School’s out, and it may be getting hot, but that doesn’t mean kids have to stay in.
June is Great Outdoors Month, as first declared by President Bill Clinton in 1998. In the spirit of getting outside, the National Wildlife Federation is putting on the Great American Backyard Campout on Saturday.
The group encourages families to stay outdoors together and break out of the usual summer routine.
“I just remember going camping all the time as a kid,” says Connor Goslin of Olathe, whose family frequents Lawrence for Haskell Indian Nations University activities. “If we weren’t camping, we were kayaking; if we weren’t kayaking we were fishing.”
His father, Steve Goslin, began taking his two sons on camping trips and other outdoor activities at the ages of 3 and 5. In addition to Arkansas fishing trips and backyard campouts, the family has visited many nearby locations such as Hillsdale, Pomona Lake and Clinton State Park.
Steve Goslin recommends camping as a family because it gets the kids out of the house and away from the television so they can have fun, play games and “not break anything in the house.”
On their adventures, Goslin planned activities to enjoy one another’s company as well as include a hidden educational experience. He urged his boys to “try to find different types of rock, whether it was igneous or sedimentary. Try to find things that were manmade.”
Goslin’s family also has tried geocaching, described as “a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game” on geocaching.com. Players use GPS devices to find hidden containers, or geocaches. The website explains how the activity works and lists nearby caches.
But before looking for hidden treasure, start out by bringing the basics on your camping trip.
“I always manage to forget my toothbrush. Remember to put that on your list,” says Jennifer Beck, outdoor shop manager at Sunflower Outdoor & Bike, 804 Mass.
The shop offers a wide range of equipment to accommodate any style of camping “from car camping, which is a lot of family camping, where you drive to the spot … all the way up to the really light backpacking tents and gear,” Beck says.
To ensure a family camping trip goes smoothly, it is important to be well prepared, especially when young children come along. Beck says she has “been noticing that a lot of people when they’re camping like to bring a lot of small toys that kids like to play with, so get a Frisbee so you have something to toss around when you’re in the camp.”
For family camping, Beck recommends a brand called Kelty, which is offered at the shop.
“Kelty is a great company because it’s usually a great price point for families,” says Beck. The brand offers a variety of gear, including tents, sleeping bags, backpacks and accessories, as well as child-sized equipment.
Sunflower also offers products that combine practicality and entertainment, such as tables with game boards on the surface and lanterns that accommodate MP3 players.
“We have an ice-cream ball roller,” Beck says, indicating a translucent plastic ball that can be rolled or tossed back and forth to make home-made ice-cream with rock salt and ice. “It’s a fun project that they can be playing with something, then have a reward at the end.”
And you don’t necessarily have to go far — or spend a lot — to take a camping trip, Beck says.
“Lawrence really does have some great areas where families can get outdoors,” she says. “We’ve been trying really hard as a business to have those affordable prices, and things that are appropriate for where we live in the Midwest.”
Sunscreen, bug repellent, plenty of water, food staples, personal safety items, a first aid kit and “a good dose of common sense,” are items you should never forget on your camping trip, says Jerry Schecher, Clinton State Park manager. Keeping safe is just as important as planning activities and keeping kids entertained during a camping trip.
Schecher advises campers to educate themselves before they set out on a trip, especially if they are inexperienced, and, above all, “be aware of environmental dangers.”
Schecher lists the risks of outdoor activities as sunburn, bug and tick bites, and the dangers of fire. Schecher advises campers to make lists of supplies and plan how your family or group campers will deal with a sunburn, injury or illness.
It is also important to plan ahead about how kids will keep entertained and out of trouble.
“Sometimes parents can get carried away in every little detail of planning their trip and forget to ask their children what they would like to do,” says Schecher. “Involve kids in decision making.”
Planning a trip together can be part of a family bonding experience and can teach kids organizational and safety skills. Once a family or group of campers is prepared, they can enjoy the many activities that Clinton State Park and other campgrounds have to offer.
“They boat, they fish, they hike, they bike, they fly kites, they do remote control cars, they swim, they fish, they spend time around the campfire enjoying each other’s company,” Schecher says.
For more family camping information and ideas, visit the Great American Backyard Campout website.