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The Great Central Rd Guide
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As a parent it is normal, healthy and important that we consider the safety of our children. There are times though when our angst can get a little out of proportion. If you are concerned about your children and their survival on your next trip or whether you think it would be safe to do it with them, read on.
I have heard many people exclaim how dangerous the outback or bush is. Statements like "It is too dangerous or irresponsible to take children out bush or remote" get my blood boiling. I am a parent and my husband and I have decided to raise our girl in a remote community, actually we moved out here from the east coast when I was 3mths through my first pregnancy. We regularly go out camping and do remote tracks with her that most adults would not even do. Two years on and she is alive, healthy and vibrantly happy. I would actually argue that cities and suburbia to be more dangerous. I suppose the dangers are different, that's all.
Wildlife safety - wildlife in Australia is a given. Much of it is also deadly but these animals are not restricted to the outback or bush. They can be found anywhere. Informative conversations followed up with picture books (actual photos are even better) and even video clips are key to educating your child about what these animals look like, where they may be found and what to do if they see one. In my opinion you want to give your child as much information as possible to enable them. Don't discount your child's ability or intelligence, feeding them baby stories, as this will disable them rather than enable them. Also, try not to instil too much fear into them. You want them to be very aware of how dangerous these animals are but you also don't want them believing they will be badly hurt when they go camping. On many occasions our 20mth old has been able to spot out spiders and little critters before us and bring it to our attention for us to deal with, one of these times was a centipede in the sandpit that she insisted on telling me about until I could finally see it.
Poisonous plants - This comes down to education as well. Children are very tactile and sensory. That is how they learn. They are wired to touch and taste things. You need to teach your children child that some plants can sting and be poisonous so they should not touch or taste. Supervision and modelling is important here, show children how to appreciate plants without touching them.
Stranger danger - unfortunately there are horrible people in this world and being in unknown territory you may be feeling more cautious of those around. Again, this happens anywhere and the topic needs to be discussed with your children. Supervision is vital for children and being in an unfamiliar location, I should think your levels of supervision would be even higher.
Getting lost - again this relates back to supervision. Children need supervision all the time. It is a parent's responsibility to look out for their children. Communicate to your spouse about who is watching or ideally playing with them. Even if it is not your turn to be on watch, at least keep an ear out or a rough visual and if anything seems unusual you will be able to get onto it straight away. Setting up boundaries around your campsite is also a good idea and explain that beyond them a parent is needed.
Getting sick - with new environments come new germs, sure this is definitely true, however I think people are the biggest germ carriers. We are disgusting things. It is likely that when you are camping, you will be having less contact with other people, which to me means the chances of getting sick are narrowed. Exposure to different germs will also increase the strength of their immune system.
Getting dirty - children need to play! It is how they learn! Getting dirty is part of playing and learning. Don't worry about the dirt as it is all part of the fun and camping. Stressed because there are no facilities for showers? Take extra wet wipes; they are a great option for a waterless bath.
Death by boredom - come on! You will be in the great outdoors!! Get adventurous, get active, explore. It will be highly unlikely that children will be too bored when out bush or in the outback. They have amazing imaginations and will have loads of fun playing with different materials such as red sand, unusual, seedpods, digging holes with sticks or making structures with them. It may help if you too get a little creative with them. You should also have a little bag of activities for them (check out Dump The DVD's) that you can pull out for them.
Harsh weather - You may be worried about sunburn and heat. Be wise about what time of year your travel and where. Also consider what activities you plan to do throughout the day. If the heat is too much for us, and there is no water around, going for a drive is always a popular choice! Clothing is important too. We like to wear protective, ventilated long sleeve shirts, hats and sunnies to keep the sun off our skin and avoid needing to apply and re-apply yucky, sticky sunscreen in our skin. Always keep an eye out for shade and consider where the sun will be rising and setting. The heat is not the only thing that causes concern. Wind can be an issue so consider a well-protected camp set up and area. The cold can also cause major issues. Be prepared with sufficient warm clothes and warm bedding.
Drowning - it is absolutely crucial you are aware of any water in proximity to your campsite or picnic stop. Express to your children how important it is that they do not go in the water without an adult. Always make sure you know where they are!
Fire burns - fires are a very common thing around campsites and this is a real cause of concern as they can be deadly. Unsurprisingly supervision is key here again and so are good strong boundaries and guidelines. Checkout our children and fire safety article for the specifics.
Supervision is a key factor in preventing injuries outdoors with children. Also arm them with knowledge so they can have understanding and awareness too. Don't be afraid to go on adventures with your children. Children are incredibly adaptable and will thrive from the experience it will give them.