Free range camping kids: AKA 3 moms, 5 kids and a campsite

Okay, this post is about 4 weeks late. But better late than never, right?

In early September Anja and I went camping with two other moms and their kids. We called it the 3 moms, 5 kids camping trip. And it was spectacular. Truly one of our best camping trips ever. Sharing the meals, sharing the kid coverage, and an ideal gang of kids in which to explore and play. Ages 3-7. And all sweet, considerate and intelligent kids.

Additionally, we lucked out with a natural sliding board IN our campsite. An ancient tipped redwood stump, smoothed by years of kid butts sliding down it, was the perfect play thing for the kids. They ran, biked, climbed, and on rare occasions sat down to draw or play with toy figures.

My biggest lesson of the weekend was a practice of free ranging the kids. We were at Memorial Park Campground, in San Mateo, only an hour from home. We were deep in the redwoods and felt miles away from it all, including being off the grid (iphone wise). It was the weekend after Labor Day, and although there were people around, it was a relatively quite campground (save for our posse of kids whooping it up).

Our kids would bike the loop of the campground together. Circling around our “block.” A few of the younger kids were on balance bikes, the older kids were on bicycles. And at first, they went as a group. But as the weekend wore on, there were times when some wanted to go and others didn’t. At one point Anja wanted to go by herself. (Brace yourself fellow parents and please reserve any judgement.) I paused for a moment, asked her what she would do if she saw a car on the “road” and after receiving the exact answer I was looking for, said yes. I allowed my 3.5 year old to go do the loop by herself. <gulp> I felt my heart strings tug as I watched her excitedly and confidently roll away from our campsite.

She returned full of pride and thrilled at the rush of independence and asked to do it again. After her second loop she came back, dropped her balance bike and joined the other kids in whatever game they were current up to. And something big had changed. For me and for Anja.  I’m still a little rocked, in a very positive way, by this experience.

And now, a few of my favorites from the weekend:

Julian (6) & Annapurna(5) on top, and Anja(3), Adrian(3) & Kenyon(7) stuffed into the top shelf of the raccoon pantry (amazingly).




Stunning blue eyes, every single one of them.

The gang, on our last day. A little dirty…

and a lot silly.


6 responses to “Free range camping kids: AKA 3 moms, 5 kids and a campsite

  1. What an amazing adventure! Kudos to you for letting her go even for that short jaunt. You have given her that gift of self assuredness and independence that is all too lost in today’s toxic society. I grew up ruling the neighborhood and exploring my independence on jaunts through the woods often needing my dog to get me home but those were experiences that I still remember fondly. The best part was often just knowing that people at home were still waiting for me and happy that I returned with more adventure stories to share. She won’t ever forget your “gift” to her. 🙂

  2. Good for you Mama! You know I’m a fan of free ranging kids. I love the shots of all the blue eyes together, and what about all that gorgeous hair!

  3. When can we go again? 🙂

  4. So much fun! Can’t wait for the next trip!

    I didn’t realize at the time that you were so conflicted about letting A ride around. I wonder if I should be *more* worried about it? I think back and my parents let me ride around the neighborhood freely for hours every day (with cars and everything) on my bike at age 4 (earliest I remember) without mishap, walk several miles home from school crossing several major streets at age 6-7, and go sailing out in the ocean by myself at age 9, so I don’t even think to worry about riding a bike around a campground. Then again, maybe I just had crazy parents. 😉

    Congrats on letting go of your fear, and congrats to Anja for handling it so well!

  5. thislovelymoment

    well, to clarify. I wasn’t that conflicted. I knew it was the right thing to do, without a doubt. However I was very conscious of the fact that it was the first time. And that SHE knew it was a big deal.

  6. 1: Don’t apologize for lateness of posts. 2: Nice pictures.

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