How Do Campers Protect Their Children?

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Oh yes you have! Suddenly, "Where's Bobby?" You instantly realize that he is not where he is supposed to be-where you told him to stay! Little kids, and even older ones, just don't behave like they used to. Has anyone noticed that?

Since corporeal punishment of children has departed the scene, parents are left with the ominous job of establishing rules for their kids to follow using verbal communication techniques, as apposed to grandpa's "back-of-the-hand" coersion.

Kids learn how to manipulate parents from day one. This incredible talent allows them to keep stretching the leash, not realizing that parents know best. If they only had the ability at a very early age to understand why parents are so protective of them, parents could avoid headaches, ulcers, and nervous breakdowns caused by worry. But, that does not happen!

The demand for parents to watch and protect their children reaches the highest priority when there are no physical barriers, like your backyard fence, to keep them corralled.

Well then, what do you do to keep track of your children the most efficient and safest way in an outdoor camping environment? It's a little trickier out in the open countryside. You agree?

Short of roping them to a tree, parents just have to become sneaky and devious so as not to spoil their kid's new found freedom adventures. We wouldn't want to do that, would we? There are some sneaky, gentle, egregious, tearful, divine (call it what you want) ways to accomplish the mission, and go home without incident.

1. Homespun yarn to clothe the innocent:

Especially the first time that this child has ever been camping, an adult with camping experience should spend time explaining what to expect when they arrive at the campsite.

Choose from the list of things that seem important, and that you can relate to safety and protection. Attention span of small children is short, so don't dabble around. Get to the point quick. Review the rules with all the other kids as well.

2. Something everyone forgets:

One technique for insuring the return of lost children safely is not so obvious. Sewing a cloth label (having the name, address, and phone number) to the garment that the child will be wearing while camping is not a new idea, and it's a chore to do.

Do it for each child anyway. This is especially important if the child is found by strangers, is injured, and not responding.

3. Knowledge will save them:

Make every effort to teach and instruct the children of teachable age "direction finding" wherever they are. If it is 7:00 PM, the sun is in the west sky. Moss accumulates on the north side of tree trunks. And you know what I mean, right?

Show them how to use a compass and read a map. Even better, instruct them on using a GPS device, and let them carry one. If they just won't learn, then go ahead and tie them to a tree.

4. Nighttime is not necessarily sleep time:

Darkness hides many of the visual reference points that a child uses to find home base. It's true, they can use a flashlight to go to the bathroom and sneak up on their brother in the other tent. More worrisome are the "hide and seek" games that are especially attractive to children when in the woods.

Nighttime techniques to keep track of the kids:

? Attach fluorescent wrist or arm bands--a different color for each child.

? Have them wear sneakers with the flickering lights built into the shoe.

? Place a red or colored lantern on the table so that the child knows that it is home base.

? Attach a blinking light to the clothes or belts - a different color for each kid.

? Recognize each kid by the color of light you see.

? Put a whistle in their pocket to use if he or she feels lost or disoriented.

? Have them carry a small pocket flashlight that can be seen for a mile.

? Give older children a compass to carry and use on night trails.

? Dress them in bright light colored clothing - it reflects light better at night.

? Reinforce "mom's" rule ? buddy teams of 2 or more anytime.

NOTE: All the devices mentioned are available at camping stores or websites. Consider a PLB (personal locator beacon) TerraFix 406 GPS I/O by ACR Electronics, Inc., or similar item.

5. Survival techniques aren't just for adults:

Stories about lost children while camping, hiking, or backpacking are common. If you don't teach your children survival techniques, no one else will. Well, there are a few exceptions.

Go on the trails with them and show them how to use the techniques, like build a shelter, stay on or close to the trail, keep warm, find water or food, place markers on trails, sensible direction choices, signaling, and etc.

6. After action reports:(my military background)

How do you ever know how much your child has learned, and retained in memory, unless you ask them? It will clue you in on what you thought they had learned, but hadn't. Repeating the process with them then becomes well worth it.

A good time to get into this is on the drive home from camping. Stuck with the boring ride home, your questions are a welcome distraction (that is unless they have a hand held video game unit).

7. Why didn't you think of this:

Kids sometimes learn better from other kids than from a bossy parent. Have you ever witnessed someone calling you bossy, when all you were trying to do was encourage them to learn? The stimulus to learn often stems from sibling rivalry and peer pressure. That is often overlooked.

To get around this, ask the older child or teenager that does know the actual facts and strategies, to teach the smaller ones.

Giving the older one the responsibility of doing this, signals trust by the parent and confidence in his or her abilities to do that. And when you get home, he will be more than happy to carry out the garbage. Right?

The camping experience that the child takes home with him or her is not about the wildlife they observed, nor about the natural wonders of nature. It is about how enjoyable it was to see how clumsy dad is at putting up a tent, and how mom or grandpa always burn the toast over the campfire.

Yet, underneath it all, the child mentally absorbs what everybody does and says, knowing all along that he or she felt safe, comfortable, and protected. Of course, thoughts about how they got themselves untied from the tree will also be remembered.

The author, Curt Graham, has over 40 years of camping experience. The decision to share his knowledge and experiences in that venture is exceeded only by his passion to make camping a recreational sport that is safer, more beneficial to participants, and a profound enjoyable happening that brings families and friends together like never before.

He has been writing articles, information packets, and marketing information for most of his career as a physician. Being published in Modern Physician, an elite magazine focused on physician executives, says a lot about his expertise. Feel free to copy, share, and send this article to family or friends. Kindly check out the website that he and his wife share with a passion:

Copyright 2005, Curtis Graham, MD, L & C Internet Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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