Camping with kids can be fun for the whole family and easily become something you’ll want to do again and again. You don’t need to overthink it—but we do have a few tips for success!
If your family has never been camping with kids, it can be fun to practice at home first! Get the kids excited and accustomed to the tent by setting it up in the living room or the backyard. Let the kids play quiet games or even practice sleeping in a tent so they see that it’s a fun and comfortable experience.
For your first time camping with kids, consider a short trip to a nearby campsite that is well developed, includes amenities (like bathrooms!), and has a reputation for being kid-friendly. As you become more experienced, you’ll be able to confidently venture to more remote camping locations for longer periods of time. Or, you may learn that your family does better when an abundance of amenities are available, like playgrounds or a swimming pool. Do your research, and find the campsite that will be the best fit for your family.
The truth is, camping with kids takes more work than camping without them. That’s a fact, so just embrace it up front and adjust your expectations. You’ll likely need at least a day of organization and prep beforehand (clear tubs are your best friend) and another full day of (disgusting) laundry upon your return. Mentally prepare for this ahead of time, and it will feel a bit less daunting.
Even young children can contribute to camping preparation. Give them a packing checklist, and let them set out items or pack their own bags. The kids can also help you plan the menu. Food is half the fun of camping, so be sure to bring foods the whole family will enjoy. While an abundance of camping recipes can be found online, this may not be the time to experiment with a bunch of new recipes your kids haven’t tried before. Bring plenty of familiar snacks and favorite foods you know your kids will like.
Listen. Nature is dirty. Camping is dirty. And camping with kids is very dirty. So, yes, set up a hand-washing station to wash hands before meals, and then just give the kids a good once-over with a wipe before bed. Wet wipes can only do so much, so relax and remember that everyone can get a serious bath when you return home.
Given enough opportunity, most kids can find a surprising amount of fun in nature -- pine cones, sticks, and simply digging in the dirt can provide a wealth of entertainment. Bring a favorite toy or blanket for bedtime, but for the rest of the day, give nature a chance to be the main event. Other ideas, if needed, are coloring books, nature journals, binoculars, magnifying glasses, soccer ball or football, water guns, or card games.
More than anything, remember what’s most important: spending time together. If you make it a priority to appreciate your surroundings and each other, you’re camping with kids the right way.