Camping is a terrific way to introduce a child to the world of nature. Everything-playing, eating, sleeping, learning-is done under the sun and the clouds and the moon and the stars. More than a fun vacation (although it should be that, too), it’s a chance to learn lifelong skills and experience nature outside of everyday routines.
Also, camping is one of the more affordable trips families can take. Sleeping in campgrounds is much less expensive than staying at a motel or hotel. Activities such as hiking, fishing, and exploring nature are not as pricey as amusement-park admission fees. And since you’re cooking your meals at the campsite, the high cost of eating in a restaurant is avoided.
Camping with Toddlers
Babies can be great campers, as long as you’re prepared to limit your outdoor activities and can address their special requirements (crib, stroller, formula, diapers, etc.).
Toddlers especially appreciate exploring a new environment. They love to get dirty and wet, collect leaves and rocks, and watch wildlife and insects.
Camping with School-Aged Children
Elementary school-age children are typically enthusiastic campers, anxious to learn about the outdoors, help with the chores, and participate in all camping activities.
They like to swim, hike, build fires, and roast hot dogs. And they can’t resist hearing a good ghost story or tall tale about falling stars or wild animals.
Well, you’re on your own there. Some teens like to camp, especially if it’s an annual family vacation routine. Others consider it a drag and will take every opportunity to remind you of it.
Try to involve teens in every aspect of the trip: deciding where to go, what to take, what to eat, what to do. Let them bring a friend and give them a little more freedom than they get at home.
They’ll be much better company during group activities and meals if they know they’ll be able to go off and hike, fish, or swim on their own later.
Essential Tips for Camping with Kids
Here are some tips on how to ensure that all have a fun, rewarding vacation:
Expect Short Attention Spans
By staying a step or two ahead of the kids in the planned activities department, you can keep them from getting bored or into trouble. Unlike adults, kids need action on vacation.
Plan activities and games to keep them occupied. That means staying prepared by knowing what the next fun event will be an activity that will inspire or distract a restless child.
Tips for Tent Camping with Kids
Tenting with toddlers is a little different from tenting with grown-ups. You should carry a big popup instant tent or cabin tent with a proper room for your entire family. Choose something that gives protection in cold and rain and also has proper air inside.
Inspire your kids to play inside it during the daytime and get a bit comfy with it. Go early to bed and make some jokes and stories with them. They will enjoy camping activities and love the tent.
Bring the Right Gear and Games
What you pack partly depends on where you’ll be camping and what your children like to do. Are you camping at a sandy lake with toddlers?
Then buckets, shovels, sieves, rc toy trucks, and plastic molds are in order. Will you be sleeping on top of a mountain? Then binoculars, a telescope and star chart, a magnifying glass, and an altimeter are re be a river nearby? Then bring along a fishing rod.
No matter where you go, pack along a ball, a Frisbee, a pack of cards, pens, and paper, or crayons and coloring pads for younger kids.
Photographing Camping with Kids
Have a still or video camera ready to capture the moment. Photographs or videos of your family in the outdoors-hiking up a mountain, catching a fish, taking down the tent-will go a long way toward helping your kids hang on to memories of the last trip and build up a head of steam for the next.
Let Your Kids Help with the Practical Stuff
When you’re camping, there are essential campground tasks that must be done, such as setting up camp, building a fire, cooking dinner-and kids would rather be involved than just watch you do everything.
Show them how to help put up the tent, collect sticks for the campfire, add water, stir the pancake mix, and read a compass.
Let Your Kid Play During the Camping
Help your children learn, but also let them play. Spending time outdoors provides the opportunity to teach them outdoor skills and safety, campground ethics, even some lessons about life.
While teaching them to pick up after themselves (and others and to respect the outdoors is very important, remember that taking your children to the woods, mountains, or dessert doesn’t have to be strictly an educational experience, this is first and foremost a vacation and kids need to relax, too.
Give Importance to Their Viewpoint
Let them have a say in the agenda. It’s everybody’s trip. Listen to what the kids want to do and don’t want to do.
If a hike is planned and want to spend the day swimming or tossing a Frisbee instead, let the majority rule. Follow their lead sometimes, go with their flow, let the adventure happen.
Set Rules for Acceptable Behavior
Giving the youngsters a say in the agenda doesn’t mean letting them run wild. Rules and limits are essential to ensure kids’ safety and their consideration for other campers.
Let them know what behavior is acceptable around a campfire, how close they can come to a cliff or wildlife, and why it’s important to stay within sight.
Prepare Kids for the Ups and the Downs
Enthusiasm is a key ingredient for a successful camping trip, but letting children become excessively excited can backfire when things don’t go their way.
If it rains or is unseasonably cold, if the fish aren’t biting, or if one of them twists an ankle or catches a cold, it could ruin the whole experience for them.
Tell them about the possible negative and positive aspects of the trip; that way, they’ll be better prepared for whatever little disasters or disappointments come their way.
Checklist for Camping with Kids
When planning a camping trip with the kids, remember a few simple rules:
- Tailor the trip to their capabilities.
- Focus on their interests.
- Adjust to their limitations, which are generally defined by their age and development level.