Play It Safe
Keep your family members free of any wilderness woes. Check out our easy tips for getting through the camping basics.
Build a Campfire
Get kids fired up for an evening around the pit with these tips from Richard Wiese, author of Born to Explore: How to Be a Backyard Adventurer. First, have your child collect small twigs and bark (tinder), short sticks (kindling), and larger logs (fuel). Put the tinder in the designated fire pit and place the kindling, tepee style, over it. Use a match to light the tinder, slowly adding the additional sticks and logs as the fire builds. Stay safe by drawing a zone in the dirt three to five feet around the fire and instructing kids not to pass the line.
Avoid Animal Encounters
While lions and tigers may show up only in campfire stories, bears and other critters do inhabit some parks. Randy Johnson, author of Best Easy Day Hikes: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, says you can lessen your chance of run-ins by cleaning up thoroughly after every meal and storing all of your food in your car and out of sight under a blanket or a towel since smart bears can look as well as smell. While hiking, sing or talk so you don't surprise any unsuspecting critters; they'll stay out of your way if they know that you're coming. And make it a rule for everyone to use the buddy system, even for short walks to the restroom.
Properly Check for Ticks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends inspecting the entire body for ticks, including the scalp, armpits, groin, and belly button, after being outdoors. Stop ticks and other pesky insects from bugging you by using a child-safe spray with 20 to 30 percent DEET on clothes and exposed skin, wearing light-colored clothing, and tucking your pants into your socks or boots when out in the woods or walking through tall grass.
Identify Poison Ivy
Don't let a bout of poison ivy make you have to scratch camping plans mid-vacay. To steer clear of the plant and its cousins, poison oak and poison sumac, teach your children the phrase "Leaves of three, beware of me." If your child does come in contact with poison ivy, have him quickly soap up in the shower to rinse off the resin (baths can cause the oils to spread) and apply a calamine lotion to help reduce the itching.