If you start camping early enough you can mold your children’s interests to mirror your own. My husband and I enjoy nature in all its facets and always enjoy learning something new. Hence we were looking for ways to educate our children as well as entertain them on vacation on a “tent” budget rather than an “Airstream” budget. Thus we visited national and state parks and participated in the park ranger-guided hikes and scavenger hunts which taught us about the flora and fauna, the geology and history of the parks. We also attended the park ranger craft demonstrations where the children always brought something back to camp, old granny apple dolls from Shenandoah National Park and fishing pole sticks from Peaks of Otter.
As the children grew older, we added one special event to our explorations and adventures per vacation–remember we had seven to pay for, and it got more expensive as the children matured and the events became more complex. We allowed the children to have a say in what we did. As a family, we enjoyed tubing down the rapids in the Great Smoky Mountains, horseback riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and white water rafting down the New River in West Virginia, to name but a few.
However, free activities abound to the observant camper who sees what the locals are doing. We’ve had snowball fights in July in tee-shirts and shorts in the Rocky Mountains, swung from ropes tied on a huge swamp maple tree out into a roadside river in Vermont, and, when the children were teenagers, jumped off a 30 foot cliff into a deep, tannin-colored river in the Adirondacks. I was petrified, but that’s another story.