Camping with the family is a great way to get away from the chaos of everyday life and to reconnect while enjoying the outdoors. Most children love a camping adventure, but parents do need to take some steps to ensure camping with kids goes as smoothly as possible.
Taking yourself or a couple of friends outdoors might seem naturally easy as you would be willing to leave behind the comforts of your home, which your children might not be completely on board or ready for (even though they promise they want this).
As part of the committee orchestrating this effort of camping in the wilderness with the kids, you will need to plan what to pack, the location of the campsite, research activities to keep the kids entertained and organize the right gear for a memorable camping excursion with the little ones.
What is a good age to take a child camping?
There is no right or specific age to when you can start taking your children camping. If you feel ready to take them and all their baby supplies along, then kids as young as 2-3 months can go camping. Whether you have a baby, a toddler, or a preschooler, the sooner you start camping with them, the better.
Here is a list of a few simple camping with kids hacks to keep in mind before heading into your adventure that can make a big difference in keeping everybody safe versus ruining a trip with an injury or illness.
Find the best approach to camp
First things first, you’ll need to study how you shall camp. Whatever you do, do not let your kids make this decision.
Tents are usually the way to go, as you can pretend you’re rugged outdoor people, getting close to nature and challenging yourself to live without amenities for a short period of time. If you are taking the kids camping for the first time you might want to test sleeping in the tent before your trip, pitch a tent in the backyard or even inside your home. Let them hang out for a bit and test out what might be their 4-7 nights chill spot.
If you think that your kids are not ready for it yet or that you’ll need certain amenities to survive, you could alternatively rent a campervan. Campervans come equipped with camping equipment, a cleaning kit, and a bedding kit. Travelling with your family in a motorhome will be a unique experience and definitely an unforgettable memory.
Plan your trip ahead
Check out the weather forecast before you’re set out and don’t count on your kids to know what to pack, as they tend to be less attuned to their needs than adults. Dress kids in layers so they stay warm but can shed extra clothes when they get hot.
Bring waterproof jackets or caps in case it rains and don’t forget some quality hiking boots for exploring.
When you arrive at the campsite, scout out your spot before letting the kids explore.
Position your tent(s) clear of trees to avoid falling branches. Kids Health details the importance of looking for hazardous waste, broken glass, and signs that unwelcome animals or insects might be nearby. For example, if your site has a lot of berries surrounding it, bears may be tempted to pay a visit.
Pack enough and never too much
Whether you are a newbie or a camping pro, creating a packing checklist for a trip with the kids can be overwhelming as you would have to anticipate all possibilities for your outdoor adventure.
Although campervans come equipped with a bedding kit, kitchen kit and cleaning kit, and most campsites include picnic tables and running water, it is helpful to organize some more eating, sleeping and outdoor-activity supplies.
Looking beyond the basics, make sure to include plenty of clothing for the kids, and don’t forget, layering up is always best while camping outdoors. Carry a beach blanket, camp chairs, and a basic first aid kit. For your camp meals don’t forget to pack some s’mores supplies (graham crackers, marshmallows & chocolates), this would be a perfect campfire treat for adults and kids alike.
Most children don’t want much in terms of entertainment. Being active and outdoors is usually more than enough excitement but if you are looking for more ways to entertain kids when camping, these items may come in handy while spending time outdoors: Bubbles, a deck of cards, a play tent and fishing gear can help with keeping them busy throughout the trip.
Talk with kids about safe campsite and water practices
Lay out the rules for your children right away, making your expectations clear. While you want them to have fun camping, getting wild with horseplay or running around can lead to injuries in a hurry.
They should know to never be out of earshot and to let an adult know before leaving the campsite. Also, establish a ground rule that requires your toddlers to wear shoes at all times around the site to keep their feet protected.
Make sure that your children only drink water that you know is safe. Water from creeks or streams may be contaminated and your kids can get quite sick if they drink from those sources. Bring bottled water with you, use sources at camp that you know are safe. You might consider bringing iodine tablets or water filters as a backup.
Avoid issues with insects by taking precautions
Insect repellant is a must while camping, but there are additional steps you can take with your kids to prevent issues with bugs. Mosquitoes can carry the West Nile Virus as well as Zika. Make sure to wear hats, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts, and avoid being around still water for extended periods of time.
Ticks are common in hiking areas and again, hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants are the first line of defence against them. Keep kids on the hiking trails and out of dense foliage. Do not forget to check your children thoroughly after a hike. If you find a tick, it’s best to pull it out upward by its head with a pair of tweezers.
To help kids avoid issues with bees or wasps, leave patterned or bright clothes at home and keep food and drinks covered. Check bedding before going to sleep and bring calamine lotion and Benadryl in case a child gets stung. Of course, if your little one does get stung and has trouble breathing or gets a rash, you need to get medical attention right away.
Leave adults in charge of the campfires
With campfires, it is best to let adults light the fire, add the wood, and extinguish it at the end of the night. Store lighters and matches in a secure spot that kids cannot access and be sure to drown the fire when you are done, taking care to make sure everything is fully out before walking away.
Protecting your kids while camping is the best way to guarantee a pleasant trip. Be ready to handle issues with insects, wildlife, and weather. Try and teach children to be cautious around the campsite and the fire. Kids may be tempted to push boundaries, but they will have loads of fun while still being safe if you make your expectations clear and be thorough in your preparations.
About the Author
Melita is a complete newbie to camping, although loves going on treks, hikes and being in nature. Her travel stories are here to inspire all first-timers into trying out this unique experience and exploring the great outdoors.