Camping With Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Parents
It’s true that camping can be fun for the whole family, and it can result in happy memoires for many years to come. If you do it right, it can even be a nice family tradition. But “doing it right” isn’t as simple as it seems. Lots of parents have said that it can be a rather harrowing experience filled with frustration and frayed nerves.
At the same time, you also have to think about safety considerations. Some of the activities that kids may think are fun may actually be dangerous. So balancing fun with safety is going to be one of your tasks.
Kids can be a lot of work, but if you’re a parent you already knew that. Still, you can make sure the family camping trip is actually a treat for the adults and the kids in your family.
Before you go hiking to a remote campsite, you may want to take it easy first if your family is a newbie to camping. You may want to practice camping at home or in your backyard, just to give everyone a fair idea of what’s in store for each one.
You can then all practice pitching your tent. You then have to figure out how to cook your meals, or how you can get coffee without your high-end coffee espresso machine in the kitchen.
Kids may want to experience what it feels like to sleep in a sleeping bag. Heck, this may even be the first time they spend the night without TV. You may even want to have your kids try to spend time without their smartphones, in case you camp out where there’s no signal or no way to recharge a phone.
Your trial camping adventures may also include an overnight stay in one of the local parks nearby. Find one at a lakeshore and see how your kids react to nature without the electronic diversions they’re used to.
During these trial runs, take note of what transpires so you can improve matters. Your notes can remind you to bring spare batteries for your flashlight, to bring thermal underwear, or to leave the portable drum kit at home.
Prepare for Your Camping Trip
Before your camping trip, make sure you exhibit the appropriate level of enthusiasm for the adventure. You should be excited about it, or else your kids won’t be. If you think it’s a chore, then your kids won’t really look forward to it.
It’s best if you make a checklist of all the things you will need. You should have your own “camping with kids” checklist too, with the items your kids want to bring.
If you’re bringing a baby along, then you also need special baby camping gear. Aside from the baby bottles and appropriate clothes, you may want to bring along toddler camping gear such as a child carrier for hiking,
It’s better if you also have your kids involved in your camping preparations. Kids like it when they’re consulted, and they may have ideas that may prove useful. Certainly, their ideas on board games and other activities to ward of boredom will be crucial. You may even want their input on which campgrounds you visit, so that if they’re bored at least they won’t blame you—they chose it!
Just call the site authorities first to see if you’re allowed to have campfires in your camping trip. Kids love campfires, but not all camping sites allow them. It can be quite disappointing for children when they’ve brought along kebabs, hotdogs, and smores they can cook over a campfire, when such a campfire isn’t allowed.
If possible, you may want to go camping with another family with kids, preferably kids the same age as your kids. In fact, you may want to check whether the families of the friends of your kids like to go camping too. If they’re already friends, then you know they’ll get along.
You should also have your kids pack their own stuff, helped along with a list you’ve come up. This teaches them responsibility, plus they decide what toys to bring. Everything will add to the total weight they have to carry, so they can learn to prioritize and decide on what items to bring. Kids should also have a duffel bag for their personal items, and each duffle bag should be in a different color for easy identification.
Once they’ve packed their gear, you should still double-check their work. After all, they’re still kids.
Once you’re there, you should maintain a positive outlook throughout the whole experience. You’re old enough to realize that some things will go wrong no matter what. There will be lots of inconvenience. If you’re upbeat, then your kids will be too.
There will be work to be done, and your kids should help out. Again, it makes them feel involved. You can have them assist with the tent pitching, or they can gather firewood or collect water. Just make sure you acknowledge their efforts with sincere thanks, though the younger ones may enjoy a treat.
It’s important, however, that things be and remain organized. Items should have their own storage spaces, and you may want to label those spaces to help people remember what these storage spaces contain. Remind everyone, especially the kids, to return every item they got back to where they it.
Everyone should remember where you pitched your tent before they wander off to explore. It’s best if you follow the buddy system where no one goes off alone. On the first day, you may want to go off together to explore the camp site so that you can point out the landmarks to your kids. One of these landmarks may be a good designated area to head to should anyone get lost.
You may also want to ask park rangers about any wildlife activity, and ask for any tips and precautions. If there are wild animals around, emphasize to your kids about not approaching and feeding them.
If there’s a signal for smartphones in your campsite, then you can have maps as well as other apps to keep track of your kids. You can also just have them report to you every now and then so you know they’re safe.
Each kid should have a whistle and a flashlight wherever they go. Better if these things have lanyards attached so you can tie them to their belt loops. They should also have a card with details about your camp and your contact info, so that if they get lost and find other people these people can find you.
Of course, as a parent it’s your responsibility to make sure your child received proper nutrition. But on your first camping trip with a campfire, you may want to make things more fun for kids by preparing camping meals for kids.
You can even have them prepare these easy camping meals for kids themselves. They can cook their food on a stick over the fire. The camping food for kids can include:
- Stuffed peppers
- Campfire éclairs
- A ham and cheese sandwich
Games and Adventures
Kids can be a lot of trouble if they’re bored, and they can get into a lot of trouble too. So you have to make sure that they’re always doing something fun. It’s best, though, if you don’t have a rigid schedule for fun activities, since kids hate that sort of thing. They seem to want things to be more extemporaneous.
Do some research online about camping games you all can try. Have your kids do the research themselves so they can choose the games they want to play. That way, they have some say on what they do when you go camping and you have a better chance that they will enjoy themselves. Again, if they choose their own games to play, they can’t blame you if they don’t have fun when they play the games they chose themselves.
Also see if they want to bring along some of their toys. You may also want to buy new toys for outdoor adventures. Some of the more popular toys are water pistols and guns, especially if you’re camping near a lake. Getting wet is par for the course when you’re camping, though you need to make sure you brought along enough clothes.
Still, you can go out with them on short nature walks to check out the local wildlife. You can point out various bugs and plants, and when you’re resting you can even talk about the cloud formations and the constellations. Geocaching is also quite popular, as it’s a treasure hunt using the GPS on their beloved smartphones.
You may think that camping with the entire family when you have kids is too much trouble. In a way, you’re right. If you’re thinking about getting some romantic time with your spouse, forget about it.
But camping with kids makes for lasting memories. That’s especially true nowadays with everyone having a camera with their smartphones. It helps create tighter family bonds, and it reminds everyone that family is the most important of all your possessions.