You’ve got the rig and a sense of adventure, but what about the kids? Should you pull them out of school to tour around Australia? Absolutely! There are just so many positive benefits to introducing your little ones to this great wide country that any objections you may have will be swamped into insignificance. Here are some tips to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.
Top 10 tips for camping with children
1. Wait until they're toilet trained
Children on the road should be fully toilet trained and able to understand (and hopefully follow) instructions. This will ensure that they are also old enough to actually remember and understand a bit about where we had gone and what we had seen.
2. Be realistic about how far you can travel
Kids love routine and have lots of energy, both of which can be a challenge on the road, so be realistic with how far they can travel in a day. Sure, when you and the mates threw a swag and a slab in the back of the ute you could cover 1000km in a day, no problem. Not anymore. Sanity requires children receive regular exercise breaks throughout any journey; how regular will depend on their age and levels of hyperactivity.
3. Pack the right provisions
Have a few outdoor toys which pack high value for their size and weight — a cricket set, tennis balls and frisbees are good choices. On the subject of hyperactivity, be selective about what food and drinks you provide en route. Too much sugar in a confined space is a recipe for disaster. Think low GI — fruit, nuts, crackers, plain biscuits, muesli bars and good old water. The added bonus is they are also easier to clean off the upholstery than sticky lollies and cordial.
Got a tight budget? Check out our money-saving family travelling tips.
4. Beat the boredom
As much as we’d like the kids’ eyes to be glued to the passing scenery, entertainment on long stretches of boring bitumen is a must. Portable or in built DVD players are a sanity saver — there are only so many games of Eye Spy you can play.
5. Celebrate on the go
If you are going to be away on a significant date, like Christmas, a birthday or Easter, plan ahead. Nothing spoils a child’s day quicker than not celebrating an event that they expect to. A bit of tinsel, a few balloons and streamers, or some small chocolate eggs take up little room and go a long way to making sure that a special day is still special, even though you are on the road.
6. Remember the little things
Kids love their stuff, so it makes sense to take along a small selection of their things. You could allow each child to have their own box on the back seat next to them in which they can put whatever they want, with just a little adult guidance. It might be worth considering bringing a craft box too packed full of paper, pencils, sticky tape, glue, scissors, etc., for general art as well as diary keeping.
7. Plan playtime
If you are travelling to really remote places you might not meet up with many other potential playmates for the kids, so when you encounter civilisation always allow some playtime at a local park or caravan park. Kids always gravitate to play and some great friendships can be formed in a short period of time. The older kids might even keep in touch and become pen-pals (or the electronic equivalent). As the kids get older you can allow them more freedom and provide less direct supervision. Walkie-talkies allow them to stay in touch with you and are a good interim safety measure.
8. Communicate with the school
Primary and secondary schooling is compulsory in Australia and each state has different requirements as to the total number of days a student may be absent from school. A certain number of days may be approved by the school principal; more may require involvement of an education department district officer.
Although some teachers dislike kids being pulled out of school for holidays lazing around a swimming pool, many recognise the valuable learning experiences touring holidays offer, which are impossible in a classroom setting.
The best way to keep the waters calm is to communicate early and often with the principal and teachers. Let them know your plans, timeframes and the fabulous education experiences the kids are likely to encounter along the way. Offer to supervise any work they’d like your child to do while you are travelling, but it’s probably best not to demand lesson plans for the whole period you are away.
9. Learn to (mobile) home school
Access to school-age public distance education programs varies according to the state in which you lived before you started travelling, but it is likely your kids will have fewer distance-education options if you plan to travel for less than six months. You might be lucky enough to have a super-organised teacher who has their yearly lesson plan and resources all sorted, and provide you with everything you need to run your own home school on the road.
Alternatively you could make use of the endless opportunities for spontaneous learning along the way. Maths questions might include: how far to the next town? If we are travelling this fast, how long until we get there? How much fuel will we use? How much money will that fuel cost? How much change will I get from $100 when I pay for it?
Encourage the kids to read signs and brochures at places you go. Ask them comprehensive questions about what they’ve read, appropriate to their age. Include a few stops or tours to encourage learning.
You can also cover the basics on the go without too much trouble. Recite times tables as you drive (or other mental maths as age appropriate). Spell words out loud. Make a habit of reading each night before bed. Have the kids keep a diary, photo journal or blog with an eye to maybe presenting something to their class upon their return.
10. Go back for high school
We are about to embark into this category and have given it quite a lot of thought. It is much harder for kids to catch up academically at high school. The teaching program is tighter and subject specific and often builds very much on the prior section of learning.
As kids become teenagers, developmentally, friendships and peer relationships are much more important. Pulling them away from their peer group has greater implications than when they were younger.
Check out more camping tips including how to tour with kids and family touring on a budget.
Caravan parks are a great accommodation option for people travelling with kids, as they provide plenty of activities and opportunities for kids to make friends.
Visit turu.com.au to view family-friendly caravan parks and book online.