My son just made reservations for a three-generational camping trip to our favorite Oregon State Park, Jesse M. Honeyman, this summer. It made me think of another trip to Honeyman, many years ago, when it rained and rained. We didn’t go home. We drove into Florence, Oregon, the nearest town, and to Newport, where there was an aquarium with a whale who has since moved on. I don’t remember exactly what we did, beyond seeing the whale and a movie, but after two days the sun came out and we had five good days in the week to spend on the giant sand dunes that make this park so remarkable. The point I’m trying to make is that rain won’t necessarily spoil a camping trip if you plan ahead for that eventuality. Check out the towns within driving distance of your camp to see what amenities they might offer–a museum, a historic site, a fast food shop with an indoor playground. Tourist towns often have features like an arcade with games, electric carts, and so on. O.K. It’s not exactly a camping-outdoors-with-nature experience, but it is an opportunity for kids to have their parents’ undivided attention, and that’s what many students that I interviewed for Camping with Kids said they liked best about camping.
What if you’re camping at an isolated campground, with no town nearby? Then you have to prepare in advance some indoor–excuse me, in tent or in RV–activities to keep the kids occupied. Pack a new age appropriate board game, but don’t bring it out until you need it. Think back to the word games and alphabet games you played back in the days, and teach them to your kids. Sing together. My two-year-old grandchild loves the teapot song, the itsy bitsy spider, the wheels on the bus–we sang them over and over on our camping trip last summer. Bring out coloring books and crayons. Make up a story–create imaginary characters who have adventures. If your kids are old enough for string games, get a book from the library and practice all together making cat’s cradle and other constructions. Don’t forget to pack the string! What else can you think of? Put on your rain gear–you did pack rain gear for everyone, didn’t you?–go for a walk in the rain. Then come back to camp, drink hot chocolate, and write in your journal about the rain.
All of this assumes that your tent is waterproof and/or you have a good rain fly over it. If your tent leaks, then it’s another story. Check into a motel or go home.