Many people get the “Birch, you’re being crazy again” look on their faces as I regale them of stories of my weekend camping. Hiking, Avoiding minor disaster. With my small child. Personally, I think it’s kinda awesome, or I wouldn’t be doing it.
But then some small number of them say, “Wow, that sounds really fun… but I could never do all that.”
And yes, if you’ve never camped, you will not succeed backpacking with a kid right away. And a lot of families don’t live as close as we do to nice trails and wild spaces.
But you too can get your kids outside. By not letting perfect be the enemy of good.
Do you garden? Even a small container garden gets kids in tune with weather and seasons, dirt and worms and pests and weeds. Boo has a couple containers in the big garden where she grows carrots and radishes and lettuce and peas (things that are easy to grow). She also has a dirt pile where she digs for worms and treasure. She hides in the bushes and climbs the maple tree. She and the neighbor kids chase each other around the house.
Walking as a family is good, even if you can’t get to the wilderness. Walk around the block. We were once stuck with the adults needing a hike and the kid wanting a playground. So we went to a park where we could take a trail from one parking area to the playground at a different parking area. We live in town, so we can walk to the library, the hardware store, and 3 playgrounds.
I had many happy nights sleeping in the tent in the backyard as a kid. Boo’s a little young to do that without an adult, but I have offered to chaperone her backyard camping trips next summer. Backyard trips don’t need a lightweight tent, or even one without chipmunk holes in it.
The best part of camping was always cooking over a campfire, and we don’t do that backpacking. We do cook over a fire and in coals in the backyard a couple times a year. We have a portable fireplace, but we used to have a ground fire, and we burn the woody yard waste. It’s enough for hotdogs, potatoes, and s’mores.
I went camping with my parents all of once, and I never camped outside a backyard until I was an adult. I got where I am through friends willing to put up with my fumbling and fear of freezing. So if you’re an experienced outdoor person, invite a newbie along. If you want to become an outdoor person, take small steps, seek out people who do what you want to do, and have fun.