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Tips for Camping With Young Children

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Truth time: I hate camping with kids

Now to be clear, I don’t hate the entire camping experience. I enjoy campfires. I’m a big fan of s’mores. There’s always something magical about laying back and staring up at the stars, which can be hard to do in the city with too many lights. Often there’s swimming involved, and I’m always down for swimming.

There’s beautiful scenery outside, and I appreciate it. In fact, I’m (mostly) good right up until it’s time to sleep on the ground. I cannot sleep on the ground. It’s uncomfortable, and frankly I don’t understand it. We’ve evolved beyond this. We have beds now, and I like my bed.

It’s good for kids…

That’s why I do it; my family enjoys it. It’s healthy for them to break their routines, to explore and learn in a different environment. It’s good for them to step away from the technology and get out into nature. Now admittedly, last time we went camping, it was at a maintained campground with a pool, a waterslide, and a lodge…and I may have spent $5 for their Wi-Fi, which I may have used to shop for leggings on a live Facebook sale while lounging in a chair poolside. But I swear, that was only for like 2 hours out of the trip.

And kids are adaptable…

Now, I know this doesn’t apply to all kids. If your kid is on the spectrum, that’s obviously different. But most kids are perfectly happy cooking hot dogs and marshmallows on a stick over a campfire. I personally buy telescopic metal camping forks made for campfire cooking. They’re easier to deal with than wooden sticks. Just trust me on this.

Kids also don’t mind sleeping on the ground. They can sleep anywhere.

But it does take planning…

Make a list of supplies you’ll need, and make it as far in advance as possible. Chances are, you won’t think of everything you’ll need at first, but things will randomly pop into your head at the dumbest times possible. Hopefully those ridiculous moments will be before you’re on the road. It’s truly amazing how many epiphanies you have while you’re peeing. Or maybe that’s just me? It can’t just be me…

Sleep items are a given. You know what you need for bedtime. Take more blankets and sleeping bags than you think you’ll need. It never hurts to be over-prepared. Don’t get too extravagant on foods. Make sure you have enough food and drinks (water bottles, water bottles, water bottles!).

But, I personally think pans are a pain in the ass while camping. If you have to have a pan, try to stick to one, well-seasoned cast iron skillet. For the most part, stick to things you can cook on metal camping skewers or in foil.

Take first aid items…

You can buy a premade first aid kit at pretty much any department store. You can put together your own, but it’s honestly worth the money to buy a pre-assembled one to make sure you have everything you might need for minor injuries.

two brothers on a camping trip

Plan activities, but don’t over plan…

Part of the relaxation in camping comes from just being able to be in nature. Disconnecting can give you time to reset and clear your head. It’s meant to be peaceful. It’s meant to be less structured than the day to day craziness of life.

That being said, let’s face it, kids get bored. They may not be as keen on being disconnected as you are (says the person who paid for Wi-Fi and was shopping poolside…). So, make sure you have some ideas in your head should you see the fidgeting and sighing setting in. You can make them nature related, or not. That kind of depends on your kids and what you know they’ll react to best.

I personally like caves. Just make sure they’re maintained and preferably supervised—as in, there’s a station to check into so someone will come looking for you if trouble arises. Scout out waterfalls, springs, or ponds. But, be prepared for the fact that they may need to reconnect to some of their regular activities. Hopefully not all of those activities require electronics because, well, trees don’t have power outlets.

Take books, art supplies, Legos…hell, let them have their stupid fidget spinners if it helps them keep their cool so they don’t ruin the trip for everyone.

You will likely forget things…

If you manage to actually go camping fully prepared, kudos to you. Personally? I make sure there’s a town not too far away with stores for forgotten items. Lord have mercy if you’re ill-prepared while camping with kids.

And while we’re being honest, I totally hit the nearby coffee shop for a Milky Way flavored coffee and a warm cinnamon roll before everyone woke up. Priorities, right?

Do you enjoy camping? What’s your favorite part? Least favorite? I’d love to know!

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