FEB 24 2022    
Tips for Camping with Kids
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Tips for Camping with Kids

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Are you worried about an upcoming camping trip with kids? Or perhaps, you’ve taken them before and the situation was less than ideal. Camping with kids can be a challenge, but the fun you have and the memories you make, make it all worth it. 

When unprepared, camping can turn from “fun time away” to “weekend nightmare.” However, when you are prepared, you can have a great time no matter if the children with you are young and playful or “too cool” teens.

We have provided 30 tips to help you have a great and memorable camping experience with your children.

Find a kid-friendly campground

Before you do anything, make sure to find a campground that is kid friendly. Not every camp ground will be welcoming for children and this is going to affect their (and your) overall experience. 

There are a few things to look for when finding a family friendly campground:

  • There are family friendly things to do
  • It’s a safe place 
  • There are bathroom facilities available or nearby
  • Others won’t be bothered by noise

It’s important to have a place that is welcoming to children, but a bonus is the potential for your kids to find friends their own age. 

Practice camping ahead of time

Having a run at camping at home can help to shape expectations and allow children to get familiar with the experience. As an adult, it also gives you a chance to dust off your tent setup skills and make sure all your gear is functioning properly. 

A few weeks preceding your camping trip, try to stay a night in the tent or RV just like you would at the campground. However, in your dry run make it as fun as possible! Pop popcorn, have a fire, play games, setup a movie projector, etc. You want your children used to the feeling of camping but you also want to make sure they have as much fun as possible to build excitement for the real thing. 

Get organized

Being organized will save you a lot of time, frustrations and frantic digging through bags. When you’re not organized, important items can be left behind, or you can have trouble finding things when you need them. 

In advance of your trip, make a list of everything you need for the trip. This gives you time to go to the store for anything you need. You can also use this list to ensure everything you need has been packed. 

Once it comes time to pack, make sure to pack things in an organized manner using totes or clear bins. You will want to pack related items together and in a way that everything is easily assessable.

By taking a little extra time to organize your camping gear before leaving you will save yourself a great deal of headaches and frustrations while on your trip.

Pack flashlight and/or headlamps

Flashlights are not only fun for children but they are very important for safety reasons. Having a light allows kids to safely navigate the campground and it makes it much easier as a parent to keep track of them with a lit light. 

Flashlights come in handy for playtime, to go to the bathroom or just wondering around the campsite. Headlamps are preferred since they free up a child’s hands and are easier to keep track of, but regular flashlights will do the trick.

Think Safety First

Anytime children are involved, it’s important to think about safety. You want your kids to be safe and the best way to do that is to ensure they are prepared.

Here’s how you should prepare:

  • Bring a safety kit along
  • Teach them camping safety basics
  • Fire safety, tools are not toys, stay on the trail, don’t eat foreign items, etc.
  • Discuss any dangers unique to the campsite you will be visiting
  • I.e. Animal dangers, rivers, etc.

The last thing you want is for one of your kids to be hurt. They may roll their eyes at the “obvious” safety tips or when you review for the 10th time, but at least you will be confident that your children will be safe the entire trip. 

Pack the right clothes (and extras too!)

Not having appropriate clothing can make for one miserable camping experience. Make sure you not only pack for the predicted forecast but also for any extracurricular activities you plan on participating in (flip flops are no fun on a long hiking trail). 

Dressing in layers is an expert camping rule of thumb. It allows you to stay warm when the temperatures drop but gives you the flexibility to strip off layers if you get too warm. 

When out in nature, clothing is one of the things you always want to have extras for kids. They can get muddy, wet, or destroy their clothes during their adventures. Having backups will make for a potentially more comfortable outing.

Give jobs to the kids

When kids have their own jobs or duties to fulfill, they take more pride in the camping experience. This also prevents them from getting bored and irritable while you as parents set everything up. 

Give your kids age-appropriate jobs as well as jobs they may enjoy. 

Here are a couple of job ideas to give children while camping

  • Make your own sleeping area
  • Help unload the equipment
  • Be the Smores facilitator (i.e. pass out the goodies)
  • Go on fire stick patrols

Having a combination of real responsibilities and fun jobs not only helps things go more smoothly but it also helps kids feel like it is as much their trip as it is yours.

Plan activities

To improve the camping experience and to ensure kids don’t get too anci sitting around the campsite, you may want to plan some activities for them. These can be activities at the campground such as hiking and swimming, or they can be local experiences such as horseback riding or visiting a local tourist attraction. 

When planning activities, plan ones your kids will surely enjoy. This not only enhances the experience for them, but it also keeps them from getting bored.

Leave time for resting and relaxation

It’s important to plan activities your kids will enjoy, but you don’t want to overdo it. This is true for anyone, but it’s especially true if you have younger children. 

Going from one activity to the next can lead to tired kids which in turn leads to grumpy kids. Having tired and grumpy kids can mean misery for everyone. Avoid this by having time in between activities where kids (and grownups) can rest, nap, relax, or have free time to do whatever they want. 

Pack plenty of wet wipes

Wet wipes are such a versatile tool on the campsite, especially when water is not easily accessible. Wipes can be used to clean hands, scrub dirt, wipe down tables, get sticky smores goop off everything, and when you there are no other options, can make a great shower alternative. 

Arrive with plenty of time

Try to arrive at your destination as early as possible. This gives you plenty of daylight and time to set things up, explore, find the facilities and have a little fun on the first night. 

If you arrive at night not only will you need to setup in the dark, you risk having to setup with a group of tired and grumpy children. You also miss a full day of fun. Showing up late can make the following days rushed and can be a really stressful way to start the trip.

Create a comfortable environment

Having a comfortable place for your children not only helps them get a good nights sleep but can improve their experience. Kids love having a place to hang out where they can sit to play games, beat the heat, warm up and go to sleep. 

Here are a few things you can do to make sure they are comfortable:

  • Pad the sleeping area (use air mattresses or sleeping bag pads)
  • Bring fans or tent safe heaters
  • Pack extra blankets
  • Layout towels or a rug to prevent too much dirt from making it into the sleeping area
  • Decorate (cool aesthetics will help a child enjoy their sleeping area and enhance their experience) 

Kids don’t need all the comforts of home, but you should at least provide them with a comfortable enough environment that allows them to enjoy themselves. 

Give kids the freedom to explore

Being outdoors and in nature is great for kids. Allowing them to explore, discover things and find ways to enjoy themselves. This is not only great for them, but it can help give parents a little bit of a break. 

With this freedom also comes increased responsibility. Let your children know that they will have a little more freedom than they would at home but they must respect where they are and the people around them. 

Having space and freedom while learning to respect what’s around us, is what allows our kids to grow and flourish.  

Pack foods they will love

Half of the fun of camping can be the food you eat. If you grew up camping, then chances are camping foods have a special place in your heart. 

Hot dogs cooked over a fire, smores, pie iron sandwiches, and foil dinners are just a few of the traditional camping foods that people love. 

Food can be a fun part of the trip but the most obvious aspect of camping foods is providing the fuel and energy to adventure on. It’s important to pack foods you know your kids will eat so that they have the energy to run around without being crabby.

When it comes to food you may also want to pack easy to prepare foods for the first day. That way when the tent is setup you can get your kiddos fed and ready to adventure.

Pre-prep as many meals as possible

Prepping meals ahead of time not only saves you time but can save you energy and frustrations while on your trip. You can prepare foil dinners or make sandwiches ahead of time. You can prepare foods like soup and freeze them ahead of time. Or you can opt for simple foods that require little prep. 

There’s nothing wrong with having a couple of extravagant meals out at the campground. But, for most meals you want to keep it simple so your family can go right back to their camping adventure.

Light up the camping area

There’s something about a well-lit campsite that enhances the magic of camping. Adding lights not only provides nice aesthetics to enjoy but it also aids in the safety on the campground because there is more visibility. 

There are a few ways you can add lights to your campsite. 

  • Provide lanterns for tents that can light up the inside of your tent and keep the fun going after dark. 
  • Use battery operated string lights to wrap around trees or your tent
  • Stake solar lights into the ground to create a walkway 
  • Supply lots of glow sticks to all the children because this is just fun

Your kids will love the way your campsite looks but as an adult you will be happy that you’ve created a safer place.

Pack fun entertainment

There’s often lots to do around a campground but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t allow kids to bring some of their favorite items from home. This helps them to entertain themselves and can add a fun dimension to the camping experience. 

Here are some ideas on fun things to bring:

  • Card games
  • Sports activities (balls, frisbees, etc.)
  • Movie projector 
  • Bikes
  • Bubbles
  • Water guns

Whatever you decide to bring is up to you. You likely won’t want to bring too much, but having a few extra items for kids to have fun throughout the day is a big help.

Pack plenty of snacks

Snacks on a camping trip are half fun and half necessity. For starters, who doesn’t love a snack? Part of the camping fun is the fun snacks you get to enjoy.

But more importantly, snacks can be a saving grace when it comes to dealing with children throughout the day. When kids get hungry they can get grumpy. And with all the extra running around they will be doing, chances are they will be much hungrier between meals then they normally are. 

You will want to pack snacks that are healthy, filling and convenient, but ones that your kids will love.  

Prepare for uncooperative weather

Just because the weather doesn’t cooperate doesn’t mean your trip is ruined. 

If it’s hot find creative ways to cool off such as a watergun fight or a swimming hole. 

If it’s cold then cuddle up in the tent and play games.

While rain, cold or extremely muggy weather isn’t the most ideal circumstances, planning ahead of time can allow you to make the most out of it.

Document your trip 

There’s nothing like sharing old stories and reliving your camping memories. As time goes on and as your children grow up or as life gets busy, we tend to forget about the fun experiences we shared in nature. Documenting your trip allows you to look back and spark the joy you felt when you were camping with your family.

  • Take pictures
  • Shoot videos
  • Save your maps and routes
  • Record a journal
  • Use an app or website (like this one) to save your memories.

Part of the fun of camping is going back over the memories. Resharing the laughs, reliving the experiences, and remembering the experiences you had. 

Make it memorable

As you are planning your trip, or in the midst of your trip. Look for opportunities to do something your kids will remember and cherish forever. 

  • Go on an adventure
  • Try something new
  • Do something to memorialize the trip

Too often parents make the mistake of wanting to relive their childhood fun that they don’t allow their kids to have their own memorable moments. Don’t worry, as a parent you will have the opportunity to do the things you loved when you were a child. Just make sure to give your kids a chance to make wonderful memories for themselves. 

3 keys for a memorable first time camping trip

As years go on, kids can learn to love camping or come to despise it. This is why it’s important for their first experience to be a fun and memorable one, so that they want to go back again and again. 

If you are taking your children on their first-ever camping trip, there are 3 keys that will help your kids fall in love with camping

  • Fun
  • Short
  • Simple

The goal for your children’s first camping experience should be for them. Don’t try to relive all your childhood memories on their first camping trip and don’t try to do too much. Keep things fun and keep the trip short. You want to pack all the essentials, but don’t overdo it. 

When you create a trip that is fun, short and simple, it gives them just enough camping experience to begin falling in love with it. This gives them just enough without being overwhelmed which builds excitement for their next camping adventure. 

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