Tips for Camping with Kids
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Last updated: February, 2024
Camping with kids can be an exhilarating and memorable experience for the entire family. However, it requires careful planning and consideration to ensure a smooth and enjoyable adventure. From choosing the right destination to packing the essentials, here are some valuable tips to make your camping trip with kids a resounding success.
Selecting a Kid-Friendly Campsite
Choosing the right campsite is crucial when camping with kids. Look for family-friendly campgrounds that offer amenities like playgrounds, easy hiking trails, and nearby water sources. National and state parks often provide excellent options with designated family camping areas.
Plan Activities for All Ages
To keep everyone entertained, plan a variety of activities suitable for different age groups. While older kids may enjoy hiking or fishing, younger ones might prefer nature scavenger hunts or simple arts and crafts. Engaging activities will help make the camping experience enjoyable for everyone.
Although it’s not free, camping is one of the most affordable family vacation options. If you’ve never gone camping before, borrowing equipment from friends or family is a great way to give it a try without breaking the bank. Additionally, you can give a nearby outdoor retailer a call to find out if they rent out any equipment for first-time campers.
Camping with kids can be done primarily in two ways: in a tent or a trailer. An RV or trailer needs much more money upfront. A car that can tow the trailer is required, and renting one can be expensive. Even if you choose to buy a tent, you can typically find an entry-level model for about two hundred dollars, which will last for many yearly camping trips. This makes camping with kids the most economical option.
Additionally, you’ll need a sleeping pad to place between you and the ground as well as sleeping bags. For added comfort, certain campers prefer foldable cots or air mattresses; however, these items are more expensive.
Eating is the other major area where you’ll need to purchase, borrow, or rent specialized equipment, after sleeping. You absolutely need a portable barbecue or camp stove. The most common kind of stove is a portable, foldable gas stove. Don’t forget to bring along a small gas canister for the stove. You’ll need a cooler to keep food fresh and cold. It’s easy to quickly fill the cooler with store-bought ice, but when it melts, it can create a mess.
Try to save a few two-liter plastic bottles or empty milk jugs. Place these jars in your freezer and fill them with water a few days prior to your camping trip. They will have solidified into ice packs by the time you pack the cooler, keeping your food cold for three or four days while preventing messing as it melts.
Family headlamps or flashlights are another useful piece of equipment; they make it simpler to brush your teeth and use the restroom before bed. Collapsible camp chairs are also a great addition to any gathering around the fire in the evening, and it’s likely that you already have one that you bring to your children’s sporting events.
The youngest campers are typically big fans of kid-sized camping chairs. You might also want to consider getting a screen tent if you intend to make camping a regular family outing. This kind of tent can be used to cover a cooking or eating area to keep you dry in the rain or to keep insects out while you eat. It has four mesh sides.
It’s a good idea to consider your kids’ entertainment as well. That may seem contradictory, especially considering that you and your children are camping. However, consider toys that encourage exploration and provide them with entertainment more. A list of all the local animals that can be seen through binoculars could be made.
And they might get rewarded with something like an extra handful of candy if they locate them all. Alternatively, you could educate them about space and constellations using a telescope. If your older child is interested in science, you could assist them in investigating microorganisms, like the tiny insects on leaves or the appearance of a dust particle under a microscope.
Teach Leave No Trace Principles
Instill a sense of environmental responsibility in your children by teaching them the Leave No Trace principles. Emphasize the importance of picking up trash, respecting wildlife, and minimizing your impact on the natural surroundings. Encouraging these practices ensures a sustainable and enjoyable outdoor experience for future generations.
Plan for Weather Changes
Weather in the great outdoors can be unpredictable, so be prepared for unexpected changes. Pack rain gear, and extra layers, and consider bringing a pop-up shelter for additional protection. Staying dry and comfortable will contribute significantly to the overall enjoyment of the camping trip.
Putting Children to Sleep
One of the main things that keeps parents from taking their children camping is the fear of bedtime disasters. You must acknowledge before you leave that sleeping in a tent outside will not be the same as going to bed at home. First of all, kids will undoubtedly find sleeping in a tent to be very exciting, and they will want to explore the tent thoroughly before they consider going to sleep.
Giving kids lots of playtime inside the tent during the day can be a good idea, as the novelty factor may have worn off by the time it’s time for them to crawl into their sleeping bags. And the thrill is still there. Toddlers can engage in sensory play during tent playtime. Permit them to investigate the various materials, sounds, and textures within the tent. Their little minds will become exhausted from exploring new textures and sounds, and getting them ready for bed.
Making sure the kids get plenty of exercise before bed is another piece of advice. If the playground at your campground is available, think about stopping by to let them burn off some steam on the way back from the restrooms. They can become exhausted from bike rides, hikes, swimming, exploring the outdoors, and making new friends at the playground after an active day outside.
The fact that camping is usually done in the summer when the sun sets later in the evening and that a tent lacks blackout curtains makes it a challenging place to sleep outside with small children. If children have an early bedtime, this makes it difficult to get them to sleep. You may attempt using a cloth sleep mask, but you may need to adjust your bedtime to a later hour.
It’s not the end of the world to devise a hybrid camping strategy if you’re camping close to home and have a picky eater. For instance, you might believe your older child could manage bedtime routines even though your toddler struggles with them. One parent could take the challenging sleeper home after supper and spend the night in their comfortable bed, while the other parent stayed at the campsite and shared a tent with the other child. You can take a morning drive back to the campsite to spend time together before packing up and leaving.
Camping with kids requires flexibility, as plans may need to adapt to the needs and interests of your little adventurers. Be open to changes and go with the flow, allowing for spontaneous moments and unexpected discoveries that make camping truly special.
Capture the Memories
Bring a camera or smartphone to capture the special moments during your camping trip. Documenting the adventure will not only provide lasting memories but also create a visual story for your family to reminisce about for years to come.
Camping with kids can be a rewarding experience that fosters a love for the outdoors and creates lasting family memories. By carefully planning, considering the needs of all family members, and embracing the spirit of adventure, you can ensure a successful camping trip that will be cherished by your family for years.