Camping with young children is possible and with the right planning, it can be the beginning of some awesome family adventures! The wild outdoors, the fresh air and roughing it in nature can be a fun break from the hectic and ho-hum routine of the city. Imagine waking up right where you want to be, ready for exploration and excitement. And kids will love eating outdoors!
What you need to start off on the right foot…
Before going away hit your backyard and practice setting up your tent and sleeping in it too, so everyone understands what camping is all about! Then go for day hikes at your local nature park to help the kids become comfortable with the great outdoors.
Prep the kids by reading great camping stories leading up the trip. Find family-friendly resources to help plan your trip. Here are some fun kids’ website for camping ideas, games & activities, and tons of resources. www.gocampingamerica.com/kids and http://familycamping.koa.com/camping-with-kids.
Plan the trip and do your research. Decide which park or campground you’ll go to based on attractions, amenities and kid-friendliness. Find a place that offers a lake for cooling off and swimming, and easy hiking trails for wee ones. Ask friends or neighbours for recommendations. In the US try: www.campsource.com and in Canada try: www.camping-canada.com.
Start small – a long weekend is a good place to start! You can go for a longer trip later if you are happy with the experience. Stay close to home the first time, in case you need to cut your trip short.
Get the right gear but don’t invest too heavily until you’re sure that this can become a vacation tradition for your family. Consult friends (borrow!), surf the net or check in with outdoor equipment stores as to what to take on your trip. Here’s a site with a great packing checklist when camping with kids: www.colemancanada.ca/canada_outdoors/check_lists/kids_camping.en.aspx.
Don’t bring toys but do allow one comfy item such a fave teddy or stuffed toy. You don’t want to carry the stuff and kids will find plenty of fun things to do outdoors. For outdoor activities try bug boxes, magnifying glasses, field guides, paper and pencil, cameras, nets and jars – to keep them busy.
More fun activities at the campground…
- Discovering the outdoors such as water to play in, rocks to climb on and the chance to see wildlife is what camping is all about. Go for walks, try identifying flowers and birds, go for a swim and try exploring the area. Bathing in rivers can be a completely different experience for your kids.
- At night, make Shadow Puppets on the tent walls with a flashlight.
- S’mores. Mmmmm… Melted chocolate and marshmallows between graham crackers.
- Camp Songs – You’ve got to brush up on camp songs from your youth and sing them to your kids.
- Enjoy the stars during night-time star gazing. Without the city lights, it will be so much easier to see the planets and constellations.
- Tell Ghost Stories – Spooky (friendly) tales told by one person around a campfire are a must!
- Bring a family favourite compact board-game (many come in travel size now).
- Practice your art of storytelling as everyone bundles into their sleeping bags.
- Give the kids access to the family digital camera (or buy them their own) so everyone can record their own perspective and images of the trip.
Camping with kids is a great way to ensure quality family time is created without the distractions from the outside world!