Camping. It sounds so peaceful, so away from the business of life. And then you add kids. Camping with children doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can be a really fun experience for everyone and a chance to build memories that will last a lifetime.
I can’t remember a single family camping trip without small children in tow. I am the oldest of 8 and while my family didn’t really camp, us kids did in the backyard and once I got married my husband and I were both so busy that we didn’t camp till having children slowed us down. And so, I know camping as a very noisy, very snuggled up, extra-joyful family time.
Camping as a Family is Fun!
Bring along the nerf guns, beach pails, soccer ball or bug jars and identification books. Whatever it is your kids are into, plan on doing a lot of it. Together. Our family camping trips always include nerf-wars and multiple games of Frisbee. In the summer we camp near the lake and go for swims. We play till we all collapse around the campfire, and after a simple dinner and some homemade jerky the kids are ready for bed.
Safety Tips for Camping with Kids
When you get to your campsite, be sure to walk the perimeter of the ‘safe to play’ zone with your little ones. Help them understand that this is the area they can roam and play in and that crossing the line could be dangerous and will come with consequences like having to sit still by the fire or go to bed early. While your most adventurous will probably explore and cross that line, many children will be content to remain in the safe zone and having those boundaries laid out from the moment you arrive will help you enforce the ‘stay close’ instructions.
Identify Dangers Together
If there is poison ivy or oak near the campsite, show it to your kids. Ant mounds, deep holes in the ground and water areas are other things you’ll want to address.
When Camping with Kids, Set the Tent Close to the Fire
Not like dangerously close or anything, but close enough for comfort. Unless you plan to let the kids stay up half the night you’re going to want that tent close enough that you can hear their little voices from where you’re relaxing by the fire. Have the tent door face the campfire if possible so they can see you if they get up to check. You never want them to feel alone. Being able to hear your voices will comfort them.
Bring Comforts of Home to the Campsite
If this is your child’s first camping trip, roughing it is ok – but not to the point of leaving teddy and the familiar blanket or pillow at home. You may be ok with a slick sleeping bag and an old t-shirt and pair of sweats, but your little one is used to a routine, certain pajamas and a safety net of those special things she sleeps with. Bring them along. Trust me, everyone will be happier that way!
Handling Bedtime for Kids while Camping
I’m not even going to pretend this is a one-size-fits-all. I’m just going to tell you what works for us. Our boys have always slept in their own beds and have a routine that we follow every night. We bring the same things and do the same routine at camp. The first two times with our oldest I did go to bed with him at his bed time and laid with him till he fell asleep, then quietly left the tent to sit by the fire. After that we were able to say ‘It’s bed time’ and go through the routine, tuck him in and then he’d just stay, only calling out a time or two to make sure we were still just six feet away.