Car camping is an exciting way to introduce young children to new experiences, but balancing safety with a child’s curiosity can be challenging. Most parents reach for a book or surf the internet for information, but many of these resources only focus on fun activities and omit the basic point: before a family can have a meaningful camping trip, the parents must feel secure.
Help everyone in the family feel safer during the next camping trip:
Take an Orientation Walk
Campgrounds can be fascinating places for young children, help them explore it with an orientation walk. Help the child locate the closest bathroom, the trash/recycling cans, and where to find the Ranger’s Office or Campground Host. If you have a campground map take it with you; identify some prominent landmarks as you help the child explore. Going on an orientation walk helps everyone create his or her own understanding of the campground and feel more comfortable.
Know Your Campsite Number
What is your campsite number? If there is one thing a young child (and parent) should remember, it is the family’s campsite number. To a young child, this is not just a number; it is the place where they can find comfort and safety. It will be one of the questions a Park Ranger will ask a child who is lost.
Identify an Emergency Location
Identify the location where your family should gather if there is an emergency (like a forest fire, earthquake etc.). Everyone should know where this gathering spot is located. Depending on where you are camping the emergency location could be your campsite, the car, the Visitor Center or another agreed to spot.
Locate the Essential Stuff
If a problem arises, it can be exacerbated by not knowing where the essential items are located. Everyone should know where the first aid kit is stored. Each member of the family should have a flashlight. If a child needs access to regular medication, do both parents know where it is kept? If a family member needs access to the car, where are the keys? Other essential items can include a campground/park map, compass, sunglasses, pocketknife, matches, insect repellents, hats, and sunscreen.
A campground can appear like a big playground for children. It can be easy to get caught up in the play, wander too far and have the parents worry. Parents should set boundaries so kids know how far is too far.
Calling for Help
All parents are concerned about their children becoming lost or being in dangerous situations. As a precaution, many parents give their child a phone. Phones are good ideas; however, too often the campground is located in an area that does not receive cell service. As a reliable backup, all kids (and parents) should have a safety whistle on their daypack. This said, there is a great responsibility for both children and parents about when a whistle is used. The circumstances for when a whistle is used should be discussed thoroughly and understood by the family.