Friday, June 19, 2009

Gathering with Kids by Info Karen

My good friend, Info Karen, put together today's guest blog post -- not to confuse anyone but there are two of us living in San Diego. Karen with an "E" and me - Karin with an "I". Since Info Karen has kids, she graciously agreed to put together today's guest post for those of you coming home with kids. If this helped you, please stop by Info when you're at the gathering and thank her.

Here is some advice for folks wanting to bring young kids to the Gathering. It is especially directed at first time Gatherers since a few requests of this type have come my way, but there is lots of good advice for anyone with kids. More ideas? Add them in the comment section.

I have three sons, one is 6 years and twins who are 3. This will be my first time attending a Gathering with all three, but I have gone with my eldest when he was an infant and when he was 3.

When you get first arrive at the Gathering, you will be shown a meadow to park in, and you will likely need to hike in with your first load. Get a baby backpack to carry your littlest ones in. We personally plan to bring the kids, the tent and our plates, cups and utensils on the first load, plus whatever else we can manage. We each will wear a kid on our backs. I will stay at the tent site while the hubby goes out for another load. While he is gone I will put the tent up.

You can camp anywhere with kids, but it is especially nice to camp at Kid Village. It is a drug-free, peaceful area that serves three good kid-friendly meals every day. Kid Village is easy to find. Ask anyone. When you get to Kid Village ask the folks there where there are some good tent spots. They will direct you.

At Kid Village, they serve three kid-friendly meals a day, and usually have a little play area with seesaws and swings made from downed trees and rope. There is also usually a sit-down potty there (people just call toilet areas "shitters" so sorry if your child goes home spouting that word!! For adults, shitters are long trenches that you straddle. It’s nice to wear skirts if you want to have a little privacy cover! :)

You will want to bring, for each of you, a dish, a spoon and a cup. If you drink coffee, make it a thermal one with a lid. If you can put a carabineer on your cup, it’s nice to always have it hanging from your belt. Each of you adults will want a day pack to carry around all day with the stuff you need. Usually, you pack your daypack for the day and go out wandering. You may head back to the tent for naptime, but you will want to take your dishes, your water bottle, and whatever diapers or things you need for the day with you when you leave your tent in the morning.

For dishes, most people bring just a bowl. But after many years of gathering, I have discovered that the very best bowl is a tupperware or similar container with a lid. This way, if you can't get to a dishwashing station right away, you can pop the lid on and toss it in your bag without dirtying anything inside. We found plate-shaped containers with three divided sections which is nice if you get soup and something else. It keeps them divided.

If you use disposable diapers, I would bring a double thick bag (one inside the other, to damper the smell) with some kind of clasp that can be put on and taken off numerous times, to keep your dirties in. You will need to hike this heavy bag out at the end, as
there are no trash stations inside the gathering.

Everyone carries their own trash out. Depending on how long you stay, a full bag of dirty diapers can be one whole load! If you use cloth diapers, I have seen people wash them out in five gallon buckets and hang them on clotheslines hung between trees. Bring rope and a bucket. Kid Village might have a community bucket to wash dirties, but I don't know if they do or if folks bring their own.

Stop in at the Info Booth for a map of the site and any questions you have. Every evening you will see a large circle gather in the main meadow for dinner. Most kitchens will bring their food down to the dinner circle and serve there. Bring your dishes! Pregnant or nursing Mamas and folks with children are asked to come to the center of the circle before the food is served to get first dibs. Don’t be shy. Come forward when it is announced and get your kid a plateful of good food!

For small babies, it’s not common, but I have seen people bring a playpen and hike it in. That way you can set the baby down somewhere clean for awhile. You might consider bringing one and leaving it in the car. Then you can decide if you want to hike it in or not. A lightweight bouncy chair might be a simpler idea, or perhaps a Moses basket?

Another nice thing to have is some kind of pop-up kid's backyard tent. They pack down
tiny and could be used to lay the baby down to sleep if you are out wandering and want to take a break, or give him/her some shade. We also napped our three year old in one the last time we went. It was handy, and kept us from having to go and sit quietly outside the tent for 3 hours every day. We are using two this year to nap our twins separately during the afternoon, because if they nap together, they will just play in the tent.

You should have water bottles you can carry around for your family. You can fill them up at any kitchen. Look for a giant cooler on the kitchen counter with a spigot. Bring sun block, wide brimmed children’s hats, bug spray and sun glasses. We are bringing those new 200 hour LED flashlights for our littlest boys who will of course want to have one of their own when they see ours. They can accidentally leave it on for hours and it won’t use up the batteries. Sandals that can get wet or water shoes are great for playing in the stream.

Also bring warm sleeping bags. It gets down to 40 at night. We always bring thermal underwear to sleep in. When our son was a baby, and we worried about the safety of sleeping bags, we slept him in a down-filled, winter outdoor snow suit, wearing a hat, with a blanket over him. That way I wasn't worried about losing him down in the sleeping bag or have him scoot out into the cold at night. Beware of using any kind of gas heater inside your tent as the fumes inside a closed tent can be deadly.

Have a blast! It’s a great way to immerse your kids in wild nature!

-Info Karen, Mom to three exuberant boys-

Please comment below with any questions or great ideas or parent-hacks of your own!


Anonymous said...

Hi. Thanks for these great ideas and reminders. You ROCK Momma!

Anonymous said...

i can't wait to get back to another gathering now that i am a mama.
thanks for the insight

Anonymous said...

Yaaah I love everyone. I look forward to seing where my little ones bring me this year because as we all know they sure are leading the way, I am planning on bringing a bunch of body paint. Hope to see you there.PEACE

TOK said...

Oh, another great idea for kids using a grown-up's sleeping bag is to bring some sort of a cinching strap and put it around the bag half way down. Cinch it tight. This way, your child won't slip down too deeply in the sleeping bag while sleeping!

thecatinthetree said...

Great tips!! My girls and I camped out for all four days of a local music fest last summer. My older daughter was 2 1/2 and the little one was 4 months. My older one cried on the way home because she didn't want to leave!! It was our first camping experience & I was so excited that she loved it so much. I haven't been to a Gathering in years, but I'm hoping to make it this year!
Thanks, especially, for the diaper tips! I packed out cloth diapers to the festival last summer, and bought some disposables "just in case". Good thing, because there was no way I could have hauled the cloth in by myself. :( I'm afraid I might have to go the same route this time, although I would much prefer to use cloth.

Info Karen said...

Hi, Info Karen again... here is another tip for eastern gatherings that have more biting bugs... I wore my baby in a front pack during the day, and we brought a mosquito netting that was designed to go over our stroller. It had elastic, shaped like a big shower cap... and we just popped it over the whole front pack and the baby, giving him arm and leg movement but keeping the bugs off him. It was awesome and he could see through it.

Info Karen said...

And another tip for nursing mothers at colder gatherings... I invented the coolest thing ever... I got one of my old tight fitting thermal shirts that I usually sleep in while gathering, and I cut two vertical slits in it, at the breast, sewing around the seams to prevent fraying. THAT way, I could breastfeed in the evenings and at night without having to pull my shirt up and freeze to death! It was a wonderful item to have.

Issa Waters said...

Thanks for this write-up. I'm about to head to my first gathering, and I'm bringing my one year old along, too. We've been camping together, but for my first gathering, I'm nervous about what to expect. Thank you!

Windy Love & Charlie said...

Info Karen, you rock. We both look forward to seeing you next year!!!