Camping with kids may sound like a stressful idea, but it doesn’t have to be. Some input from everyone will help the trip run a little smoother right from the beginning. The best thing about camping with kids is that you don’t need special skills, just some life lessons. Some of my all time favorite childhood memories revolved around camping. I used to pretend I was an explorer and I called myself Tiffiana Jones, LOL. I would hike, look for animal bones, catch craw fish (and let them go), and generally have a good time roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate. I ended up marrying a big camping buff and while we were dating we went on many camping trips with big groups of people…good times. Even the time when my hubby’s daft best friend sent me down and 4 wheel drive only trail in a rented Ford Explorer.
If you are new to camping I would pick up a book about camp sites, trails, and hiking places in your state. I have TONS of these kind of books, although most are specific to Arizona since that is where I lived most of my life. I am slowly building an Ohio collection.
Camping with kids is also a great time to teach them about nature and the wonderful things that are out there. Maybe a good first lesson would be about poison ivy/ oak. What it looks like, where it is, and why they should stay away from it. Also educate them about dangerous wildlife in the area…bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, etc.
Just like anything else, preparation helps out immensely. Camping with kids is more fun for everyone when they feel involved. Having them ‘pack’ their own survival kit will come in handy when they get bored. You know- toys, bedtime buddy, favorite blanket, pillow, whatever fills their needs. My oldest would be over the moon with a compass, Swiss army knife, magnifying glass, Canteen etc.
Meal time is a good time for the kiddo’s input. It also helps them to want to be part of the food preparation. They might even volunteer to go to the grocery store to help you. Of course, camping with kids you most usually hear about eating hot dogs and marshmallows. That is not really our style. Our list would probably include homemade marshmallows (hubby makes them), trail mix, dehydrated fruit, flax crackers, homemade beef jerky, and Larabars. Plus we almost always go somewhere were hubby can fish so fish would likely be on the menu.
Campfire time can be relaxing and start toning down the day toward bedtime. Kids love roasting their marshmallows. Story time at the campfire is always fun when you are camping with kids as well. Watch out for teens that like to fling flaming marshmallows into the hair of the girl they like….a no-so-cute tactic of my husbands.
Remembering things that you liked as a kid really comes into play, too. Playing ball, taking a hike, and races are always good for a fun time. Family swim time is an awesome activity to strengthen the family and the family bond. When I was young we used to go a place called seven springs and it would take all day to hike all of the springs. Sometimes we would have to wade through water just below our necks but it was so much fun. There was also a bridge with a rope we could swing on. Man…now I want to go camping!
You have many choices as to what environment to camp in. There is the old fashioned, go out to the deep woods camping- going back to the natural basics. There are campgrounds that have different facilities, like a pool, tennis court, basketball court, and much more. Also, there are family campgrounds, which are especially oriented toward camping with kids. The family campgrounds usually have an activity list for what they are doing, and at what time. For camping with kids the friendliest atmosphere is the family campground.
For sleeping facilities there are also several choices. You can go with just the sleeping bag and pillow under the stars. There is the old home made stick and blanket tent. Store bought tents come in many shapes and sizes now from the little pup tent all the way up to the family size with rooms attached. Of course for vehicles you can camp on the back of the truck, in a camper or in an RV.
To keep things earth friendly remember to pack it in and pack it out. Leave the area the way you found it or even better. Build a fire in an established fire ring only and hike on designated trails. Use solar lights and flashlights if you can and keep food locked up if there are wild animals around.
There are many options when it comes to camping with the, but most importantly keep them involved and enjoy the time together, and it will all work out well in the end. If you have a “bad” trip, just call it a practice run and do better next time or change the location. Here is to giving our kids camping memories that will last forever…
A family camping pic: