We’ve just returned from five days camping, and now that I’ve recovered, I can sit down and write this story that’s been on my mind.

This is a story about how my six year old was pushing allll of my buttons, and could have easily resulted in me blowing my top at him, but instead it turned into a great learning experience for both of us.

Day Four of our camping trip dawned bright and early for us – as did every single other day of our trip. Staying in a tent with small children isn’t exactly restful for our family. They go to bed late and wake up reasonably early. They also wake up several times a night, but that’s not what this post is about.

Long days mean many hours to fill. There’s a few big days out; forest bike rides, pool visits, river missions. There’s also many hours of hanging out at the campground. Which is totally fine – playing with their cousins is a massive highlight of holidaying!

Our setup with the extended family

Back to Day Four. It was about 7.45am and our kids were breakfasted and full of energy. I was bleary eyed and NOT full of energy.

The just-turned-six year old had faaaar too much energy for the tent. “Go on outside” I said, “go ride your bike”. So off he went.

Except he wanted interaction. He kept coming back to the tent crashing into it with his bike.

Now, obviously this is not OK.

Our attempts at diversion weren’t really working and I could feel myself starting to boil away inside ready to explode at him. I really wanted to get a load of washing on to hang out before we went out for the day, and his bike crashing into the tent wasn’t helping me sort my morning out at.all. He could tell that his behaviour was riling me up, and things were almost at tipping point when I remembered how fascinated he is by money.

Money is what makes the washing machine go at the campground. Perfect!

“Here, J. I could really use your help. I need your help with this washing. Please can you look after this $2 coin, hold it really tight. It’s what makes the washing machine go. I’ll show you where to put it in the machine”.

Immediately the bike was abandoned.

No more crashing into the tent.

No more lame diversion attempts.

Just an incredibly keen young boy, gripping the precious $2 coin (that I had already managed to lose once).

That small act of me asking him to hold the money sparked a morning of shared tasks together. Because it naturally turned into:

  • helping me carry the load over to the laundry
  • “guarding” the machine while I checked for more washing with the rest of the family
  • problem solving how to climb up to the money slot (which was situated on the wall above the washing machine)
  • talking about what the “constructions” (instructions) said
  • using the dial of the machine
  • going back to check every ten minutes if it was finished (or unbalanced)
  • letting me know when it was finished (yay, one less job for me!)

By the time the load had finished he’d gotten his younger brother and cousin interested too, which resulted in a beautiful session of them all hanging out the washing together. Each young boy was precariously balanced on a green plastic campground chair, trying to reach the washing line. Pegs went all over the place and I had to re-hang some of their attempts, but overall it was a delight to watch.

Three young boys, all meaningfully engaged in the helpful task of hanging out the family washing. I wish I’d gotten a photo, but I was kind of busy trying to make sure no one fell off their chair.

Yes it took me a bit longer than it would have otherwise, but really – what better occasion to spend that extra time than on a camping holiday, where your only real guide to time is hunger and the hot hot sun.

To me this was a classic example of kids having purpose, being given responsibility, learning life skills, and being meaningfully involved in a task. The fact that it naturally stemmed from a small interest in money just makes it even more beautiful, because it shows how absolutely invested in the task Mr 6 was. He thrived on the responsibility of looking after the money and that carried over to being responsible for the whole task.

Just another example of how engagement in meaningful occupation is central to life –  kids, parents, whole families!

Our New Year photo, minus one child

Campsite with a view

What jobs do your little ones help with on the campsite? Do you see it changing their behaviour of is it more of a chore for them? I hope I can convince my son to take charge of the washing again next time we go camping too!

xx Rach.

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