Camping with children - 10 tips
Kids and camping – two words that can go together harmoniously.
Or two words that can strike fear into a parent!!
The joy of camping can lose some of its gloss when things go wrong, but we have put together a few helpful hints to possibly help you as you embark on your camping adventure with the kids (and these could just help your sanity in the long run).
If your children are teenagers, we have a whole another article just for you! Read about camping with teenagers here.
1. “Are we there yet?”
That phrase is inevitable. No matter how many games, books and electronic devices you provide to the little darlings, you will hear this. Accept it. It’s been going on for generations, and it is not going to stop any time soon. Try and think pleasant thoughts, or turn the radio up so you can’t hear them.
Before the car trip has begun, its helpful to have set some expectations about the trip and the length of time in the car. Show them maps, explain the need to bring something along in the car to entertain. It may not stop the asking about arrival time, but for the older ones in the family, they may have a little more understanding about the journey.
Younger children will have no concept of time and distance, so there is not a lot you can do, but have frequent stops on the way to the campsite, to stretch legs and alleviate restlessness.
Loch Luna, South Australia
2. At the campsite (of which you have done all your advance research of course, and therefore know what facilities are on offer), try to get the children to help set up your campsite, by giving them easy tasks such as putting out chairs or tables.
You want tasks that they can do without too much effort and stress by them as failure to be able to do a more complicated task, can lead to frustration and possibly, a bit of a meltdown.
In the beginning, choose these helping tasks that are manageable for their age level and abilities.
This can be a little bit of a learning time for them, plus, theoretically, making your life easier. Our children, either run off the minute the car engine stops, or do such a bad job at helping, that we send them away so we can do it “properly”. But we can dream ......
3. Pack suitable activities for inside the tent should the weather deteriorate.
Books, coloring activities and cards are good stand-by items. Lego and puzzles are not so good – all those tiny pieces that can go missing or get underfoot. If you have electronic devices that they are using. Eg. Nintendo DS, hope they are fully charged. If not, we charge our devices from our portable battery. But make sure that these devices are only allowed on the proviso that they are for bad weather. We want our children to experience the great outdoors, not spend their time playing Angry Birds.
4. Give each child their own backpack
Fill this backpack with essentials such as headlamp, water bottle, tissues, sunglasses, sunscreen and snack. So if you do go on a hike, they are more self sufficient and the parent is not like a mule, weighed down with the day’s supplies. We also include a whistle, so if they get lost or wander too far, they can use it to advise us of their location (yet to use that but nice to know it’s there).
Their involvement in packing this bag prior to the camping trip is a good way to get them interested in the trip and take a little bit of responsibility for their own well being. You may still have to check that all the items are actually in the backpack.
5. Necessities such as hand sanitizer (because many toilets at campgrounds will not have hand basins), baby wipes (useful for cleaning faces and hands of dirt) will help parents feel marginally better about how dirty and unhygienic your child is looking at the end of the first day.
When camping with kids, baby wipes are so handy for so many situations. Plus adults use them too!
Need a bit more advice on how to stay clean when camping (and helping keep the kids a little cleaner? Then make you read 6 tips for keeping clean when camping.
6. Appropriate clothing for them (and enough of it).
The trip I didn’t pack enough clothes is the one where I needed it the most. Tracksuit pants: filthy 10 minutes after arrival. Or falling in a creek and getting soaking wet, top to toe. And then the sun coming out, and looking for the hats (all left at home).
Bring along clothes suited to the location you are headed, plus plan for accidents, change of weather and dirt. Layering clothes is always recommended.
7. Teach them camp courtesy and safety, as we have found lots of children at campsites don’t seem to have this instilled in them.
Some basic rules such as
- You don’t run through people’s campsites, you go around them.
- Be quiet early morning, because not everyone wakes with the birds.
- It is not polite to foist themselves upon other campers when they are eating – take the hint and return to your own family at mealtime.
Mind you, with some of these rules, some adults don’t seem to have the mastered yet either.
More advice on camping etiquette is here.
8. Give small chores when camping – collecting firewood (if allowed), getting fresh water, being in charge of toasting the marshmallows for all.
It gives them experiences they can’t replicate at home, independence and sense of a job well done.
9. Use this camping time as a great adventure for all.
Lots of new sights and experiences for everyone to enjoy. Day hikes to see animals in natural habitats, unique plants and insects, and little bits of nature to collect, and bring back to the campsite for further discussion or dissection! Night time walks are a special event with our children. At dusk and then later in the evening, different animals and insects appear, and the delight they take in seeing these creatures cannot be underestimated. Hide and Seek in the dark is also great fun should the children be unafraid of the dark. Younger children should hide with an adult.
In case you do hear the "bored" word - read up on camping activities for kids here It does seem that as we live more with technology every day, that some children have become reliant on all this digital access and may find some camping experiences not as fulfilling as they once were. It is helpful to have a few of the aforementioned activities planned for, just in case.
10. Have fun.
Create memories that you and your children can cherish in years to come. And if things don’t work out on this trip quite like you had planned, remember, there is always a next time.
Further links to help include:
And if you are still not sure about whether or not you want to take your children camping, then read "5 reasons to take your children camping".
Did you know that getting children outdoors can help save their eyesight? Want to know how and why? Read how the outdoors can help with children's eyesight here.