Tag Archives: camping

Camping in Maine

We (Alex, Jen, Mama Angelika, and Bella the dog) went for a 7 day camping trip to Maine. This post is a cross between telling the stories, writing down the suggestions for making it work as a resource, and memos to myself for what to do different for the next time.


Google said it would take just under 4 hours to get from our house to the campground. It took 5 1/2 with pee stop, snack stop, pee stop, ice-cream stop, pee stop. That’s a long time for two active kids to sit, so I had prepped heavily with a lap table, picture books, coloring books, treasure hunt, and audio books.

The car tables I got were the Star Kids Snack and Play Travel Tray – which just sits on their lap and buckles around the back of the car seat. I loaded up the pockets on either side with drink bottle, snacks, crayons, and small coloring book.

The audio books I had with me were Bad Jelly The WitchandMagic Tree House Collection: Books 1-8on CD on loan from the Library. Alex in particular was very interested by the Tree House books and listened to the whole lot over the week.

Hint: I also found lots of audio books that could be borrowed for 2 weeks through the online loan system that lets you download files to your media player.

The drive went really quite well. The trickiest part was getting everyone to agree they had everything packed. Bella the dog had the front passenger seat and tried to lie down – often pushing the gear stick from D to N. I initiated a pit-stop every time they got restless, which is a change from other travels where I tried to make it to a certain place before stopping. Here I just figured that the main goal was to keep everyone happy – even if it took us an hour longer.


Several friends had recommended Searsport Shores Ocean Campground as a child-friendly, fun place to take young children. The more I read on their website, the more excited I got – they were writing about their goats, organic gardens, resident artists, and activities on the beach.

Wobbly bridges at the playground

Wobbly bridges at the playground

And it was even better than I had hoped for. There was a huge playground they had built themselves, and which was therefore interesting. There was a really nice play room with a cozy book corner (if you can call that many shelves a corner) with good books, a fireplace, and a shop for ice-cream (and various fiber arts and camping supplies).

The bathrooms were spotless, there were free hot showers, and even a handicapped stall, which is good for wrestling kids into the shower. There are also lots of washing machines and dryers. Turns out this is very useful if your theoretically potty-trained 3 year old has an accident and pees in her sleeping bag. Sigh.

The campground also has lots of gardens full of interesting plants for eating and dyeing. There are lots of sculptures, wood carvings, and little treasures to discover in the forests. And an amazing art studio occupied by a rotating cast of artists-in-residence.


I chose a campsite where we could also park. The campground has sites where you have to walk a couple of hundred feet from car to campsite, but this seemed like a lot of hassle with little kids. Our campsite was shaded and all round really lovely. It had several trees where we built Fairy Houses, a fire pit (wood for sale at office), and a water faucet 10 yards away. The toilets ended up being a little bit too far for us. Next time we’ll get a closer site, and with electricity so I can recharge my phone.

Good things I brought for the campsite:

  • potty – even though both Alex and Jen are totally potty trained, sometimes we still get the “I have to go potty NOOOOWWWWWW!” and then it was good to have only a couple of feet to go. I have the Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus, Blue with disposable inserts.
  • 10 different flashlights – variety is the spice of life here, apparently
  • 100 glow sticks – each kid got 4-6 glow sticks each night as a night light
  • wet wipes for when the kids refused to get washed in the shower
  • bikes – Alex tore up the campground riding back and forth and we managed to get to places (bathroom) without spending 30 minutes trying to drag dragging feet.


Turns out the Searsport Shores Ocean Campground has artists that stay there for a whole week and provide activities for the whole family in the custom Studio.

Check out the schedule for this year:

Week of: Artist in Residence Activities
June 23-29 Tom Cote Wood carving and whittling
June 30-July 6 TBA Ocean learning adventures
July 7-13 Barbara Andrus Weaving a Shorefront structure from twigs and driftwood
July 14-20 Blake Henderickson Wood Block Buffet
July 21-27 Susan Tobey White & Jeannie Painting, drawing and seeing
July 28- Aug 3 Ellen Mason Playing with Dyes and Yarn and Fabric
Aug 4-10 Steven Scheurer Chain Maille, Macramé & Caricatures
Aug 11-17 Maryly Mathewman Seaside Quilting and Color play for all ages
Aug 18-24 TBA
Aug 25-31 TBA
September 1-8 Fiber College 4 days of amazing fiber classes, demos, vendors and happiness

Pretty awesome!!!

Dyeing with EllenWe got there halfway through Ellen Mason‘s week, but she had us promptly dyeing, stitching, cutting, etc, although she also does a lot of knitting and designs patterns. She was super fun and engaging and both kids looked forward to going back to the studio – sometimes we went twice a day 🙂

Next artist-in-residence was Steven Scheurer, a.k.a. Santa. He looks like Santa, and does a lot of volunteer work and charity stuff as Santa, and as an all-round nice guy taught us how to make survival bracelets and chain mail. This was a bit above Alex and Jen, but I (and all the older kids) had a great time making bracelets and dog collars.


The campground has it’s own private beach, and they ran several activities during our time there: seining – catching little fish with a net for the kids to look at and crab hunting  (for an invasive species) were the ones we made it to. They put a lot of emphasis on conservation and the ecology of the beach and made it fun and education for all.

Tide pools

Tide pools

It’s a rocky beach with a pretty big tide difference. That meant that at low tide we could find lots of different shells, look at the rock pools, wade around looking for green crabs, and chase the occasional little fish in clear cold water. It’s not a sandy swimming beach and Alex and Jen asked for one of those a couple of times before they got used to the rocks and being interested in the animals there.

Another blog post will follow about what the camping experience meant to us personally, but meanwhile here are some pictures:

Camping Activities for 3-5 year old Kids

More camping preparation is underway and here is the list of activities I will be bringing along. We’ve done several of these before, but some are new to us, so I’ll report back to what worked.

My philosophy is to be prepared with a large arsenal of games, since my children often deem the lovingly prepared activities as not very exciting 😉 So here is my first stab at keeping them busy and happy. I’m also adding pins to my camping board at http://pinterest.com/angelikapaul/camping/

  1. Scavenger Hunt (use these bingo cards? http://www.makingfriends.com/scouts/camping_bingo1.htm
  2. Fairy Houses (collect nuts, leaves, rocks, twigs to entice a fairy to live in your house) – check out this book for inspiration! Fairy Houses Book
  3. Fort (build a people-sized shelter against a tree or rock)
  4. Obstacle Course ( round the table, three jumping jacks, across the log, sing a song,…)
  5. Follow bugs
  6. Charades (what animal am I,…)
  7. Make flower jewelry (crowns or bracelets)
  8. Coloring books
  9. Ball Games (Soccer, throwing, baseball with a random stick?,…)
  10. Frisbee (a current favorite)
  11. make up stories (my kids love stories about themselves 😉 )
  12. shadow puppet show (at night in tent)
  13. Bean bag toss (ziplock bags with a scoop of dirt, throw onto plates or dig out hollows in sand)
  14. Collect treasures (special rocks, leaves,…)
  15. build a mud/sand castle
  16. make rock cairns
  17. make rock, leaf, or twig art
  18. blow bubbles
  19. nature rubbings (leaves, bark,..)
  20. card games
  21. I-spy
  22. dam building
  23. ???


  • magnifying glass
  • binoculars
  • ball
  • frisbee
  • coloring books
  • crayons
  • markers
  • paper
  • string
  • scissors/pocket knife
  • balloons
  • books
  • flashlights
  • little shovels/beach toys
  • tupperware container (bug house or treasure box)
  • deck of cards

That should do it, right?

Camping with 3-5 year olds

I’m getting ready to take the kids camping next weekend, so I’m compiling lists of stuff and activities and food. Thought I’d share what I found good last year camping with Jen and Alex, and what I learnt hiking and mountain climbing in New Zealand before I grew up 😉 Here is us camping last year with my excellent mountaineering tent. For this year I decided to downgrade to a car camping tent. I’ll report in a couple of weeks on how that goes.


I like to go minimalist, but be comfortable, so here is my list with links to the actual items I own and use. This is my summer camping list, and does not include warm clothing, nor snow shovels…



  • Stove
  • Pots
  • Matches in a ziplock bag
  • Stove fuel
  • Sharp Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Spatula/Wooden Spoon
  • Plates (generic plastic plates)
  • Cutlery (from home)
  • Cups (generic platic cups)
  • Water Bottles
  • Water Containers (clean milk containers)
  • Campsuds
  • Scrubber
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Paper Towels
  • Baby Wipes
  • Plastic Bags for Garbage
  • Rope

Cleaning and Fixing:


  • Rain jacket
  • Shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Fleece sweater
  • Bathing suit
  • Sun hat
  • Pajamas
  • Laundry bag
  • Water Sandals


Lastly, bring confidence, happiness, and a sense of adventure. There are several excellent articles online on camping with kids. One article on the REI website (http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/camping-kids.html) has lots of good advice:

When Outdoors, Be Outdoors

  • Make the most of nature: Look for wildlife. Check out bugs. Examine rocks. Identify birds, flowers, clouds, constellations. Lead kids on a rock scramble. Show interest in things that interest them. Bring a field guide to help you identify and learn about the things they find.
  • Be active, stay loose: Try to keep your kids active without following a regimented schedule. If they’re entertained by skipping rocks on the water, give them time to perfect the multiple-skip fling.
  • Attend ranger talks: If you’re camping at a state or national park, attend the ranger’s evening talk. Ask staff if the park offers a junior-naturalist program or other kid-focused activities.
  • Geocaching: A GPS-guided treasure hunt engages kids physically and mentally. Check our link to geocaching to see if any caches are hidden in the area you’ll be visiting.
  • Share time together: “Hey, mom, remember when we saw that deer?” Great memories are one of the great payoffs of a camping trip. Come home with the sort of stories that can only be created outdoors. Shakespeare must have been camping when he wrote, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”


Came back from our first overnight camping trip in one piece!

We joined the Mass Audubon Family Campout on Saturday, which included a canoe trip on the Ipswich river, a WHOLE LOT of s’mores and more wildlife than we could shake sticks at. It was also the first time I had taken Alex and Jen camping. They had a great time! – hurray – and didn’t want to leave. It was a really good trial camping actually, because Angela and Cheri from Mass Audubon had plenty of activities.

I suspect that’s the secret to a good camping trip with preschoolers

Also, no cooking was required. I’m a bit nervous about breaking out the old hiking stove and actually cooking a dinner when we go for a longer trip. Anyway, no cooking, just snacks and Angela and Cheri put on a nice breakfast with several pots of coffee – bliss.

So we set up our tent and played with the roughly 3 bazillion dragonflies before heading down the path to the Ipswich River. Jen got the cutest little life jacket, and both Jen’s and Alex’ Elmos got to help with the paddling by holding onto the paddle. Next time we apparently have to bring lifejackets for the Elmos. Angela did most of the work in the canoe, and since she was the front leader, we got see see a lot of wildlife (before we scared it away for the others). White birds, blue birds, geese, ducks, logs, cardinal flowers – and I didn’t bring my camera because I don’t have a water-proof bag.

While canoeing:

Alex “Mama, this is the most beautiful place on the WHOLE earth. I love all the birds and dragonflies and beaver lodges.”


Alex (two minutes later): “Mama, I’m bored. Can we go back?”

Mama: SIGH 😉

We got back to land just as the sun set and I carried Jen all the way up the hill to the farm buildings, Alex bravely ran through the bugs. And I have to say that those big black flies that take big chunks out of your skin really HURT! I used a whole bottle of mosquito repellent on us during the night – the mosquitoes were definitely out in force.

But so were the marshmallows. 🙂

Jen passed out mid-sentence sprawled across the tent at about 11pm. Alex finally put down his tremendously fascinating glow-stick about midnight. And then both woke up screaming about 5:30am. Sorry camping neighbors! That’s how my kids deal :-S Angela and Cheri put on that aforementioned excellent breakfast, we stayed and played on the grass until about 9am. At 9:03am both children were passed out in the car on the way home.