Before we were married, my wife & I used to enjoy camping separately. We had never camped together until we had children. Camping with children can be a wonderful experience. Being in nature, awesome scenery, fresh air, and your kiddos; it doesn’t get much better. A friend of ours gave us an old pop-up camper and we decided to join them and give it a try. To ensure everyone has a good time, we have compiled some tips for a successful trip.
Before you go
- Before hauling the family out into the middle of nowhere, try a trial run at home. Set up a tent in the backyard and let them experience the sounds of sleeping in a tent.
- Take a family day out at a nearby lake or park and see how they do out in nature. Show them some of the cool things about their surroundings to help keep their interest.
- Take notes. Did you forget anything? Is there something you should bring on your campout? Write it down, it helps.
Preparing for Your Trip
- Involve the children. Let them help pick where to go, what to do, what they want to see. This will keep them invested and help hold their interest.
- Let them pack. Give the children a list, and let them pack their own gear. Naturally, you will want to double check their gear so they don’t forget something critical.
- Let them bring a few toys. Some toys from home can make the kids feel more comfortable. I certainly wouldn’t bring anything small that could easily get lost; but some favorites will help them enjoy the trip for sure.
- If you get the chance to camp with friends who have children, they will keep each other entertained. That’s what we did when we joined our friends. The kids all had a blast.
- Check for fire restrictions. The forest can sometimes get put on fire restriction in the summer. Make sure there are no restrictions where you are heading. Some of the best memories are around the campfire (s’mores, marshmallows, songs…)
- Most importantly, be enthusiastic. Let the children know by your actions that you are as excited about the trip as they are.
- Be prepared. Everything in camp is different. Change is sometimes difficult for kids. The bathroom isn’t just down the hall, there is no night light to turn on, etc. You have to be ready for almost anything. The best way to be prepared is to make sure you bring everything on your list. If you need a list, click here.
- A positive attitude about everything will take you far. Lead by example with a positive attitude and others are bound to follow.
- Get organized. Establish a place for everything. “Flashlights are in this pocket”, “kitchen supplies are over here”, you get the idea. Once you have an organization plan, stick to it.
- Know your place. Make sure the children know what campsite you are in and how to get back case they stray from camp.
- Be safe. Make sure the kids know what to do if they get lost. We gave each kiddo a whistle to wear around their necks and usually dressed them in a bright shirt. We taught them that if they get lost, to stay put and blow their whistles. Thankfully, we never had to test this system.
- Enlist the camp host or park rangers. Ask them about wildlife in the area to be on the lookout for. It is your responsibility to be sure to store food so that the wildlife doesn’t make a surprise visit. We had one camp host have the kids look for pine cones that squirrels had eaten and to bring her a bucket full. Once they returned with the bucket, she gave them some paints and blocks to create art with.
- Make the most of being outside. Look for wildlife, learn about the local vegetation, go on a family hike. While on a hike, take a moment to stop and listen. What do you hear? What sounds are different than at home? Attend a ranger talk if there is one. Lay outside at night and look for constellations, you may see a shooting star!
- Be active, stay flexible. Be sure to do as much as you can at camp, but be flexible to plans that change. If someone gets tired, take a break. Be flexible in your plans for the trip. If you miss a ranger talk, no big deal.
- Try geocaching. While you are at camp, try this. There are sometimes great caches around campsites.
- Enjoy your family. Some of my fondest memories are camping as a Boy Scout with my dad and camping with my children. The best memories are made while at camp.
Fun Things You Can Bring
- When we camped in our pop-up camper, we always had crayons, paper and bubbles on hand.
- Sticks for roasting marshmallows. Bring the rest of the s’mores ingredients too!
- Frisbees, balls, flashlights, glow sticks. The kids couldn’t wait for darkness to come so they could play with the glow sticks.
- Ice cream maker. How much fun is it to make ice cream at camp? There are plenty of non-electric ones out there. We used this ball that housed the ingredients and mixed as the ball was rolled around. It actually worked pretty well!
- If you are camping in warm weather, squirt guns are fun if you don’t mind getting squirted (you know they will squirt you!)
- Bicycles. While you’re at camp, it’s super fun to ride around and see what the rest of the campground has to offer. Don’t forget helmets!
- A deck of cards. Card games are great fun at camp. Not only are card games fun, but a deck of cards doesn’t take up much room with all your other “stuff”. Uno was a favorite of ours.
Our children loved camping! They loved visiting different campgrounds and even some wilderness camping. We have all learned about the best things to bring & do and what to leave at home.
Spending time with the kids at camp is a blast. Children love being outside and exploring nature. You will love seeing nature through your kids’ eyes. Get out there, get your kids involved, & have fun!
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