I have so many childhood memories of camping. Our family went every summer with my aunt, uncle and cousins and it was always so much fun. As a parent now, I can really appreciate everything my parents and aunt and uncle did to pull off these trips with a total of 8 kids in tow! Camping with kids is definitely an adventure! It requires a lot of planning and even more patience. But the experience of exploring the great outdoors with your kids, of seeing their delight and enthusiasm with each new discovery and just enjoying the simplicity of nature as a family is so rewarding.
Lincoln’s first camping trip happened when he was just 2 months old. Camping with newborns is actually pretty easy – they aren’t on a set schedule, they’re easy enough to tote around everywhere and other than a lot of diapers and some blankets, they don’t require too much else. Camping with more than one kiddo, and with toddlers, is a whole different story. We actually took a few years off of camping and instead went “cabining” (we rented cabins or houses near the areas where we usually like to camp), which is a good idea if you have a few that are under 4. We’ve now reached the stage where we feel like camping with kids won’t forever ruin camping for us and we’re excited to begin sharing our love of camping with the boys.
We actually had our first official tent camping experience with them last summer and the boys loved it! It was an amazing experience to get to see their excitement and joy over sleeping in a tent, being outdoors all day, kayaking and hiking. We’re excited to take another trip or two later this summer. Below are a few tips that we’ve found helpful when camping with kids.
Tips for Camping with Kids
- Practice camping at home – set up a tent in your backyard or even in the house and let your kids have a sleepover (or two or three) in it so they feel comfortable sleeping in there.
- Buy them their own special “camping” flashlight.
- When picking out a camp site, look for a kid friendly spot. Make sure it’s easily accessible (you don’t want to have a long hike in) and kid-friendly (look for ones that have playgrounds at them). It also might be a good idea to look for one with real toilets for their first time – a hole in a board toilet might be a lot to take in for their first trip.
- Get the kids involved with packing – make them their own checklist for things they need to pack.
- Get out a map and show the kids where you will be traveling to.
- Make sure to pack their own blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. A key to a better camping experience is sleeping as well as you can – so don’t skimp on their bedding when packing! The better they sleep – the better you sleep!
- Bring glow sticks – these are great for keeping track of where your kiddos are at night and for keeping in the tent as night lights.
- Travel with family or friends that have kids the same age. It will keep the kiddos occupied and give you adults to hang out with!
- Be sure to bring lots of toys, games and activities for the kids. Plan for rainy days!
- Bring lots of snacks – plan for the car ride to the camp site and back home, as well as the days there.
- Have them help at the camp site – collect fire wood, getting water, putting stakes in while setting up the tent…
- Bring along a nature journal for the kids to document all the new wildlife they see. Bringing along a field guide might be good too so you can help identify what they’ve found.
Also, just remember it’s never going to be as perfect as you wanted it to be. There will most likely be tears (maybe from both kids and adults), there will be whining and fighting. It will be exhausting. But those bad parts will fade from memory…or turn into laughable moments down the road. You’ll be left with sweet memories that you and kiddos will always cherish!
How about you…did you ever camp as a kid? Have you taken kids camping before? Any good suggestions to add to this list?