for an eating area and somewhere to store bikes, or fishing gear, or surfboards.
Look for the flattest area to place your tent.
Shade cloth is a fantastic ground cover just outside the tent.
Most of the sand and dirt will fall through, and it can be swept clean to minimise the amount of dirt that gets inside. With that in mind make sure you pack a dustpan and brush! It’s also great if it rains as the water will seep through and not pool right outside the tent turning it into a mini lake when you venture out!
Nothing is worse than having to reinflate your air mattress at 3am! There are lots of options for self-inflating mattresses or 12v operated inflators. Choose carefully.
Also, camping outside can get cool, even in summer. Make sure your sleeping bag is correctly rated, or take some bedding from home. Bring extra blanketsand don’t forget to pack the pillows.
The kids each need a torch. Headlamps are fantastic as they keep their hands free. Most camping stores have spotlights to make cooking easier, and strip rope lighting for illuminating the outside of the tent. Within the tent there are lots of battery operated options.
Showers and toilets.
Whilst caravan parks provide showers and flushing toilets, the same cannot be said for all bush camping. Sometimes the best you will get a long drop toilet. These can be daunting for kids and often involve a long walk. Get yourself a pop up change room and solar shower. There is nothing better than ending the day with a hot shower.
A veritable luxury when camping. Also, portable chemical toilets are relatively inexpensive and make toilet time easy when camping with public (“long drop”) toilet shy kids. Place it in the pop-up change room when the shower is not in use and you have your own private toilet!
While some campsites in WA offer communal fridges and freezers, a car fridge is always worth having. They are expensive to purchase but available to hire. A car fridge will ensure that food keeps longer and fresher and at the correct temperature for food hygiene. Esky’s are great but require a constant ice supply.
Whilst cooking on a campfire is romantic, in actuality it is hard to manage the temperature, and you need the right cooking equipment. Most camping grounds don’t offer an ‘uber eats’ option. Invest in a small collapsible two burner gas cooktop. You won’t regret it. Especially when you crawl out of bed the next morning desperate for a coffee!
Food and Drink
In essence; keep it simple!! This is not the time to bust out your inner Masterchef.
Sausages and a bag of pre-made salad. Spaghetti bolognaise; pre-cooked and frozen; easy to reheat. Invest in a few of the ‘all in one’ sauce jars and serve up a delicious butter chicken or a beef stir-fry. Tacos are easy. Hamburgers are delicious and generally a favourite with everyone and better still can, be served on a paper napkin to minimise washing up. Get the kids involved with meal planning. If they are old enough, encourage them to plan and prepare a family dinner.
There is something special about sitting around a campfire. Toast some marshmallows. Roast potatoes wrapped in foil. Sweet and savoury jaffles allow the kids to design and make their own, once more with very little washing up. A win/win for parents.
Quality, comfortable camping chairs and a sturdy table are a must. Try them out before buying, and if you really want to relax, throw in a hammock.
Buckets and bowls
Kids get dirty feet and dirty hands. Having hand washing options just outside the tent makes for a much cleaner and tidier experience for all.
A collapsible laundry basket
Clothes get dirty. Kids get wet. Pack lots of clothes. A well located communal collection point for clothes helps keep the tent tidy and ensures clean and dirty clothes are not mixed up. Bring some pegs, some nylon cord and some washing powder. Whilst you are theoretically on holidays, unfortunately the tent doesn’t provide a laundry service, you will still be washing clothes!
A collapsible rubbish bin
Most camps will supply a communal rubbish bin, but having your own close to your tent will ensure your kids clean up after themselves. Encourage them to be conscious of keeping our environment tidy.
Kids Camping Activities
Perhaps the best part of camping is that it is an activity in itself. Without the comforts of home, every day activities must be manually performed. Get the kids involved.
Plan your meals in advance. Let the kids plan a meal and take them shopping for the ingredients before leaving home.
Washing and drying dishes is a required task every time you eat.
It’s also a good opportunity to chat with your kids. And ensure they come home with a new found appreciation and respect for the dishwasher. Clean up and sweep out the tent. It might make them think twice before they walk their sandy boots inside the tent.
Collecting wood and lighting fires are fantastic opportunities for the kids to have fun and learn about fire safety. Get them to try lighting a fire with flint. Or as a true survivor, by rubbing two sticks together. (Please check fire lighting regulations before you leave home.) But just to be sure, pack some firelighters and don’t forget matches.
Collect some bush sticks and create dream catchers or wind chimes with some supplied wool and cotton. Make bush string with reeds or other products. Make shell necklaces.
Bush walks with a treasure hunt of plants, rocks, trees, animals, flowers etc. to photograph particular items using a small digital camera, mobile or ipad.
Kit the kids up with their individual backpack for snacks, water bottles, and bathers and explore the surrounding area. We are lucky to have fantastic bush walks.
Download TrailsWA for information on walk trails close to where you are.
Our rivers and the ocean are an endless source of entertainment. Fishing is a quintessential activity for West Australians. While the rod and reel makes fishing easier, a simple hand line will be sufficient in some rock pools, many estuaries, and most lakes, rivers and streams.
Imagine how rewarding it would be if you and the kids caught dinner.
(Please check the local licence requirements and bag limit regulations).
Camping near Rivers, Lakes and the Ocean
Canoes, surfboards, boogie boards and stand up paddle boards are all great fun on the water, especially in those warmer months where keeping cool is a priority.
Night time entertainment
A game of ‘storm the lantern’ is fun in the dark, where you try and sneak up in the cover of darkness to your buddy, who is guarding the torch without being seen. You don’t need to venture far from the tent. Add some walkie talkies and the kids can have some fun.
Once out of the bright city lights, the spectacle of stars is evident, teach your kids (or get them to teach you?) about the star constellations.
In the event of inclement weather, most board games have a light, small ‘travel’ option. Invest in some. Small puzzle games are great for everyone and can also be a source of entertainment in the car while travelling to your destination.
Colouring-in books and card games are also good to have on hand. Uno is definitely a family favourite. A visual journal for kids to record their days is also a great activity. One they can keep adding to each time you camp.
We’ve all heard about Murphy and his law. You don’t take the bandaids, your kids will fall over the minute they set foot out of the car! So besides the normal first aid options, make sure you include insect deterrent. Mosquitoes love camping! As do ants, so lots of sealed containers and some bug spray is handy. Baby wipes have endless uses. Don’t leave home without them! Sun cream is a requirement whenever you go.
Best camping sites
WA has some fantastic camping places to visit for the whole family and many within an easy drive of Perth – making a camping weekend a good and inexpensive option.
Most caravan parks offer a camping area complete with a communal ‘camp kitchen’ and ablution block.
For the adventurous, there are many other camping areas set up to appreciate the natural environment.
To help you look at all the options for a particular area, check out findacamp.com.au. They will advise known camping areas and caravan parks within a designated radius of a particular town.
If you’re a bit daunted by the idea of camping ‘rugged’, try these top caravan parks:
• Denmark Ocean Beach Caravan Park, Denmark
• Jurien Bay Tourist Park, Jurien Bay
• Fonty’s Pool Caravan Park, Manjimup
• Hamelin Bay Holiday Park, Augusta
• Wave Rock Caravan Park, Hyden
• Taunton Farm Holiday Park, Margaret River
If you want to get off the beaten track and enjoy nature at its best, try these camping spots:
• Nanga Brook, Dwellingup
• Honeymoon Pool, Collie
• Moingup Springs, Bluff Knoll
• Barrabup Pool or Workers pool , Nannup
• Lake Leschenaultia
• Conto’s Campsite, Boranup
• Glen Mervyn Dam, Collie
• Big Brook Arboretum, Pemberton
• Banksia Camp, Walpole
So get out there! Go and explore, get dirty and get back to nature. A 2013 study shown that you can reset your biological clock by camping due to the decrease in artificial light and you are more likely to go to bed and wake in accordance to your body requirements.
Being in nature has proven to be good for your health, it makes us happy. You’ll burn some calories with the extra activities – not to mention you get a healthy dose of vitamin D. Kids enjoy the many benefits of ‘nature play’ and best of all, you get to appreciate all the beauty of this great state!
Get tips and ideas for Camping with kids in Western Australia, from Tourism WA.
– By Vanessa Brown
This article was originally published by So Perth.