Camping is a popular activity that many families enjoy as a way to spend quality time together enjoying the great outdoors. If you’ve never tried this activity with your children, it is definitely something you should consider trying while your children are young.
When the proper preparations are made and you follow these fun and easy tips below, camping can be an experience that your family will never forget. It’s a wonderful way to make long lasting memories and to develop a love in your children for being outside.
One of the biggest mistakes that parents make when taking the children camping for the first time is not being prepared. Without the right preparation and the right outdoor equipment, camping with children can quickly turn into a nightmare, but don’t worry.
We have provided you with 10 great tips to follow that will ensure your camping experience is one that you and the children will want to duplicate again and again.
1. Get the Children Used to the Idea
If you’ve never gone camping before and the idea is totally new to your children, make sure you prepare them ahead of time. There are several ways that you can accomplish this. You can read camping themed books, do some family searches online for possible places to go, and let them ask questions. Allowing them to ask questions beforehand will give you insight as to what may be worrying them, especially if any of your children are afraid of the dark.
One of the first places you can practice camping out without worry or stress is your backyard. This is a great way to introduce your children to the concept of sleeping outside and will help them get used to the night sounds that nocturnal animals make. If you have any children that are afraid of the dark, make sure you have plenty of light on hand. Some fund ways to bring light to the campsite at night is with glow sticks.
Glow sticks are the perfect way to distract the children from being afraid because they will usually be too busy waving them around. Make sure to have portable night lights, flashlights and child-safe lanterns as well. Giving each child their own flashlight to hold, especially when it’s time to go into the tent and sleep, can ward off any fears they may be having.
2. Car Camping Trips are Much More Fun for Families
Even though it may sound like it, car camping does not mean you are camping in the car. What this term refers to is going camping in a place where you can drive up to your campsite and park next to it.
There are tons of places across the US that offer car camping. The majority of campgrounds are car camping sites where each camper has their own campsite, parking spot, picnic table and sometimes even a grill.
It’s recommended as a good camping choice for families, especially those with younger children because you don’t have the worry of the children becoming too tired to make the hike for a more remote location.
If you need extra room for gear, consider a roof rack. This will keep the interior of the vehicle free for people and still allow you to carry what you need.
By making your first family camping trip a car camping trip, you will be able to pack the car with any extra necessities and not have to worry about loading down backpacks too much. Unless you have older children, you may want to make all your family camping trips car camping trips.
You will find that the convenience of having the car right there next to the site where you can load it will all that you need or may need, takes a lot of the stress that camping with children has the potential to create.
3. Checklists are a Must-Have
It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of going camping and lose track of some of the necessary items you should bring with you. The best way to make sure you don’t forget anything is to make checklists.
Going camping with children requires a large amount of gear. Checklists are the perfect way to make sure that you pack everything you want and need to bring to make the camping trip special, fun and stress-free.
Since you will more than likely know several weeks in advance when you are going camping, you have plenty of time to write out thorough camping checklists without having to rush. Print out the checklist once it is made and mark things off as you pack them.
Having an older child in charge of marking things off the list can help them feel important and gets them involved in the preparation process. Make sure you double check the list before you leave on your trip.
4. Packing Food Practically and Wisely
You want to be prepared when it comes to going camping with your children but that doesn’t mean you have to pack the entire kitchen.
There are ways to streamline the things you take along with you that will make it more efficient and simpler when you’re at the campsite.
Having a good camp stove is very important and will make mealtimes much easier.
We have provided a few suggestions on ways to streamline your packing so you can include everything you will need and want to bring.
- Portion out the meals ahead of time for each person so there aren’t any leftovers to worry about. This also makes the cooking process much easier. For example, if you plan on having foil packets for dinner one night, pre-make them ahead of time ahead for each person rather than carrying bulk hamburger and vegetables and then assembling them at the campsite.
- Get some mustard, mayo and ketchup packets instead of carrying bottles around. It prevents insects from getting into the condiments and it makes it much easier to manage. It also prevents waste.
- If you will be cooking anything that requires spices, put the spices in small plastic containers and leave the actual spice containers at home. Moisture can ruin spices so they are much better protected in plastic containers or baggies.
- Make sure that you label all spices and cooking oils so they don’t get confused with toiletries that you may be carrying in plastic bottles or containers as well. Making sure all food items are labeled will prevent any confusion or mistakes.
- When packing the food for your camping trip, make sure to group the different meals together. This helps you keep track of the food items so everyone’s meals are accounted for and makes preparation simple. You can pack the different meals in grocery bags; just make sure that each individual serving is packages in Ziploc baggies or foil, one for each person at the campout.
- It is also important to pack plenty of drinks and snacks as well. Being outdoors and being active can increase appetites, so allow for this by bring extra snacks and beefing up the meal sizes a little bit. Include snacks like fruit, granola bars, and other food that is easy to hold and easy to store. Storage containers are a must and make packing food much easier.
- Some ideas for camp dinners include hobo dinners (hamburger, carrots, potatoes wrapped up in a foil packet and cooked in the fire) Hot dogs, chili, Mac N Cheese with cut up hot dogs or ground beef and walking tacos are a few delicious suggestions. (Walking tacos are tacos that are assembled in small bags, one for each camper, and include the beef, chips, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese in the bag all mixed up.) Sour cream and salsa can be added as well.
5. Bring the Appropriate Baby Items
Camping with super young children is possible if you bring the right gear. If your child sleeps in a crib at home, the camping trip is not the time or place to introduce them to sleeping outside of it. Bring a portable pack n play for them to sleep in and everyone will be guaranteed a good sleep. It is a bulky item, but when car camping it’s super easy to just remove it from the car and set it up at the campsite.
The pack n play is a great place to contain the baby while the rest of the family is setting up the tent and the rest of the campsite. It is a good idea to get mosquito netting for the top of the crib which will protect the baby from getting bitten by insects, but ensure that this netting is designed for this purpose and that it doesn’t put the baby at risk in any way. Never leave the baby unattended in the pack n play even for a couple of minutes.
6. Be Prepared for Bathroom Activities
If any of your children are in the potty training stages, bring along the portable camping toilet. It is much better to have this on hand rather than having to run them to the public facilities every time they need to use the bathroom. It also makes overnight bathroom trips much less frightening and more convenient for you.
If you have a selection of campsites where you have chosen to go, look for a site that is convenient to the public bathrooms and showers. This is much more appealing for families and a lot easier than being a long distance away.
Don’t forget to bring sanitizing wipes to wash their hands with after using the potty and clean the potty as soon as possible after it is used so there are no odor problems or flies to contend with.
7. Playtime Activities for the Kids
Being prepared for downtime during campouts is for the sanity of the parents as much as it is for the kids.
Even though they will want to spend plenty of time playing in any nearby streams and gathering sticks and rocks, at night they will not be able to do this.
This is when the activity box you’ve packed will be a real lifesaver. Include items such as playing cards, board games, coloring books and crayons, bubbles, sand toys, reading books, small trucks and cars, and other items.
For boredom during the day, bring along footballs, kickballs, volley balls, jump ropes, Frisbees and other sporting equipment that they can run around with. You can also bring arts and crafts supplies so they can make crafts.
A fun activity is making nature crafts with some of the things that they find around the campsite.
Another fun idea is bringing along a notebook for each child so they can make a nature journal, make bark or leaf rubbings on paper and other fun nature crafts.
8. More Kids Equals More Fun
One of the best moves you can make when taking your children camping is to go along with another family with kids, especially kids they are friends with. This is a two-fold benefit since it gives the adults other adults to talk to as well. It is recommended to get side by side campsites and not try and all stuff onto one site. Camping with friends is a lot of fun, camping with friends on top of you is not.
9. Be Prepared for Accidents
It may sound like paranoia, but being prepared for the occasional scraped knee or insect bite is crucial to having a good camping experience. This is even more important if any of your children have allergies. Make sure that you have a fully stocked first aid kit that includes epi pens, sunscreen and sunscreen for children, cortisone, calamine lotion, children’s ibuprofen, cold and cough medicine, band aids, wound cleaner, bandages, antibiotic cream, allergy medicine, stomach medicine, diarrhea medicine, cough drops and packs of tissues. It is always better to be prepared for any kind of accident or illness since things can come up suddenly. Having the right things on hand can enable the camping trip to continue, barring any major illness that would need medical attention.
10. Don’t Scrimp on the Tent
If you are buying a tent for the first time, you will want to get a tent with plenty of room for the whole family.
Stuffing everyone into a small tent will make all of you miserable so splurge on the biggest tent you can afford. You want the tent to be well made and sturdy so it holds up in rainy or windy weather as well.
There are many different sizes of tents from single, one person tents to super large 2-4 room family tents that can be divided off so the parents and kids each have their own section.
It’s a good idea to do a run through in the yard before you take the tent out to the campsite. Set it up in the backyard, letting the kids practice with setting it up and taking it down properly.
Look for tents that are water proof and plan on bringing the right bedding as well. Sleeping bags are great for kids but adult bodies need the extra comfort of air mattresses so make sure that the tent you choose can accommodate these air mattresses for the two adults plus good quality sleeping bags for the kids. If the kids are older, you can get two tents and set them up with the doorways facing each other for safety purposes.
Be prepared for rain with a good tarp, some duct tape for any tears or rips, and other supplies that you may need to make the camping trip a comfortable one. Preparation is the key to having a great camping experience that will last their lifetimes. When it goes well, camping is a very addictive activity. Following the above suggestions will make it fun for the adults as well as the children.