Camping with Kids
Camping with kids can be a blast! It can also be miserable. I come to you having experienced both of these scenarios and wanting to offer some tips so that you can have the best experience possible with your kiddos.
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Why Do I Need To Go Camping With Kids?
You might think it is crazy to go camping with kids. There is too much to plan, too much to pack, and too much to remember.
Why do it?
1. It helps the whole family unplug
The amount of screen time in the homes is on the rise. Sometimes it can be hard to fight against this. When you are camping, you can just unplug and enjoy each other and nature. Camping helps kids see that the world is fun and a beautiful place to explore and that they don’t need screens for entertainment.
2. It’s inexpensive
Many options for family travel are really expensive. Camping is not! You do need to spend some money initially on a tent and some basics, but once you have that, you are set. Campsites are very affordable.
3. Kids can learn basic survival skills
As parents, we can start showing our kids what kinds of leaves are poisonous, and what kinds of berries they should not eat. But they can also start to identify the things found in nature that are edible or have health benefits. They can learn how to start a fire. The really little kiddos will watch while you stack the wood and find the tinder, and when they get bigger, they can join in and participate.
4. It can instill the love of nature in our kids
I want my kids to find joy in nature. Just being outside can inspire awe in all of us, but especially in our little ones who get to experience it fresh and new . Creativity flourishes and adventure strikes excitement when outdoors. But this love of nature must be nurtured at a young age. Camping is the perfect way to show our kids the wonders around them.
5. It can provide lots of learning opportunities!
As your kids interact with nature, they will notice and observe many things. They will find bugs, cool rocks, and new plants and animals. Just today my daughter brought my husband her “special rock” that she found in our back yard. She saw beauty and uniqueness in a rock that has been overlooked a million times. It is so valuable to stimulate the imaginations and creativity of our children, and spending a weekend outside can do just that. Use your time together as an opportunity to teach them. And when you come home, they can continue learning about the discoveries they made on their camping trip!
Tips for Camping with Kids
Now that we have established why we should camp with our kids, let’s talk about some tips that can simplify the experience.
Don’t Go if Your Kiddo Doesn’t Sleep Well at Home
This may be basic and obvious, but it has to be said.
My hubby and I LOVED to go camping before we had kids. Once our daughter was born, we couldn’t wait to take her with us. The only things was…she HATED sleep. There is not much room in the tent to bounce and shush and walk in circles for half the night.
Avoid the pain, and just stay home. For now. They will outgrow it, and you will have plenty of chances to camp once they are sleeping better.
Check the Forecast
This is another basic one, but it’s easy to miss.
Check the weather for the location you will be camping at. Even if it’s just an hour or two away, the elevation can change and therefore the weather can too.
Check the hourly forecast as well. Days might be beautiful, but nights might be too chilly for tent camping.
Here in Georgia summers are hot, so the best times to camp are spring and fall. This also means that nights can be cold, and one must plan accordingly.
One of our fall camping trips included a very cold night and two kids that could not sleep because they were too frozen. Needless to say, the following morning, my husband and I were too exhausted to do any hiking or exploring, so we just headed home.
If you do plan on going car/tent camping when there is a cold night in the forecast, pack a portable heater and an outdoor extension cord. Many tents have a little opening in one of the corners that you can unzip and run your extension cord to plug into the electric post at your campsite. Now you don’t have to worry about you, your babes, or your pets getting cold at night!
Pack Everything You Need to Help Your Kids Sleep Well
I know, I know, everything so far has come back to good sleep. This is because if you have great sleep, everything else will fall into place. This is especially true if you have younger kids who are new to camping, or kids who really like their routine.
We normally prefer to pack minimally when we camp, but we definitely go all out when it comes to night time with kids. We take a pack-n-play for the baby and a cot for the preschooler, all 10 of their lovies (okay maybe just 4), and a white noise machine. Don’t forget toilet paper and a portable potty for the middle of the night bathroom wake-up.
Pack Things That Make Camping Life Easier
Well, that’s obvious, but what are the things that make camping with kids easier?
I am not going to include everything that we pack in this list, just the things that are lifesavers. Again, we try to pack minimally, but here are the things that I have found to be really helpful:
- Wipes-I know most moms of littles carry wipes everywhere, but even if you have older kids these are helpful. You can use these to clean hands (think s’mores!) or wipe up messes.
- A water jug-This does not seem like minimalist packing, but a water jug like this is a life saver! I try to avoid trips to the bathroom, unless necessary to actually use the bathroom. But all hand washing and teeth brushing can be done outside with the help of this jug!
- Soap-Again, this helps avoiding trips to the bathroom.
- Paper Towels-Can also be tinder in a pinch along with paper plates.
- A Large Towel-Take a towel you don’t care about because it is likely to get dirty. You never know what you might need it for, but you will be REALLY glad you have it once something comes up.
- Ziplock Bags-These come in handy for really dirty or wet clothes or food that needs to be packed up after dinner, snacks, etc.
Pack Light for a Camping Trip with Kids
While you DO want to pack the necessities, you don’t want to spend so much time packing that it makes the trip not worth it.
Give Yourself Enough Time for Set-Up
Make sure you leave early enough to have time to set up camp and eat dinner before it gets too late. Consider that everything takes longer with kids. You may have been really speedy in the past, but definitely add extra time for yourself, especially if your kiddos are little and will have a meltdown if they are not in bed at a certain hour.
How Do You Entertain Kids When Camping?
Kids are creative and can find amazing ways to entertain themselves without much help. But, if you are worried here are some things that can keep your kiddos busy:
- playing sports
- playing in the creek
- riding bikes
- skipping rocks
- going on a nature walk
- reading books in a hammock
- observing nature
- telling stories by the fire
- catching bugs
We try not to pack more than we’ll need and only food that is EASY. Maybe when our kids get older, we will plan more elaborate meals, but for now we stick with quick and simple!
We usually take bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. We can toast the bagels if we want to have a fire in the morning or just grab and run if we want to get going quickly. Bananas are an easy and healthy breakfast side.
Sandwiches are our go-to for lunch. We usually have popcorn, grapes, and cherry tomatoes (don’t forget to cut all round foods in half if you have little ones!) or cucumbers on the side.
To keep it simple, we usually do hot dogs and brats. We don’t eat this meal a lot, so it’s definitely a special treat for our kiddos… and us!
If you are super motivated and want to plan a healthier meal, this is great option. I have never tried it in the campfire, but have made it frequently at home in the oven. My husband has done many meals that are similar on his camping trips-just place the foil packet right on the coals that don’t have active flames. It is YUM. Make sure you pack some paper bowls if you go this route!
Camping Sweet Treats
Of course you can’t go camping without s’mores! Soooo good! Another alternative is banana boats. Equally yummy and amazing.
Take Your Kids Camping!
I hope this post has helped put some fears to rest and has given some useful tips for you to take on your camping trip! What are some of your favorite hacks for camping with kids?
If you are looking for more ways to enjoy the outdoors with your kids, check out this post about ways to go on nature walks with your kiddos. I even included a freebie! Who doesn’t love a freebie?
I’d love to connect! Leave a message below in the comments!