After hearing my classmates excitedly talk about their summer camping plans, I knew it was time to convince my parents to finally take my sisters and me camping. And they did!!
Looking back, tenting that summer under the pine forest close to the picturesque Atlantic Ocean is one of my favourite childhood memories.
Camping is an excellent way for families to get away from daily demands and create fond memories.
Because I want your next camping trip to be a memorable one, I’ve compiled the ultimate guide to camping with kids!
Here’s a quick overview of what I’ll cover in this article
Where’s the best place to go with your kids?
When you have kids, you tend to be cautious about where you take your kids. You want a place that’s safe, enjoyable, and affordable.
You may find yourself asking questions similar to these:
Do I go where there’s water or is it safer to stay on dry land?
Do I go remote or is it better to stay in the public eye?
Does there need to be a swing or can we have fun being surrounded by nature?
There’s no right or wrong place to go. Every parent has to decide what is best for their family.
In addition to your kids’ safety, you want to consider your location, budget, and your kids’ ages and interests.
You can use Google Maps to locate all the campgrounds near you or in the area of your preference. Gather detailed information about these campgrounds before choosing your destination.
Camping should be affordable for your family. Some budgets allow for families to rent a cabin in a remote area; while others call for setting up tents on a mossy forest floor.
While location is important, it’s even more important to consider your kids’ ages and their interests. Keeping your plan age-appropriate can make your time away a fun time for everyone.
Yogi-Bear’s Jellystone Parks are excellent campgrounds for kids of all ages.
Unless you’re a highly adventurous parent, hiking a mile to a remote cabin may not be the best idea if you have a curious two-year-old in your midst; but a 12-year-old could find this a challenge to remember. If you are that adventurous parent, here are some tips on hiking with a baby or toddler.
You may want to consider campgrounds equipped with swings, slides, or shallow lake shores if you have kids under the age of 10. For older kids, you may need to consider places that give access to a variety of water sports such as wave-running, boating, surfing, or fishing; or other sports including a basketball court or a soccer field; or even trails that you can bike together.
Here are some more tips on finding the perfect location for your camping trip.
If you have a child that loves to explore, consider a more remote location that hasn’t been tampered with by human touch. Kids that love collecting shells or rocks will thrive on the shores of a lake or the ocean.
Keep in mind what you as the parent can--or want--to handle.
If you aren’t fit to hike, you’ll want to stick with a campground you can access with your vehicle. If ocean currents or water in general makes you nervous, maybe you’ll want to consider camping close to an amusement park instead.
If you’re new to camping, here are some basic tips on how to make your trip a great success.
What do you bring on your camping trip?
You may only be going for a few days or just a week, but you get paralyzed thinking about what to pack for your precious kids.
No need to panic!
I’ll cover some basics from the above list you may want to consider packing for your trip.
1. Bug Spray--Whether you’re going to the ocean or the forest, this is a must to ward off those pesky mosquitos and sandflies. (For those of you into essential oils, click here for alternative options.)
2. Sunscreen & After Sun Lotion--The sun gives your body Vitamin D; however, too much sun exposure (aka a nasty sunburn) can end the fun on your camping trip. Applying sunscreen can limit the sunburns, and after sun lotions can soothe any sunburns that your kids do get. There are a few natural sunscreen alternatives that you may want to consider for your little ones.
5. Appropriate Clothing--If you’re going to have fun in the water, don’t forget the swimwear and beach towels. If you’re planning to go hiking, you’ll want to be sure to pack your kids’ comfortable hiking shoes and multiple pairs of socks in case one pair gets wet along the way. Sometimes the evenings can get rather chilly; be sure to pack at least one hoodie, one pair of long pants and perhaps even a fuzzy blanket to keep your child warm around the campfire.
6. Toys--You’ll want to to consider taking a few important toys: water toys such as noodles, tubes, and floaties; or balls--a basketball, soccer ball, or beach ball; or that teddy bear your youngest can’t sleep without; or any other toys needed for your planned activities (see below).
7. Bedding--Blankets or sleeping bags/Liner, pillows, and air mattresses may be on your list to pack.
8. Flashlights and Batteries--When your kids need to go pee in the middle of the night, you’ll be quite thankful you remembered these.
Before you start packing, it’s recommended that you take time to sit down in a quiet place to make a list of what you want to pack. Then have that list readily available while you’re packing to make sure you don’t forget the most important things.
Want to turn your camping trip to a Glamping trip? Click on the image above to view a list of some luxury camping gear and accessories.
What kind of activities can you plan for the trip?
Kids do well when they have a schedule of activities planned. There tends to be less chaos and trouble-making when kids know what to expect and what is expected of them.
When you plan the activities, think of your kids’ ages and where you’re planning to camp.
Here is a list for some great activity ideas for your kids.
Kids enjoy learning and discovering new things. For kids around ages 4 to 9, consider planning activities such as doing scavenger hunts, looking for bird’s nests, building sand castles, or something as simple as collecting different leaves, shells or rocks.
Hiking, biking, and fishing are activities your 10 to 14-year-olds might enjoy. You can even consider taking along a dart board and setting it up in the forest for an archery contest.
Capture the Flag is a timeless game that’s fun for even adults.
If you’ll be camping by a swimming pool or a body of water, you may want to consider some of the water games in the following link.
Kids of all ages could enjoy the quality time spent stargazing. If you don’t know much about stars, check out 10 free astronomy apps you can get which tell you about the different constellations and star names. Together, you and your kids can learn something new.
Perhaps roasting marshmallows and listening to stories around a campfire is something your kids may enjoy.
How can you involve your children?
Involving your children with your camping trip gives your kids a sense of purpose and importance and frees you up from having to do all the work.
You can involve your children right from the start by letting them choose from the parks that you’ve approved.
Perhaps you want to ask your kids what their idea of a great camping trip looks like. Take the time to actually listen!
Here are a few tips on how involving your kids while camping becomes a bonding experience with your kids.
You could consider putting your 8-year-old in charge of planning and cooking one supper. Have them choose a meal and make the shopping list for it. Then, when it’s the night for their meal, have them take out the grocery items. You can assist them in preparing the meal to make sure the meal gets cooked safely. You can play along and let them know you’re following their orders. (This might require much patience from you, but it could be an excellent way for you to find out the extent of your child’s capabilities.)
You can involve your kids by letting them help you set up the tents or your camp site.
If you’re in a remote area, you can have them gather dried branches and natural tinders for the evening campfire.
After meals and snack times, you can assign a chore to each child to make clean up go smoothly and quickly. After swimming, you can teach each child to carefully hang up their own swimwear and towels to dry nicely for the next day’s swim.
However you choose to involve your kids, be sure they know you believe in them and see them as a wonderful blessing in your life.
How can you create a sense of wonder for the nature around you?
If you adore nature yourself, your child is more than likely going to follow your footsteps and develop their own sense of wonder.
When you go camping, you can point out a deer in the distance and quietly and cautiously take your child and draw nearer to the animal for a closer look. You can teach them how to adore the nature around you without disturbing its natural habitat.
Your child may cling to your hand just a bit tighter as you gaze at the powerful waterfalls or ocean waves.
If you’re collecting rocks, you can point out the difference between the rugged outer layer compared to the beautiful crystals or rings on the inside of the rock.
Show your kids that little seedlings grow into big trees.
If you come across a caterpillar, you can teach your child that the creepy-crawly thing will one day become a beautiful butterfly or moth.
Perhaps, you’ll catch a mother bird feeding its young. You can use this as an example to assure your child that you’ll always take care of them--just like that bird with its babies.
How can you encourage environmental conservation?
No matter where you go, it’s highly important to teach your kids to take care of their environment and co-exist with the animals in their natural habitat.
One way to encourage environmental conservation is to teach your kids to use the fish you catch for food and not just for sport.
Camping trips are great for teaching your kids to place their plastic wrappers and tin cans in garbage cans--not just anywhere on the ground or in the water.
If you’re camping in a very dry season, you can explain to your kids that on windy days it’s not permitted to have campfires in order to prevent forest fires.
Taking your kids camping can be a time of bonding and learning about each other and the surrounding environment.
Your kids long to spend time with you!
While your work will still be there when you get back from the camping trip, your kids will one day be all grown up.
Taking your kids camping is just one investment you can make in their lives while they’re still young. Where you go and what activities you plan is not as important as actually taking time out to be with them.
Have you found this guide to camping with your kids helpful in any way? If yes, be sure to click like and share!