I just introduced my kids to tent camping...sort of

Our "camping trip" lasted 25 minutes. But hey, it's a start.

Earlier in the week I had asked Girl if she wanted to camp out in a tent this weekend and to my surprise (she's barely 4 years old), I got an enthusiastic "yes!" Follow up inquiries solicited the same response. Suffice to say, I was stoked to take her on her first camping trip. 

Actually, it wouldn't be her first camping trip. We've taken her camping in the grandparents' 27-foot camper repeatedly. She's been to several state parks in Missouri and Iowa in her almost-four short years on this planet. 

But she's never slept in a tent. So technically, this would be a first for her.

In the interest of easing her into the joys (and challenges) of tent camping, I opted to pitch our little 2-person tent on our screened-in front porch. That way, we'd be close to the house (practically inside it), close to the bathroom, and close to her bed should she decide she'd rather not spend the night on the floor in a sleeping bag. I didn't actually expect her to make it all night on her first try. 

That afternoon, I rolled out the tent and she helped me set it up. As soon as it was standing, she was inside pulling on zippers. Open the window. Close the door. Close the window. Open the door. Her brother (10 months old) found the setup equally as enthralling and kept crawling in and out of it between his sister opening and closing the door.

Our front porch "campsite". 

Great fun.

It got better when I set up the "bed" - an old foam mattress topper under some sleeping bags and a couple blankets. Throw in her favorite Elsa pillow and I almost couldn't get her out of there for dinner. 

Bedtime rolled around and we said goodnight to mom (Boy still gets up several times a night so she opted to stick to her normal (no)sleep routine) and wriggled into our sleeping bags. Three books, one bedtime song and 25 minutes later, Girl said, "Daddy, I want to go inside. I want to sleep in my bed."

I had expected that to happen.

I could have contested her request. I could have told her how much fun it would be to camp out together. I could have tried to convince her to stay in the tent.

But I didn't. I simply said OK, gathered up her stuff and put her to bed like normal.

The story repeated itself the next day and again, I relented without argue. Her mom and I bicker enough with her throughout the day, no use piling it on with something that should be fun.

As schedules and a seemingly endless cycle of nightly thunderstorms would have it, we ended forgetting about our little front porch campsite for a couple weeks. But as the weather turned nice with calm skies and cool night temps again forecasted, I suggested we give it another try. And again, throughout the day and into the evening, Girl was all for it. Right up until the start of the last bedtime story.

"Dad, I wanna sleep in my bed."

This time, I was going to at least put up token resistance.

"How come, honey? It's so nice out here. And camping out in the tent is so much fun. Plus, you get to sleep by me all night." Though in retrospect I'm not sure sleeping next to Dad is that much of a sales pitch.

"I just want to," she droned, in that whiny bedtime voice.

"But you've been saying all day how much fun this is going to be. I thought you were looking forward to it," I countered.

"But I want to sleep in my bed. It's more comfortable," she said as she gathered up her blanket and Georgie - the stuffed Curious George that's been her omnipresent companion since before she could walk. The conversation was clearly over in her mind. Defeated, I remember noticing how her pronunciation of "comfortable" was spot on. At least there was that.

And so far, that's been the extent of our camping excursions. I took the tent down this week and repacked the sleeping gear. There's more summer left, I figured. We'll be sleeping in a tent beside a campfire soon enough.

Actually, the plan is do just that next weekend, assuming the weather forecast holds. It's Father's Day weekend and I've told the family all I want is to go camping. The plan (what little of it I've thus far concocted) is to go to a campground in the county just south of here. It'll be close enough to home that we can pull the plug if we have to but far enough away that it'll feel like an actual "trip" and Girl won't have her comfy bed calling her from the other side of the porch wall.

I guess we'll see. I'll post an update after the trip and let you know how it went.

What tips, tricks, questions, successes or failures have you had about taking your kids camping? Join the conversation in the comments below.

My goal here is share my journey as I raise an outdoor-loving family, lead a local conservation department, and discuss ways to leave our kids a better world. Subscribe here to follow me as I blunder along, writing about it as I go.