You love the outdoors and the activities you can do there. Things outside, like camping outside under the stars, escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life, getting time to relax and recharge, are exactly what you’re into.
For as long as you can remember, you’ve been taking trips to camp out in the woods with friends and family.
Now, it’s time to pass that tradition on to your little ones and teach them the ways of the modern-day camper.
However, as with any other parent-to-child lesson, camping with kids takes time and preparation. This way, they’ll be interested in learning more and start looking forward to weekends away with mom and dad.
Here are 15 amazing tips for the next time you go out camping with your child!
1. Don’t Go “Bear Grylls” on Them
One of the last things you want to do when taking your child camping the first few times is approaching it with a sink-or-swim mindset.
Remember, this is completely unfamiliar territory to them. They’ve always heard you talk about going camping, but they themselves have never experienced it.
Because of that, you want to “familiarize” camping as much as possible.
Find a drive-up campsite and make that the go-to spot for the first few years you take the kids camping.
Now’s not the time to show them your typical 10-mile hike to find the perfect camping spot for the weekend… that comes later on.
2. Learn the Ins and Outs of Your Tent
Whether you’re an experienced camper or not, there are ways of checking out your tent to see if it’s ready to hold your entire family.
First off, does it have enough space for everyone that’s coming along?
Just to clarify… the question isn’t can 4 people fit into this tent? the question is can this tent provide plenty of space for 4 people?
If the answer is “eh, probably not”, and you elect to take that tent anyways, you’re looking at a weekend full of cranky family members.
Secondly, do you know how to properly set up the tent?
Nothing’s worse than having one side of the tent fall down in the middle of the night because the rod wasn’t properly set up.
Test your skills in the backyard a few times before taking it out into the woods. Your family will thank you for your efforts later on.
3. Give it a Trial-Run
As a matter of fact, while you’re out in the backyard testing your tent skills, trying sleeping in it with the kiddos before heading into the woods.
This will give you a few things to look out for during the real thing.
Were they comfortable? How long did it take them to fall asleep? How much room did each of you have in the tent once everyone was fully laid-out?
These are all valuable things to know before you go camping at a location with very few resources available beyond what you brought.
4. Consider Renting a Cabin
Whether the trial-run went well or horribly, it’s always nice to go the cabin route for the first few times you take your children camping.
That way, if the tenting experience isn’t going too great, you can pack up and take the camping trip indoors for the night.
It also allows for a more comfortable experience during your child’s first few times as a camper. Let them warm up to the idea of sleeping in a tent in the woods by themselves, they’ll want to sooner than you may expect.
The cabin will be a great resource for climate control if the weather decides not to cooperate.
You should be able to find cabin opportunities at most national parks and basic campgrounds, be sure to call around before planning the trip!
5. Be Prepared
You may find it hard to pair this tip with the one directly below it, but it’s important to be prepared for all the elements.
Make sure you have an extra blanket and a pullover or two for once the sun goes down, it gets significantly colder once that happens.
Also, even the most enjoyable camping weekends have a little rain “sprinkled” in them. Make sure you’ve got waterproof gear, an umbrella, or water-resistant material to at least help against light rain.
Nothing will make your family miserable faster than being completely drenched hours after it stops raining.
6. Don’t Be a Pack Rat
You’re probably wondering how can I be prepared and not overpack? It’s all about efficiency.
Of course, there are preventative items you’ll want to bring like an extra couple of shirts or some extra towels… don’t bring them!
Things can be hung out to dry and it’s okay to wear things a few times while you’re out in the wilderness.
There’s a huge difference between packing enough to layer up and packing too much where it will be an inconvenience to you and your family. You’ll be able to recognize it when your packing crosses that line.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: bring a piece of clothing for every occasion, but never more than two pairs for those occasions.
7. Brace for Sleeping in the Cold
One of the worst things to be unprepared for is a cold night while you’re trying to sleep. If you don’t prepare for that ahead of time, there’s little you can do while you’re in the moment.
The best way to prevent this is when you go to buy sleeping bags in the first place.
You may think you’ll want a bit more room in your sleeping bag but that can actually make you even colder. Extra space means there’s more room for (cold) air circulation rather than a tight sleeping bag that retains your body heat.
Same goes for buying your child’s sleeping bag, make sure it’s tight enough to trap in the warmth to keep them comfortable throughout the night.
Understandably, you may not want to buy it too tight out of fear that they’ll grow out of it quicker than expected.
If that’s the case, buy it a little longer, and then bring towels or blankets to stuff at the bottom while they grow into the sleeping bag.
8. Set up When There’s Still Light Outside
First things first, organize your traveling arrangements to ensure that you’ll arrive at the campground/cabin while there’s still light outside.
That way, you and the kids have enough time to set up everything and get a few chores going before the campfire that night.
Start by setting up the tent first thing, that way you’ll be able to see all the slots and compartments you need to. While it’s not entirely impossible to set up a tent in the dark, it is way more challenging.
Giving yourself time to get organized and prepared will start the trip off on the right note.
9. Unplug for the Camping Trip
Whether you’ve decided to stay in an air-conditioned cabin or are embracing the great outdoors in a tent, make sure to leave technology at home.
Leave all video games and consoles at home, keep the phone hidden away (still have it available in case of emergency) and breathe in the sights and sounds of the wilderness instead.
The main reason you’re doing this is for bonding time with your kids and technology will take away from that.
Sure, have a camera on-hand for pictures to add to the memories, but make sure to put it away immediately after snapping a few pics.
10. Schedule a Designated Nap Time
If camping is taking a lot of energy out of you as an adult, then imagine how tired your kid must feel.
Keeping the kids going all day will make the experience far less enjoyable for everyone involved, and will undoubtedly start the I want to go home! chants.
Instead of depending on your kids to tough-it-out, schedule an hour or two during the day to take a brief siesta and recharge.
You as a parent know the impact that naps have on your child’s overall mood throughout the day, and camping (as fun as it may be) is certainly no different.
11. Install Games at Every Turn
Whenever there’s an opportunity for installing a game into your camping activities, do so.
Sure, there are games such as flashlight tag and capture the flag (if you have enough people). But there are other ways to keep kids entertained such as bringing a compass for hiking and letting them “lead the way”.
Make sure to bring toys for the little ones to play with (that you’re okay with getting dirty) while you’re busy doing things like cooking dinner or readjusting the tent.
Keeping them busy is just as important. Anytime you can make them feel like they’re helping out or answer their questions like the infamous “why are you doing that?”, you should do it.
Keep their brain moving in different ways, until it’s either lunch/dinner time or naptime, after that it’s time to rinse and repeat!
12. Bring Lights for the Night-Time
Nighttime in the woods is more than likely going to be way darker than your little one is used to.
That’s why it’s important to bring lighting such as battery-powered headlamps and lanterns to create light around your camp set up.
This will take the edge off and make them feel comfortable for the times there isn’t a campfire going and may also prove as a form of entertainment (like flashlight tag).
13. Pack Plenty of Snacks
Remember when step #6 told you to not overpack? That doesn’t apply to bringing some snacks for your kiddos throughout the day.
You want to make sure to have plenty of back-ups ready to go if the day gets too long.
Be selective with the types of snacks you bring, as you more than likely won’t have a cooling system available. Things like crackers, granola bars, etc should do the trick!
14. Don’t Be Afraid to Call It Quits
You’re the head referee on this trip, just because you planned to stay for an entire weekend doesn’t mean you have to at all costs.
If you can see signs of the little ones trailing off on a downward spiral, and nothing seems to be fixing the problem, it just may be time to head home early.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up on taking them back camping in a few months, it just means it’s time to regroup.
After the first time or two, your child should get a better understanding of what to expect. That alone will help the next camp outing go way smoother.
15. Diligent Note Taking
After each camping trip you take with the kids, be sure to take a few notes on what went right and what went wrong.
Don’t just assume you’ll remember it the next time you plan a trip. You’ll have slept several times by then.
Instead, write down your goals for next time and some recommendations for yourself on what could make the experience better for the kids the next time around.
This will provide you time to have an honest reflection on what you did well and what you need to improve on to enhance your child’s love of camping.
Camping with Kids: Creating Lifelong Memories
Fewer experiences in life give you the gratification and memories of camping with kids.
Be sure to cherish every moment and help them create instances that they’ll never forget.
For more inquiries and helpful information on the camping gear you should use, be sure to reach out via our contact page.