Aside from the coffee-drinking, pizza-stealing raccoon bandits, I'd say our latest camping vacation was a total success, complete with plenty of rustic adventure and outdoor education.
Our family loves tent camping and recently enjoyed a beautiful week-long vacation on the Muskegon River, it was amazing! Camping with kids is so much fun, here are some highlights:
Our lil' campers: the kids arriving with their adorable new back-pack sleeping bags I found at K-Mart, they come with flashlights and water bottles.
Nature Journals: I found these sketch-and-go pads at Meijer and had the kids use them only to draw the things they saw in nature. They worked great and had built in carry-handles for bringing around the campsite or as we went exploring.
As you'll read in my tent camping column linked above, we don't bring along video games and such while camping, we stick with things to enhance our experience in the big outdoors, such as magnifying glasses, binoculars, pails and fishing poles (both the kids and dad caught fish this year!) but we will bring along a few toys and card games, like Go-Fish, to pass the time.
Our friends came out to visit for a day to swim and enjoy campfire chili and toast smores. After all, what's camping without sticky marshmallow mess?
My friend's kids had never done sparklers before, and her son was convinced we were handing him a stick of TNT to hold. We were cracking up, the poor kid didn't know if it was going to explode at the end or not. He'll likely have nightmares for months to come.
My kids enjoyed exploring all the different animal tracks that would be in the sand around our site every morning, as we discovered who our various night-visitors had been. My husband and I weren't especially happy to discover the raccoons had made off with our can of coffee one night and left-over pizza from the cooler another! Do they need a hand nocturnally? Staying up all night partying with our caffeine and pepperoni?
One of the neatest aspects of this year's trip came as we were using our Reader's Digest "Far Out" nature explorer book. There is a great Rivers & Stream page in it which shares the type of wildlife you will find near rivers. Since our campsite was literally right on the Muskegon River, it was perfect. The same day we cracked it open to read, we were blessed to observe nearly all the animals it covered, including a Great Blue Heron gliding down and wading along the river with his long lanky legs, a Kingfisher swooping down and catching a fish out of the river in front of us, a small group of circling Osprey in the sky above, Bank Swallows and more. It was really cool. Heart-warming homeschool moment: "Everything we read about is just appearing, mom!" my four-year-old exclaimed. "It's like the book is coming to life!!"
That's what it's all about, isn't it?