First Time Camping with your Kids

Ken Carfagno • Along his journey from artist to engineer to entrepreneur, Ken Carfagno became a dad. And like many new dads, his kids inspired a long-forgotten gift–Ken could make up stories and draw his kids into them. This sparked a dream that lead to Dadnamics, the infusion of creativity, adventure, and silliness into dad time. And hopefully, Dadnamics will spark a dream inside of you too, fellow Dads, and give you interactive and creative ideas to connect with your kids.


Camping for Non-Campers

In 1994, I committed two Saturday mornings at a nearby high school to take the SAT exam. My first overall score of 1070 was good and it got me into Penn State, but when I saw the report it confirmed a long-held belief. I hated reading, writing, and mostly everything about the English language. I scored in the 92 percent-tile for math and the 20 percent-tile for verbal. Was this a mistake? I took it again after a short SAT prep book. Low and behold, the score went up by 10 points… in math.

Why do I tell this story? For one, I’m writing this blog right now to be read by 10,000 people. Secondly, on December 15, 2015, I concluded a 5 ½ year journey and published my first father/child interactive novel called “Arctic Land“. How is this type of transformation possible? It’s called “When the dream is big enough, the facts don’t count.” I got a dream as a Dad to help Dads and saw creative story-telling and writing as my vehicle. Therefore, I pursued the craft of writing with a vengeance. I studied. I read. I practiced. I joined a writing group. I got a mentor. I became a real writer.

It’s the same when you become a father for the first time. You never did it before and need to follow the same steps of study, read, practice, join, and get a mentor. It’s called learning and we do it all the time. So would it surprise you to know that camping and “The Outdoors” is no different? It shouldn’t. And again, that was me. I camped with my Dad a few times as a kid, but as an adult I had ZERO camping skills. I mean ZERO. I didn’t grow up around camping, hunting, fishing, outdoor skills. I grew up around team sports, played on fields, alleys, and courts. But again, I got a dream to have boys fluent in camping skills and I became a real camper.

Why would you get out into the woods with your boys especially? Well, just like with my writing, you have to overcome your weakness and inexperience. The payoff is amazing. Your boys will excel in the woods. They were created to seek, adventure, build, and sometimes destroy. If you don’t believe that, let 2 boys alone in a house and see what they do. If you can get them out in the elements to build fires, shoot arrows, ride mountain bikes, cross streams, or whatever, you will open up a vast curiosity and excitement within your boys. Nature will teach them so much about life and that ‘s when you, Dad, can step in and show them how. Your boys will never be so enthralled and open to conversation as when you are camping together. It’s SO worth it.

Think you can’t do it. That’s okay. Start simple. Join a group that goes camping. That’s what we did. I piggy-backed and learned. I joined the Royal Rangers at a local church and started the process. Since I wasn’t exposed to camping skills as a boy, I learned them alongside my son. Invaluable. There are many great organizations out there. You choose. The point is to learn the skills from men that know them. And to do that, you have to go to a group that know them.

The second tip for beginners is to start local. Like VERY local… your backyard. I did this with my 11-year-old when he was 5 and will do it again this summer with my second son (who is 5 now). Grab a basic tent and set it up on a Saturday afternoon together. If you’ve never tried, no worries, directions and YouTube help. When you sleep, you will be “camping”, but your two heads will probably be less than 100 feet from your actual beds. This is a great comfort to your son and your wife. And if you’ve never camped before – YOU.

Today, I wear several hats. I am a Dad of 4. I own a cleaning business to cover the bills and run Dadnamics to fulfill my calling of turning the hearts of fathers to their children. And, I’m now Commander Ken in the Royal Rangers. What’s crazier? A former 400 Verbal Scorer of the SAT with his first novel on Amazon and 15 published blogs under his belt OR a non-camper leading a group of 15-20 boys in camping skills and bi-annual camping trips?

If you are interesting in learning more about Dadnamics, which includes interactive and creative ideas to connect with your kids… go to I hope to meet you because we’re all on the same team, Dads.