A few kids observing a leech on a parent's hands


How to Help Kids Overcome Some of Their Camping Fears

Jul 17, 2019

Whether you’re a seasoned camper excited to share the joys of living outdoors with your kids, or a parent ready to dive in for the first time with your little ones, you may encounter some questions. Specifically, the questions we hear most often are about common childhood fears, like bugs and the dark.

How will your children feel safe in a new environment when night comes or when everything is unfamiliar? What about other woodland creatures and the sounds that they make? Or worse, what if those creatures come near your campsite?

These are all common questions for campers to consider. And by paying attention to these questions before you go, your family will learn how to to face them with confidence once you’re there.

Bugged Out?

There are a lot of ways to prepare for bugs, other critters and unfamiliar environments.

First, talk it out as a family. Is what scares you about bugs the unknowns, like whether they can actually hurt you? Or does the idea of them just make you uncomfortable?

The main bugs that you’ll want to be careful of in most camping settings are bees, wasps and mosquitos. Bees and wasps will usually fly away on their own after stopping to check you out, so the best thing to do is to try and stay still while taking deep breaths to stay calm. They won’t sting if they don’t feel threatened.

My favourite strategy is to wear lightweight clothes that cover as much skin as possible while still keeping me cool.

As for mosquitos, biting is unfortunately how they get their food, but there are ways to make it harder for them. My favourite strategy is to wear lightweight clothes that cover as much skin as possible while still keeping me cool. Long pants and shirts are ideal for blocking mosquitos and they double as great sun block. A bug hat may also be useful. Most people bring bug spray camping, too, and citronella oils are known to be natural bug repellents.

Most other Canadian bugs are harmless, and I like to just appreciate them as creatures that I share space with and let them be. Watching bugs from a safe distance can be a good way to teach kids that bugs are nothing to be afraid of.

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Are They Afraid of the Dark?

When night comes, it becomes harder to assuage fears by observing their causes. In the dark, it’s difficult to tell which critters are around and how close they are, based on the forest sounds all around us.

While these sounds may be unsettling to kids and adults, it's sometimes helpful to remember they are only the hustle and bustle of the inhabitants of the forest going about their own business. Basically, they're just like us — because we all make sounds when we're trying to get things done.

They will have no reason to visit your campsite if food and fragrant toiletries are packed away safely in an animal-proof container like a car trunk, a food barrel or a tree hang.

If they’re old enough to be in their own tent, being close enough to yours to see it and call for help in the night will be a big comfort.

If you’re going camping as a family, you’ll likely be sleeping in the same tent as your kids, which will help them feel safe outside their comfort zones. If they’re old enough to be in their own tent, being close enough to yours to see it and call for help in the night will be a big comfort.

Taking something from home to help them settle down at night may also be a good idea. Whether that's a beloved blanket or stuffie, or a stack of favourite books, is up to you.

The more you and your child can feel at home in nature, the more fun you’ll have camping.

Article Author Club Parka, Parks Canada
Club Parka, Parks Canada

Club Parka is a Parks Canada program for preschoolers at national parks and historic sites across the country. Kids can take part in the program online, too!

Visit parkscanada.gc.ca/Parka to download activity pages and get to know Parka, the busy little beaver who helps kids explore the world around them.

You can watch Parka weekday mornings on CBC TV following each episode of Chirp.

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