Back in the day, camping is something that kids really look forward to. To see amazing scenery, to roast marshmallows and tell ghost stories around the campfire, to go stargazing and most of all, to spend quality time with family.
Nowadays, kids mostly spend their free time on the computer playing games or watching YouTube videos for fun. And that is why going on a family camping trip now is ideal!
The outdoors bring a full-on sensory experience and camping out will be both exciting and educational for the children (and adults, too!). The key is to make sure everybody has FUN!
Before the trip
As the parent or the adult, it is your responsibility to prepare the young ones for camping outdoors (especially when it’s their first time). It is also your responsibility to not only keep them entertained, but safe, too.
One of the first important steps is booking a campsite. Choose a campsite that is family-friendly, one that offers plenty of activities that children can enjoy. But be sure to book at least 3 months in advance – popular campsites, especially those in state or national parks, fill up quickly.
Another important thing to check are the campsite’s fire restrictions as some sites don’t allow campfires. Go for one that does – making s’mores and telling campfire stories around a bonfire is something every kid should experience!
Once you’ve finalized the dates of your trip and booked the campsite, it’s time to get the kids ready! Here are a few things you can try at home before the trip:
- Get the children excited – Show some enthusiasm! If kids know that you’re excited for the trip, they will be, too! Tell them stories about your experiences camping as a kid. Involve them in the planning, too – ask them what they want to see or do and make sure you include their ideas in the itinerary.
- Conduct a test run at home – Pitch a tent in the backyard with the help of the children as a trial run. Let them hang out in the tent and take naps in it to help them get comfortable with the new sleeping environment.
- Expose them to the outdoors – Visit a nearby lake or park and spend a day there with the young ones. Play some outdoor games to help them get an idea what’s in store for them during the trip.
- Talk about safety – It’s important to sit the children down , let the know how different it is in the outdoors and how important it is to always stay close to you during the trip. Give them a few reminders like blowing a whistle when they’re lost, to never swim alone without an adult present or to never feed a wild animal.
- Let them pack – It is ideal to teach kids that staying outdoors is a big responsibility. You can start by letting them pack their own things (using a list you made). Allow them to bring a few favorite toys and snacks for the familiarity of home. Make sure to double check their bags to make sure nothing important was missed!
When it comes to packing things, you need the basics – sufficient food and water, cooking and eating gear, sleeping gear (tent, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets), flashlights, camping lantern, toiletries and other personal items, emergency kits, bug spray, medicine etc. The type of clothing you need to bring depends on the season of your trip, but you should also have appropriate clothes in case it rains or gets too warm.
Don’t forget to pack stuff for fun and entertainment! A s’mores kit (of course!), magnifying glass, binoculars, Frisbee, paddleball set or materials for a treasure hunt and other educational games are ideal.
Need a checklist of things to pack? Check out our blog post here which also included useful tips for emergency camping situations!
During the trip
Now that you’re at the campground, it’s time to have some fun! There will be some inconveniences for sure (for both you and the kids), but always exude a positive vibe to keep up the excitement!
Here are some helpful tips and reminders when you’re at the campground with kids:
- First things first! – While there’s still light, unpack and set up camp. Ask the children for help while pitching the tent. Establish locations where things need to be like spoons and forks in the red tub or snacks in the blue container.
- Do an orientation – Tour the campground quickly with the children to familiarize everyone. It’s important that everyone know how to go back to your campsite. Know where important locations are like the main office and the bathrooms.
- Keep the kids active – Aside from the fun outdoor activities you have planned which may include exploring, swimming, a treasure hunt or looking for wildlife, involve them in meaningful chores and activities even when in camp like gathering firewood or collecting water from the pump. Just be sure they don’t get too tired and that they get enough rest and sleep.
- Don’t bring out the gadgets – One of the main goals of a family camping trip should be to have fun in nature and disconnect from screens and the internet. During down time or when they’re too tired for physical activities, introduce activities like star gazing, singing campfire songs or telling camp stories.
- Keep the itinerary flexible – While it’s good to follow a list of things to do, your itinerary should be flexible. Have some activities ready for when it rains or other unexpected circumstances. When they’re not into an activity you’ve planned now , don’t force it, you can always do it later.
And the most important thing tip of all is to enjoy yourself! When it gets tough or too tiring, just remember that this is a trip you’ll remember for many years to come. The first family camping trip is usually tough for the adults, but it only gets easier from there!
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