Camping can be complex for parents to manage and plan, and an intimidating experience for kids, but if done right, it doesn’t have to be! It’s worth getting out there to create some memorable family time, and soon your kids will be asking when the next camping trip is.
Tips on Planning a Kids Camping Trip
Planning is the best way to ensure that both you and your kids have the best camping experience.
Pick a kid-friendly campsite:
If you’re not a camping pro, and this will be your kids’ first experience camping, avoid taking them camping in the wild. Instead, look for a campground and take a careful look at facilities to determine where your kids would be most comfortable.
Choose a campground that’s as convenient for your children as possible. Try and take them somewhere more modern and regulated, such as a national park. You can expand your camping horizons in the future, but starting out easy will help everyone relax more and be more willing to go camping again in the future.
Do a Test Run:
It’s helpful to have kids aware of what camping is before bringing them to an unfamiliar setting. You can do a test run close to home or even at home.
Put a tent in your backyard or your living room and spend the night in it with your kids. This is a great way to gauge how your kid reacts to a night in a tent and to explain to them what to expect when they’re doing the real thing. If you’re a new parent planning on bringing a baby camping, this may be a good way to help you determine whether you’d be able to handle camping with your little one.
Make sure to plan camping activities:
There’s a lot that your kids can learn from camping. They can explore nature, discover different animals, and even learn to make certain crafts. You can have camping be both fun and educational experience by teaching them skills that they’d be able to apply at home. Some great activities you can do with your kids include:
- Plan a scavenger hunt
- Tell campfire stories
- Have them help you assemble and disassemble the tent
- Have them start creating a nature’s guidebook
You don’t necessarily have to plan every minute of your camping trip, but kids can get bored quickly, and it’s a good idea to bring toys to keep them entertained. Examples of toys to bring are:
- Aerobie flying ring
- Soccer ball or football
- Squirt guns
- Magnifying glasses
What to Bring
When you bring your kids camping, you’ll want to create a packing list to ensure that you bring all of your kids’ essentials with you. Other than the camping tent, this list should include:
- Sleeping gear–This could include a sleeping bag, air mattress, or both. If you bring an air mattress, don’t forget the pump. Bring anything else that you think your kids would need to feel comfortable, such as pillows.
- Water jugs – Make sure that you pack an adequate amount of water for your trip.
- First aid kit
- Weather-appropriate clothing – This includes good footwear. Layers are the best option when camping. You’ll also want to pack rain gear if the weather isn’t calling for blue skies. Also, pack more socks than days out.
- A dry bag –This will be important for dirty laundry or wet gear.
- Toiletries – Toothbrushes, soap, and baby wipes, if your kids are in diapers, are a must.
This list is in no way comprehensive, and the US Forest Service has a list of camping essentials you can take a look at. You may find that your family has some of its own unique needs as well while camping. For example, you may need a nightlight if your kid is afraid of the dark, or our family likes to have camping chairs for each person on the trip.
While you don’t want to forget essentials, try to avoid overpacking. Keeping up with your kids will be a lot already, so you don’t want to add more items to keep track of. Camping is an opportunity to show your kids that they don’t need all of the stuff they have at home and have them understand what essential items are versus the toys that they love.
Tips for Food
When it comes to packing food for your family’s camping trip, make a list of kid-friendly camping recipes. Hot dogs are a classic, but there are many other easy options to make when it comes to camp food. Make sure that you have a good propane stove, such as a Coleman Gas Camping Stove, and you’ll be able to make kid-friendly foods, like:
- Grilled cheese sandwiches
- Campfire nachos
- Campfire pizza
- Campfire-roasted apples
Many of these recipes involve minimal prep, and minimal ingredients and can be made quickly. Try and choose recipes that get the kids involved to make every camping activity a family experience.
You can also choose NOT to cook. We’ve had many a successful camping trip with meals picked up from the deli counter at the grocery store, a selection of snacks and fruit and granola bars for breakfast. You may still want to bring a stove if you’d like to heat water for coffee – but even that can be simplified if you buy bottled cold brew.
Bringing your kids camping may seem like a daunting experience, but with enough planning and preparation, you can introduce your kids to camping in a way that will seem familiar and even exciting to them. These camping tips will make your kids’ first camping trip a memorable experience for the entire family.
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.