You want to take the kids camping but are unsure. You have loads of questions running through your mind. Will they like it? Will we manage it? How will they sleep in a tent? Will you enjoy camping with kids or will you find it stressful?
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The simple answer is – people have been camping with kids for years and it has become a popular choice for family holidays and most kids love it. You know your child or children better than anyone else so only you can really judge. That being said, just because your child may not show interest in outdoor activities, going out and getting dirty or building dens in the garden or house, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy it.
Camping with kids is great chance to get away together and share experiences. Camping and unstructured time outside is fantastic for working together. This time allows both you and the children to try new things, grow and learn together and really helps with family bonding.
If you would like some further reading on How Camping Helps and Promotes Family Bonding and How Camping Nurtures Your Child’s Development reading these other two posts we have written may help you understand just how a family camping trip can help.
Camping with Kids – Planning
One of the biggest worries of taking kids camping for the first time is the fear of the unknown. How will you keep them entertained? What will we eat? What do we need to take for everyone?
Firstly you need to plan and organised. If you have decided that this is something you are definitely going to go ahead with, share the load. It is an excellent idea to involve the kids in every stage where possible. The kids will think totally different from the adults about what you need to take. If you are unsure check out our Camping Checklist and adapt it to suit your family.
Do you already have camping gear? If not you need to decide if you are going to be making purchases for what you need or if you are going to borrow some gear from friends and family. Maybe a mixture of both will be required to get you on your way.
If neither is an option for you and you just want to experience sleeping in a tent and spending time together Ready Camp or a similar Ready to camp experience may be what you are after. Albeit these are more like glamping due to space, set up and power. But, if you want to dip your toe in the water it may be a good place to start. Especially if your children are very young, like toddlers.
Otherwise, you need to think about where to camp. Will you be requiring electric hook-up or would you like a site that has some activities on offer. Pitchup.com is a great way to look for sites that offer what you need. They will show icons for each park to show what facilities are offered. Facilities like shower blocks, toilets, charging points down to the nearest restaurant, beaches and activities.
Food and Meal Times
Another worthwhile planning activity to do is what you are going to eat or meal planning. This will largely depend on what you are going to be cooking on. Whether this is a single or double burner stove or a multi-use or electric cooker. Keep it simple and quick where you can and you can even pre-cook some meals at home. Cooking and freezing meals for your second and third days is great and frees up more time to spend with the kids. They will defrost over time in your cooler or fridge. See Storing Food While Camping for some ideas and information on this.
Not only is it worthwhile planning your meals but also some s’mores. S’mores are a delicious sweet treat that many campers love to share together while on a camping trip. Made at the end of the day either on the fire (if you are able to have one) or on the stove. Many recipes can be changed and adapted to suit your family. All kids, young and old, love and look forward to this part of camping.
Kids Love Adventure
Kids love an adventure and you can make this true from the start to the end of your trip. Get the kids involved from planning, setting up to daily chores. The more involved they are the more they seem to get from a good camping experience. Setting up can be stressful at the best of times but if everyone knows what they are doing it can make things a whole lot easier. As you camp more the more responsibility you can share with the kids.
Simple things like holding and passing the tent pegs, finding the water taps if not at your pitch and filling water containers to making up their own beds and sorting out their own stuff. We certainly notice how much more interested kids become in helping out with chores when we take them camping. We never have a problem getting dishes done, water containers filled or rubbish taken down to the bins.
I don’t know if this is because they often see other kids doing it or because they are in a different environment. Maybe it’s just because they get a chance to run across a field on their own to carry out a task, unsupervised, to a certain extent. I’ve never thought to ask them until now but I think I will after writing this, maybe give an insight and see if it can be encouraged at home.
What about adventure though, how are you going to provide that at a higher level to really get the kids excited and trying new things. Maybe there are facilities on site that you can use or you want to plan your own. Simple walks in the woods can be so much fun and really educational. Spotting the different flora and fauna all can encourage some excited and educational conversations. If you are not confident in these areas why not download an app to help you while out and about and all learn together.
Maybe there are nearby or even onsite activities to get everyone excited. Aim to try something new while camping. Activity firsts for the younger members of our campers have been fishing, kayaking, rope climbing, using a tree swing over water a shot of paddle boarding. They love just having fun and learning, it comes naturally to them. What is more apart from the kayaking, everything they tried was free.
Other campers may share their knowledge and expertise or give a shot of what they are doing. They were taught a little about fishing and allowed to have a go by an older group of men on the campsite. We were there supervising and were really surprised by how much attention the kids paid and how mannerly they were. They didn’t overstay their welcome and even got to taste a little of the cooked fish that was caught later that night.
Sometimes it’s the impromptu activity or meeting of others that can provide some special memories.
Sleeping When Camping with Kids
We know this can be a real worry factor for parents who are planning to camp with kids for the first time. How will you sleep? How will the kids sleep? Most of the time all that worry is for nothing in the end. Camping gear has come a long way over the years and good quality sleeping bags, mats, beds help everyone get a good nights sleep. There are even camping bunk beds on the market now to help your little ones have a great nights sleep.
If your child requires a night light – take one. Even treat the little ones to their own head torch for night time. If they often get up during the night for the toilet think about how you will manage this. Many people have an overnight toilet in the tent to save walking to the toilet block. Pre-empt any problems that may arise and plan for it.
Ensure everyone has clean dry clothes for going to bed in. And set rules for the morning if the kids wake first. What we normally find is the kids are so exhausted after such busy days they sleep exceptionally well while camping.
Setting Rules When Camping With Kids
This leads to another great tip shared by those who take kids camping. Set boundaries and strict rules at the start of your stay. Once you have set up your tent and belongings go a walk. Walk together round the campsite and set out some boundaries and ground rules as you go. Try to make this more of a discussion than you laying down the law. Agree how far the kids are aloud to go by themselves, especially if they make friends. They could wander off a little further than usual if these aren’t in place.
Discuss areas that are out of bounds or where you feel they should be supervised. This may be the water. Explain the dangers and make time to take them and spend time with them at these areas should they be of interest.
Safety for Everyone
Statistics show that children are no more likely to have accidents when camping than they would at home. This is unless proper rules and boundaries are in place at the start of the trip. Even then it is the usual bumps and scrapes. None the less it is important to be prepared for any accidents that may occur. Not only accidents the children may have but adults too.
There are steps you can take to deal with these more efficiently and calmly should they happen.
- Take a first aid kit, Know what to take and how to pack this. See our printable one here.
- Know where the nearest hospital is to the site you are visiting. Check this out before you go. Take note of the postcode.
- Familiarize yourself with first aid stations and fire points at the site. This should be done on the walk round to set rules and boundaries so everyone knows.
- Take care around the campfire should you have one, make sure the kids are supervised at all times and know potential fire risks and how to avoid them.
- Point out any hazards around the site. Don’t touch wildlife, point out any poisonous plants that may be near, talk about water safety.
You should also read through our camping safety post that will go into camping safety in further detail.
Enjoy Camping With Kids
Now that you now some of the basics to enjoying camping with kids and keeping them safe and happy. What about you?
You need to enjoy the camping trip too. As they say, happy kids = happy parents.
Planning and preparation is key to most things and this includes a good camping trip. If you do that before your trip it will mean more time to relax and enjoy yourselves. Spending time with the kids can be an absolute pleasure when nobody is feeling stressed. It really opens up time for fun, bonding and some great conversations.
When we have little ones away with us they love to get together at night and talk with some s’mores or a little supper. If this can be done around a campfire it seems to be even better at creating that atmosphere or togetherness and appreciation. Let your hair down and have FUN, not only will you enjoy it, so will the kids. Take part in activies with them or play games with them, do things together.
Too often they see adults stressed and too wrapped up in life and work. Show them the real you and cherish that time together.
If you would like to read even more about camping with kids a great book, full of suggestions, activities and advice is Simon McGrath’s – Camping With Kids.
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