Camping with Kids: Baby Steps

I remember fondly the summer camping trips with my cousin’s family before becoming a teenager.  I loved it.  My parents never did camp.  Our family vacations were driving vacations, mostly to Florida.  There was a schedule that was to be kept so we could make it to that night’s lodgings.  Once there, the best part of those vacations was the motel swimming pool or the beach and not much else.  Camping offered freedom from a schedule.  A chance to explore, swim, play games and sit around a campfire.  Each time in unfamiliar surroundings.  It was an adventure.

My wife has never been fond of camping.  When my daughter came along I wanted to bridge that gap, hoping that my wife would eventually join us.  And I am still trying to persuade my wife to camp with us.

Having introduced my daughter to camping when she was three, I approached it with baby steps.  First,  I bought a couple of sleeping bags and we “camped” in the living room one Saturday night.  We watched her favorite “Mickey Mouse” DVD; made popcorn; and then eventually fell asleep.  Everything was familiar to her; most of all the bathroom that we used early the next morning.  I believed this was the most important aspect because this is why my wife refuses to camp – the restrooms.

A few weeks later I purchased and pitched a tent in the back yard.  We moved a little further outside her comfort zone. This step would get her more accustomed to the outdoor noises and environment.  We barbecued hotdogs for dinner; watched the same “Mickey Mouse” DVD on a portable player in the tent; then fell asleep.  We woke up a little chilled in the morning and had breakfast in our kitchen.  Again, this gave us the safety of being able to walk back into the house if the outdoor noises made by crickets, dogs or cats began to frighten her.  But most importantly, she could kiss her mom good night.Darlington Provincial Park: Canoeing on McLaughlin Bay

A few weeks later we were ready for her inaugural camping trip!  Ten minutes from home is the Glen Rouge Campground, in the northeast end of Toronto – the only campground within the city limits of Toronto.  Yet, still close enough to home that, if necessary, I could pack up and be home within a half hour if things got ugly.

We both had a great time.  She had her first campfire and of course you parents know that the most exciting moment for her was roasting a marshmallow over the coals and then sliding it on a slab of chocolate sitting atop of a graham cracker – S’MORES!  Second to that, the next day we discovered a fountain that sprang out of a ten foot pole in the ground that sprayed water out of the top.  She would press the button to activate it and spray for a few minutes, while she ran around the pole in a circle with her mouth open catching the “rain drops”.  This would last close to thirty minutes and she would probably still be there if I didn’t persuade her to go back to the campsite.

Bronte Creek Provincial Park: Savannah campsite overlooking the grass fieldWe had capped off the summer by taking an hour and a half drive to Earl Rowe Provincial Park.  It has a 1.8 acre zero-entry pool.  My daughter loves the water but I wasn’t sure if she was ready to swim in a lake yet.  It might be too murky for her.  The nice thing about Earl Rowe is that you can walk from your campsite, cross the river, and you are at the pool.  Not so at Bronte Creek Provincial Park, which also has a zero-entry pool.  There you do need to get in your car and drive to the pool as the day use area is divided by a ravine  from the camping area.  Maybe one day they will put a walking bridge across it and join the two areas together.I am wondering if this summer my daughter will be ready for an Algonquin Provincial Park canoe trip.  Perhaps an easy one like Canoe or Booth Lake.


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