Kids love camping. From tents and fires to marshmallows and beef jerky, there are many reasons to bring young children camping. A vacation with mother nature allows the kids time to reconnect with the earth while keeping them away from their screens.
However, many parents might shudder at the idea of being trapped in the woods with young children. Kids can get bored, lost, hurt, or just plain annoyed if you show up at a campsite without a plan or strategies to keep them engaged.
Fortunately, camping offers a multitude of options for fun and engagement, whether you are camping with toddlers or teenagers. These tips for camping with kids will not only help you survive a camping trip with kids but enjoy it as well.
Plan your trip with the kids
When planning your camping trip, involve your children. Kids love to help and feel like big kids or adults. Get online and show them pictures of possible campsites, parks, roads, and attractions.
For older kids, you can look at maps and plan hiking excursions. Teenagers might respond to the challenges of doing a difficult hike to see a waterfall or a mountaintop. Allowing teenagers a say will help them be more engaged and less likely to say, “I’m bored”.
If your kids are completely unfamiliar with camping, get out your camping gear and set the tent up together in the living room. Get out the camping stove and cook a meal outside. You can even sleep in sleeping bags in the backyard or just in their bedrooms. All the preparation builds excitement for little ones and also prepares them for the camping experience.
Bring decent food
Your camping trip doesn’t need to be like an episode of Survivor. You are allowed to eat well, and everyone will be happier for it. Here are some camping food suggestions that are sure to make your kids, and the adults, happy:
- French toast
- Trail mix – lots of M&M’s
- Campfire granola
- Cinnamon buns – get the premade tube
- Dessert tortillas – chocolate chips, brown sugar, and butter in a tortilla
The options are endless. You don’t have to stuff your kids full of dried food for the first couple of camping trips. Eat delicious meals, and the kids will remember camping as a time they got to eat ridiculously good food.
Choose a kid-friendly campsiteNot all campsites are created equal. Some sites at certain parks are known for being “party” campsites, particularly campsites located near beaches or concert venues. You will want to avoid those sites during certain parts of the year. Park staff are usually very helpful if you aren’t sure if a site is kid-friendly or not. Give them a call.
When you camp, you want your kids to have options, so it is best to find out the answers to these questions before choosing a campsite:
- Is there a place to swim or a playground?
- Are there lots of easily accessed trails?
- Is there a fire pit, with wood available?
- Are there scenic attractions nearby?
Kids are great at entertaining themselves, but sometimes they need a little persuasion. Giving them lots of options for activities or things to see ensures they won’t be complaining of boredom.
Make it fun
Beyond providing activities and good food, you can make your child’s camping trip memorable by simply adding a few extra, fun touches that kids will enjoy.
One of the main discomforts of camping is the tent. Sleeping on the ground, even with a pad, isn’t as nice as a bed. You can mitigate this discomfort by bringing an extra large tent, or a separate one for teenagers. Make sure you have sleeping pads and pillows galore, as this will make kids comfier, and happier.
The campfire is always a big to do. Involve kids by getting them to find kindling, then let them help build and start the campfire. Tell ghost stories, or fairy tales for the more sensitive ones, or use it as a time to listen to your teenagers. When was the last time your family just sat around and talked?
The fire is also a great time to make treats and making bannock should be a highlight. The recipe is simple and involves kids eating delicious dough off a stick – what could be better?
A learning experience
Camping is more than just a vacation; it is an opportunity to get away from regular life and slow down. While adults understand the value of “getting away,” kids might not. Kids camping might not understand the beauty of the fauna and flora around them, so use your trip as an educational opportunity.
When out hiking, point out interesting features like a pretty flower or strange bug. Make a big deal out of finding a strange piece of fungus on a tree, or finding a little stream with a waterfall. Your kids will feed off your enthusiasm and, before long, they will be off on their own looking for a weird bug or a fallen log to walk on.