My children happen to be right in this age range, so I am getting a lot of practial experience in this department! I have found arranging seating in the car, so siblings aren't next to each other is advantagious. A creatively packed backpack between kids helps a lot with arguments. I pass out driving directions to my eight year old so he can watch for roads and can see how much further we will be travelling.
Long trips at this age can be rather tedious and require creative planning. Sometimes we each take turns at making up a scary or rediculous story - each child trying to outdo the other. We also sing goofy songs - and the children are particularly fond of commercial jingles that I remeber from long ago.
Sad to say, but the absolute best method of crowd control seems to be candy! When the kids are absolutely driving me bonkers, I pull out a roll of Lifesavers (or other candy that comes in small bits and doesn't melt). I find a handy road sign and read the distances. I tell 'em that if they can be good and quiet until we reach the next town (or interstate, or five mile markers, etc.) they can get a candy. We continue this until the candy is gone, and by then they have forgotten whatever it was they were arguing about in the first place and all is good.
Camping itself is a breeze with kids this age. They can help set up the tent and unload the car and can be trusted to remain nearby without continual supervision. One thing only- every child must have their own flashlight! Everyone loves making cool shadows on the tent walls and all heck breaks loose if sharing is required.
Hiking with six to eight year olds is generally a comedy of errors. My kids would drag their feet and whine and complain - until I found the instant fix! Buy some of those disposable cameras or provide your kids with cheap cameras at the start of a hike. The novelty of being able to carry their own cameras will get you through your travels that day. Get the photos developed at a one hour place if possible while you are still travelling - and then make a huge deal about their incredible pictures. The next time you hike, the kids will be eager as long as you provide them with film!
I'm a mother of 2 children, and a scout mother of 15 girls in this age group. We have the best time doing several camping trips each year! I always pick a theme for the trips. It helps me to organize activities around a central concept. Much easier! Our favorites have been "Western" including a chuckwagon meal, corn bread muffins and tea. We came up with 20 ways to use a bandana around camp and practiced tying knots with 1 foot sections of rope. We sang old western cowboy songs, tried Cowboy poetry and learned a little about the stars. The "Survivor" theme was a hit last summer focusing on back-to-the-basic camping essentials. Children this age can grate cheese, stir a cooking pot, fetch water, hand wash and hang laundry, clean up around camp and even pitch the tents with a little help. They love to hike (1 to 2 miles) with frequent breaks. Be sure to take along a trail mix snack the kids can make themselves. We made ours a bit of a competition. Racing through mundane chores easily. "Explorers" themes like Lewis and Clark are great for this age group, too. They naturally love to explore. I take along magnifying glasses, containers, nets and plastic cups to catch and examine insects. I set a firm, no touching policy for reptiles, insects and plants until they've been identified- this saves a lot of worry. We use handbooks to make an identification. Always involve the kids in the basics of the camp. If the adults do all the preparing, cooking, and cleaning, the kids don't learn. The look on a child's face is priceless when they've made their first wood campfire or pitched their first tent. My best advice is plan with the kids, but always leave plenty of room for running, swimming, biking or just kicking around a ball. My kids love to comb beaches, draw in the dirt and gather rocks. I always have paper and crayons handy, cards are good, too - but don't worry about entertaining the kids 24/7. Camping is all about learning to entertain yourself without tv and games. Throw in a book or favorite magazine for yourself, and use your imagination to fill in the rest. Happy Camping. Kathy
My parents had five children in ten years and we took several long road trips. What made it bearable? My parents would set a limit of every 100 miles (seemed like 500, but it was worth it) we would stop. If we had behaved well (of course, we always had), we received a prize. The prizes were simple little things usually picked up at the local five and dime store...i.e. bubbles, a comic book, a toy car, a box of crackerjacks...etc. The prizes were wrapped which made it even more exciting. My parents had a set of prizes for each of us so we always got something we would enjoy. With the short attention spans kids have, the new prize would tide us over 'til the next stop. The bubbles were obviously outdoor prizes though.
A game for the road. This is for kids who can spell and of course, know their alphabet. As you're driving down the road, watch the road signs (any non-moving sign will do). Go through the alphabet finding one letter per sign (per person!) Each person races to get throught his/her alphabet first. I.E. Arkansas State Line...first person to see it yells out "A" and what he/she saw. He/she then looks for a sign with "B" and everyone else continues with whatever letter they are on. Both tips provided by Cheryl Mac Kain
When we camp with our small children, we take the illuminated "glow" sticks (the kind in the foil cover that you break and shake)to use at bedtime for night lights. We tie one to the ceiling of the tent when the children retire and untie and lower it when we retire. We bring one for each night of camping. The soft glow becomes softer as the night wears on and is gentle on adult eyes! I reccomend the green ones versus the red one -the red are brighter it seems. Wendy Welker Newark, DE FYI: A member of the Camp-A-Roo staff bit into one of these glow sticks last year. The glow stick contents have a terrible taste but are completely non-toxic, as the poison control center was glad to tell me :o)
The camp journal. We took plain white paper - about 5 sheets. Our son folded it in half and held it together with a paper clip.He then colored the front cover and titled it my camp journal. He was very proud of his journal. Two of his younger brothers also wanted a journal. They can't read or write yet, so I told them to do pictures instead of writing in them. They now have a nice memory of our first trip.
One of the neat things my daughter and I do, is a game of high tech hide and seek of sorts...we have FRS (family radio service) walkie talkies.......she can hide out, and I have to find her (providing she can see me when she hides, for safety's sake) I have to find her then.....and vice versa.....lots of fun, and we use the walkie talkies all the time, in stores when we go shopping and she is with her step mother, or other times. A walkie talkie is a wonderful little gadget for kids! These that I bought weren't terribly expensive and I got them at a pawn shop for even less...the pair were less than 30 dollars and we have fun with them all the time ! Just use your imagination and remember what it was like to be a kid...ideas will fill your mind almost instantly of things, littLe things we can do to make anything more fun! One last thing I'd like to mention, when talking with a kid about anything serious, GET DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL ! squat down or get them up on something high so they can see eye to eye with you and not feel intimidated.....HUG your kid, and thank GOD everyday for the blessing they truly are...I know they can be a challenge, but they are there for you too....remember that.....and God bless....Michael, Aimee and Shelby Edens
Bring cards. You can play many games with a simple deck of cards. (they can even be a deck that is missing cards. Young kids don't know/care) Go Fish, and war, and my kids even made up old made, (don't ask, it was funny)
Pack lots of socks for each child. At least 2 pair or more per day. If there is a drop of water, or mud puddle of any kind to be found, they will find it! Don't expect the socks to come clean even with T&T. These tips provided by Kristina
It is mandantory that we carry 2 bug jars, 2 nets, 2 buckets, and 2 flashlights. Our sons are 5 and 7 and they enjoy looking at the different kinds of insects that they can find. They always catch frogs and minnows near the lakes and streams. We examine these creatures and return them unharmed to the wild. Provided by Sonyia Bowen