Camping with kids down by the river - lessons learned

In floaties and a a tube down by the river!

In floaties and a a tube down by the river!

Building the fire for dinner.

Building the fire for dinner.

Camping with our dear friends and their boys at Hilton Park Campground on the Russian River in Northern California was a great way to spend the weekend.  The camp is right on the river and with beach access, fire rings at each site, pet friendly, and child friendly with playgrounds and an arcade.  Laundry and a hot shower is also available for pay if you’d like. The office is stocked with firewood, ice and other concessions - sure they charge a premium price, but the convenience is kind of awesome.  We all had a blast in the water and hanging out at camp. Once the kids went to bed, we got to have adult time just like before we had kids! Super fabulous!

Pals hanging out by the fire like the good ol' days.

Pals hanging out by the fire like the good ol' days.

As a family, we are by no means experts at camping.  Todd grew up camping, and is comfortable in the woods, but my LA roots make it a challenge. We go maybe once a year, so we’re a bit rusty and it changes so much depending on the age of the kids.  We learn a lot each time we go. Here are our big take aways from this past weekend.

Seven Lessons Learned:  

#1:  Be comfortable. I don’t sleep well when camping. I toss and turn and wake with the girls who are also tossing and turning. I realized that I always slept poorly because I was UNCOMFORTABLE!  We decided to bring an inflatable air mattress for our girls, thinking if they were comfy, they’d sleep like little cherubs.  Well that didn’t quite work out, but I slept fantastically!

#2:  Be prepared. Bring a back up bathing suit for your kid because your youngest might poop in it down by the river and you might have to carry her in a very wonky position all the way back up the hill and try to figure out how to get her out of her one piece and clean it and then re-suit her up in a public location.  I swear if I had an extra bathing suit, the nasty Ariel suit would have ended up in the trash with a quickness.

#3:  Be more prepared. If you are going to brag about those awesome breakfast camp burritos you made in advance- you better remember to bring them.  Still feeling sorry about that one.

#4:  Be organized (see #3).  Todd, had to work in the city on Friday, so I had to pack the food, clothes and the toiletries.  Luckily Todd took care of the big stuff on Thursday (tent, chairs, etc.), but in the mad dash of trying to get to vacation, I just threw stuff in the van and once we arrived, I couldn’t find anything the whole trip.  Among the missing things - I forgot the darned camp breakfast burritos!

#5:  Be open. I was really on the fence about bringing our 10 month old labradoodle, Mina. With 2 kids who already have a problem sleeping, I didn’t want any more complications. By the first night, I realized that bringing Mina was a lot easier than I thought and was totally enjoyable!  New doggy parent confidence booster!

 

Mina exhausted at the end of the day on the river.

Mina exhausted at the end of the day on the river.

#6:  Disconnect. Being unplugged and away from computers and TV and phones is totally relaxing and really slows the pace.  We didn’t have to be connected to the rest of the world - we had to be connected to each other. To clean up, to build a fire, to get the kids to sleep was a team - a family effort, and it worked out wonderfully.

#7:  Activities for the kids.  They really help to occupy them when it’s too hot and sunny on the river or you are just trying to wind down for the evening.  

I brought a scavenger hunt and it worked to entertain for a bit, but all the kids were slackers and didn’t complete their hunt.  Oh well, I suppose if the adults weren’t busy trying to get food and supplies ready for the beach, it could have been more successful.  It was an awesome scavenger hunt though!

Maisy loved her art time making a collage with scissors and glue out of a Mommy beach read “People Magazine”

 

Cutting and pasting away.  

Cutting and pasting away.  

Squirt guns were a hit, but the rules managing the squirting was a bit overwhelming.  (Don’t squirt people walking by, only shoot others with water guns, well except for that kid, that kid doesn’t like it, etc.)

I also bought these glow stick sword things from Target in the dollar bin I thought would be fun, but it ended in tears because the battles became too intense.  I still think they were really cool - just watch out for head hitting light saber action!

You're going to poke your eye out with one of those things!

You're going to poke your eye out with one of those things!

Good ol’ standby - books - also work.

 "Reading" her Bob books.

 "Reading" her Bob books.

Involve the kids and make them work for it!  Have a hot dog cook out. 

Weenie roast!

Weenie roast!

The big activity winner was a game called, “What’s in that bag?”.  Basically you get a dark bag, put an object in it and have the kids take turns sticking their hands in and trying to guess what’s in it.  Simplicity wins again!

We have two more camping trips planned this summer.  We look forward to adding to our successes as we keep trying and learning. Hope some of these tips have inspired you to get out there into nature!  Any tricks you have?  Please share in comments- I love hearing from readers!

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If you like this post, here are some of our other camping adventures in Northern California:

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becky

I'm a part-time work from home, full time stay at home mom to two daughters and an Australian Labradoodle puppy. We are enjoying our last year before big girl school, playing with friends, swapping childcare to get the job done and getting crafty when we can fit it in. We live together in a wonderful community that we are truly thankful for and proud to be a part of. It takes a village and this is ours.