“For children, nature comes in many forms. A newborn calf; a pet that lives and dies; a worn path through the woods; a fort nested in stinging nettles; a damp, mysterious edge of a vacant lot- whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world… nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.” -Richard Louv
every summer pat and i, along with several friends, headed up to a gorgeous glacial lake tucked away in the northeast kingdom of vermont. it started as one week in august, but quickly turned into an additional week in july. thanks to the great vermont state campgrounds, we were able to have our own little piece of lakefront real estate for those much anticipated weeks each summer.
after an eight year run followed by a two year hiatus making babies, last summer we jumped back into the saddle. with a 2 1/4 year old and a 9 month old. we packed up the kids, the fur baby duke, the (new to us) camper, the canoe and kayak, and the bikes, and drove the 5 hours for our much missed bliss filled week on the lake.
at first i was a bit hesitant when we went to book our site earlier that year. i had brought tanner camping a few times the previous summer, but just overnight and close to home. were we going to drive ourselves nuts bringing such young tots camping for a week, 5 hours away from home? my biggest anxiety was making the 5 hours drive. but i was also anxious about having a crawling baby in a not such a baby-crawling-friendly environment. while trying to keep tabs on an active and adventuring toddler.
but the week turned out as perfect and bliss filled as it could have. by the end of the week we all agreed that we could have easily stayed another few days. here are a few things that i tucked into the back of my mama mind, things that i thought made it very easy for us to transition from our home to our home in the woods.
* the kid shelter- we book a site that has a leanto (the three sided structure you see below in the pictures). even prior to kids, we always got a site with a leanto for ease of storing all of our gear. this year we kept most of the shelter open and dedicated it as the kid space. we brought a queen sized quilt and spread it there for the kids to play on. we were also fortunate enough to borrow one of those huge baby/pet gate play yards so that we could keep noah safe from the edge of the shelter. this area became invaluable to us for noah- it gave us short breaks from toting him around on us since he was not walking yet. i would definitely recommend having a shelter that you can set up as a kid space with a big blanket- whether it be a leanto or a portable shelter such as a spare tent. a place that the kids can go to when they want to take a break from adventuring and rolling around in the dirt :)
* familiar toys and activities- even though tanner found plenty of entertainment around the woods and lakefront, i was very thankful for bringing along some of his smaller toys from home. when he started to tire out, he would climb up into the leanto and relax with his toys. we also brought several books so we could keep our naptime and bedtime ritual of reading books before going to sleep. this helped him acclimate to sleeping in an unfamiliar space. if your child has a favorite blanket or toy or game that they can't part with, be sure to bring it along.
* child sized place to eat meals- we are used to eating our main meals sitting at a table. i tend to get a bit stressed out when we don't have a child friendly place to eat (ie. a place where the boys can sit and be able to reach their food without dropping it all over the place or falling off the seat)- it just adds chaos to the natural busyness of dinner with two small children. since the picnic table was not very small-child friendly, i set up the coolers in the leanto for tanner to kneel at and eat his main meals. we brought along the bumbo seat to use as a portable high chair to feed noah.
* establishing a daily rhythm from home- i tried to keep the same very basic rhythm that we do at home. such as pre bedtime and naptime book reading, the morning ritual of breakfast followed by getting cleaned up and dressed for the day, the nightime ritual of getting cleaned up for bed. the simple things that we do without thought at home, but lend familiarity to tiny tots in an unfamiliar place.
* i made out all new activities with tanner to be an adventure (which of course they were, but to a young tot i imagine some of the things could be a bit scary). instead of asking him if he wanted to go for a canoe ride, i would ask him if he wanted to go on a water adventure on a boat like his favorite pirates. when walking to the bathroom at night, i would tell him we were going on a night time adventure to the bathrooms and we would use our flashlights to look for some of our favorite night animals. silly little things like that. i don't know if he would have naturally been eager to do everything like he was, but i think throwing the adventure twist in made him all the more excited and didn't leave much room for being nervous.
we just booked our week on the lake and i'm so excited to do some more camping adventuring this year with my little guys. this year will be all the more fun now that noah is able to do all the things that tanner did last year. we're also going to do a few local camping trips throughout the summer, but our "home away from home" on our favorite vermont lake is the one we look forward to the most!