We started taking our kids camping when they were both still in diapers. They were used to playing outside anyway, so camping seemed normal, only better, since they got to sleep in a tent and roast marshmallows around a live fire.
By the time they were five and seven, they could hike all day — as long as we included picnics, tree climbing, rock skipping, tag and other games to keep them engaged and their minds off what they were actually doing: walking up a big hill, then walking down again.We also bicycled to local parks, visited horse stables, went to the zoo, and prowled the botanic garden. Going with friends whose kids were the same age as ours made it more fun for us all.
During several spring breaks, we camped at Cinnamon Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's a wonderfully safe place where children can flit about wild as birds and find endless fascination in hermit crabs, land iguanas, bats, and the myriad fish they see when they snorkel. My son eventually joined the Boy Scouts. My daughter became a dancer and a musician as she entered middle school, but we still made it a point to go hiking as a family a few times a year.
One summer, we spent a week white-water rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and rappelling in West Virginia's New River Gorge. I was thrilled that everyone was so "unplugged" from commercial culture and "tuned in" to the environment. Our last night, my son built a roaring fire so we could make s'mores. My daughter threw a few small logs on the coals, toasted her treat, then casually bid everyone a contented good night. When I checked on her a little while later, I found her snuggled up in the tent, her sleeping bag over her head, a mischievous smile on her face. She was plugged into her iPod, watching an old episode of The OC.
So…the best laid plans! I took solace in the fact that she was still under the stars…and doesn't a beach figure into The OC somewhere?