We did it – we took our 3 kids camping and survived. In fact we did more than that we had a brilliant time!
Rolando took a bit of convincing to go camping – but even he was won over! 2016 has had some tough moments and life has been very hectic lately. We really needed a trip away to give us some precious family time together. Going camping was a good opportunity to slow down and relax. It was also a chance for the kids to spend lots of time outside and to have lots of space and freedom. I took the 4 days away as a chance to completely switch off from the internet and social media.
Luck was definitely on our side! A friend very kindly lent us a really big 9 man tent and lots of camping equipment. It meant that we could try out camping as a family before buying all of the camping paraphernalia. We were also incredibly fortunate to have gorgeous sunny weather. There was not one drop of rain during our entire trip.
Dower House Campsite
We stayed at Dower House camp site in Norfolk. It was only an hours drive away from our home so we didn’t need to do a long drive to get there. It was set within Thetford forest which proved to be a stunning location. The facilities at the campsite were great. There was a children’s play area and a heated swimming pool both were a really big hit with the kids. There was an onsite pub which had a WiFi connection – which we didn’t get a chance to visit. There were lots of showers, laundry and dishwashing facilities and the site was really well organised and clean. We chose to have a non electric pitch but there is the option to have an electric hook up.
The details of the campsite are available here.
Our camping highlights
There were loads of special moments during the 4 days along side a few three-nager tantrums and potty training accidents!
Swimming pool triumph
Sofia was really excited to get in the pool. However she is not a very good swimmer and she was really freaked out when she realised she couldn’t stand up (the pool was 1.4 metres deep). Once we’d dried her tears and got her a pool noodle float she started to slowly find her water confidence. Little by little she swam further and further – not being able to put her feet down really forced her to swim properly. I was so proud of Sofia when she’d worked up to swimming a length of the pool and back.
High Lodge Thetford forest
How amazing is this place?! We had such a great day here running around in the forest. There is a huge playground with loads of different types of equipment. The kids were in their total element climbing on things, scooping sand and clambering up nets. The boys even went down some absolutely massive tube slides.
We found a brilliant musical trail through the forest. The kids got to find lots of unusual musical instruments hidden among the trees. You created sounds in lots of ways like jumping and stepping on them. It was so interactive and imaginative!
We could easily have spent another day at Highlodge Thetford Forest there was still lots of things we didn’t get the chance to do – biking trails, a Gruffalo orienteering challenge and a Go Ape course. There was also a nice cafe for sandwiches, cake and coffee.
The details of High Lodge Thetford are here.
Stumbling upon a village fete
I always think the best moments of a trip are the unplanned surprises. We popped into Thetford village to get a few supplies from the supermarket. Instead we stumbled upon a big village fete. It had loads of things that the kids love – bouncy castles, ice cream, balloons and animals. Sam got to hold a little owl. Sam has a bit of an obsession with owls so it was a really precious moment.
Glow sticks in the woods
On the first night we put the kids to bed at their normal time but it took them a long time to get to sleep. We realised that it would work better to let them stay up until it got dark that way they were extra tired and dropped off really quickly. To get the kids extra tired one night we decided to go for a twilight walk in along a footpath in the woods. We got to see a beautiful sunset and then gave the kids glow sticks to play with on our walk back in the dark – magical!
Camp site cooking
A little moment of triumph for me was cooking for all five of us on our camping stove. I was quite proud of producing some pretty decent meals!
What we learnt about camping
Man you need to be really organised! Packing felt a bit like a military operation. You would probably need less stuff to invade a country! The tent seemed to get disorganised very quickly so I did spend a lot of time clearing up. This probably reflects that my family is generally quite messy!
What was invaluable:
• A camping kettle, I was really surprised how quickly it heated the water so we could have cups of tea.
• I really rate the Campingaz camping stove. It was really easy to use and made cooking quite straight forward. The gas canisters were also very easy to change.
• We bought an in car phone charger for our phones.
What we forgot:
• A tin opener (the nice people in the tent next door lent us one)
• A pen knife with a screw driver. We needed to change the batteries on the kids camping lights and struggled to open the screws on the battery compartments (we had to improvise with a knife).
• We also due to a bit of a mix up we were one sleeping bag short. Poor Rolando had to make do with blankets.
What I’d bring next time:
• Clothes pegs to hang out of wet clothes and a bungee cord to make a washing line.
• It would have also been nice to have comfy camping chairs to use when we were hanging out in the evening once the kids were in bed.
• I would also consider investing in a gazebo to have a cosy outdoor area. We saw people using one called a Coleman event shelter pro which looked really great.
We have proved that it is definitely possible to take three young kids camping. We had a really great time together as a family. I’ll definitely be looking into buying a tent so that we can have another family camping adventure.