We all remember out first camping trip. The crisp night air, the bright sky littered with stars, and that invaluable feeling of being one with nature. These were the experiences that made us love and appreciate the wilderness in all of its beauty. In a world becoming more dependent on screens for entertainment, we want to show our children that there is an enormous world out there that no technology can replicate. Camping with your kids will be an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives. But, there are considerations that you need to make to ensure a gratifying experience.

Practice with Backyard Camping

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As eager as you may be to immerse your child in nature, you won’t want to go all-out on your first night outdoors. It could be overwhelming for your child especially if they already some hesitations about camping. Camping in your backyard gives your child the experience of being outdoors, while also being in a place they recognize. It also gives you the opportunity to teach and practice basic camping skills in a controlled environment. Your children will get the experience of camping without the hassle of having to travel.

Making a Camping Checklist

Just as you have learned in the past, your child also needs to learn the importance of having a plan when going camping. Have them help you put together a checklist of everything you will need for your “camping trip” Be sure to explain why each item is a necessity.

Some items on your checklist may include:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillows
  • Lantern
  • Matches
  • Food
  • Water
  • Clothes
  • Games
    Bug spray
  • Sunscreen

You will also want to explain the importance of planning where you will set up your campsite. Cover the many factors that play into that, like access to clean water and distance from your vehicle.

Pitching a Tent

Once your checklist is complete, and all of your gear is packed, it’s time to set up your first campsite. The most important feature of any good campsite is a sturdy shelter. You’ll want to select a tent that is simple enough to have your child help you set it up. Make sure it has plenty of room for activities like telling stories and playing card games. Go through the steps of pitching a tent slowly so your child can learn. As they become more comfortable with the process, give fewer instructions so they can work through it on their own.

Starting a Fire

An essential skill anyone can learn is starting a controlled fire in the wilderness. Kids love to help, so have your children gather materials and set up an area for the fire. To make it more exciting, turn the chore of gathering kindling and sticks into a fun game to see who can get the most. You can teach them any method you choose, whether it is with sticks or a fire-starter. If you use a fire-starter like matches or a lighter, also teach your children how to use them safely to prevent forest fires.

Pick a Convenient Location

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When you do decide to venture from your backyard campsite to a spot away from home, there will be many things in play you need to account for. Most campgrounds will have a list of amenities they offer. This list can range from the bare minimum to serious luxury. You don’t need all the bells and whistles to make your trip enjoyable. But, there are a few amenities that make a campground more kid-friendly. A campground with picnic tables gives you and your family somewhere to enjoy your food and play card games. A site with a fire pit can provide a controlled area to roast some marshmallows and tell ghost stories. Most children usually aren’t too keen on having to go to the bathroom out in the open. A site with toilets or outhouses can save you from having some unhappy campers.

Sometimes there will be a situation when you have to pack up and leave quickly. In these cases, you will want to have quick access to your vehicle and the roads. You’ll rest assured knowing that if something goes wrong, you are only a few steps away from being able to load up your car and go home.

Bring Extra Supplies

As adults, we have a pretty good idea of what we need to survive a day or two in the woods without a problem. If we forget something minor, we can make do without it. Children are an entirely different story. They are the smaller, less mature versions of us, and require some extra thought when considering what supplies are needed.

Extra Clothes and Blankets

Kids are small and typically lean, so they tend to get cold more quickly and more frequently than us. Packing a few extra pairs of warm clothes and blankets can help when things start to get a little chilly. Even if you are camping in the middle of summer, it can get pretty cool when the sun goes down. A pair of thick wool socks, a sweatshirt, and some raingear can help your child feel warm and cozy in their tent at night. Also, depending on how old your child is, accidents may happen during your trip. Packing some extra clothes offers protection against the cold and gives your child something clean to wear in case they need to change. Always pack a little more clothing than you think is necessary, because we tend to underestimate how much we will need.

Heat Protection

Just as they cold faster, kids get hot faster too. Being exposed to the heat all day can drain the energy from their little bodies. Keep an eye out for some of the classic signs of overheating. Look for excessive sweating or a flushed complexion, and take a break from activities if needed. Pack a hat to keep the sun out of their face, and dip it in water so the evaporation can help cool them down. Avoid packing dark clothing that attracts heat, and make sure that it is a breathable fabric that allows air to flow through it. Linen and nylon are both breathable fabrics that can help stave off the heat. You can even buy a specially designed cooling towel, like Frog Toggs. Packing an umbrella can provide some instant shade. Most stores carry a collapsible version that is easy to pack with the rest of your gear.

Snacks and Treats

We don’t like being hungry, and kids especially don’t like being hungry. During your trip, your children will constantly be burning energy from hiking and playing. Not to mention, they’ll burn extra energy to keep their body temperature stable. You’ll want to reduce the amount of weight you carry in food. So, pack snacks rich in nutrients and calories to keep you and your kids going throughout the day. Nuts, dried fruit, and gummies are all good options for a quick boost of sugar and fat. For a fun home activity, have your children help you make the snacks for your trip beforehand.

Combine peanut butter with some honey and rolled oats, press into a pan and refrigerate overnight for a quick batch of no-bake granola bars. You can even add some raisins or M&M’s for an extra sugar boost. Make trail mix for everyone to share by combining your favorite nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate pieces into a big bag. Both of these snacks are quick and easy to customize with your child’s favorite flavors. Just like with clothing, always pack more snacks than you think you’ll need. You will be hungrier than you think!

Other Supplies

First Aid Kit

Out in the wilderness, you are prone to all sorts of cuts and scrapes and bites. So, always have a first aid kit handy. You can buy one from your local store or make one yourself. But, make sure to include the essentials: bandages, antiseptic spray, gauze, anti-itch cream, aspirin, and anything else fit for treating small ailments.

Water

Most campgrounds will have access to clean drinking water. But, if you find yourself away from a water source all day, you will want to be ready. Bring water bottles that you can fill up before venturing away from your campground. Also, consider investing in a portable water filtration device. Not only will this provide fresh water from sources you encounter on your hikes, but it can be an opportunity to teach your children about filtration and why it is necessary before drinking from a stream or river.

Plan Camping Games

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While being in the great outdoors is a fun and exciting experience, kids quickly get bored of observing the scenery and need extra activities to keep them entertained. Luckily, there is no shortage of activities you can do, and most of them don’t require packing any extra gear.

Scavenger Hunt

Putting together a scavenger hunt is a great way to keep your children attentive during a hike or nature walk. Put together a list of items for them to look out for. They should be common items that they can find with ease along a trail. Ideas for scavenger hunt items include:
A feather
A frog
A rock shaped like a heart
Animal tracks
Something yellow
A bird’s nest

Hide and Seek

A campsite in the woods surrounded by trees is the perfect place for an exciting game of hide and seek. You can count while you children explore the campground in search of the perfect place to hide. This will get them more familiar with their surroundings and the campground boundaries. It will also help them be up close with nature.

Alphabet Game

This is another fun game to play while you walk through the woods. Starting with “A”, you find objects along the trail beginning with that letter. For example, you could say “A” for ant and “B” for bird. It can be a challenging game and forces them to search and become more aware of their surroundings.

Fairy House

This is an activity that allows your kids to build something and express their creativity. While you’re walking the trails, encourage your kids to gather materials to build their fairy house. This is a small house meant to attract a tiny woodland fairy. They can gather any materials they find pretty or interesting, and there is no wrong way to do it. Rocks, sticks, feathers, and leaves all make nice materials to build a whimsical house fit for a fairy.

Establishing Camping Rules

While this is meant to be an adventure away from all of the typical rules of home, you still need to establish a few vital rules to keep your children safe and happy. There are a few dangers that come with camping. But, if you set some basic rules you will reduce the risk and maximize the fun.

Campground Boundaries

When you first arrive at the campground and set up your site, you should take your children around the campground boundaries to familiarize them with the area. Let them know where they can and cannot go without supervision.

Sunscreen Schedule

Even if you are in the shade or it is an overcast day, you and your children may need to be wearing sunscreen when you’re outside. Sunscreen doesn’t last all day, and it is crucial to reapply it consistently. A general rule of thumb is to remind everyone to reapply sunscreen every hour. Delegate the task to one of your children so they can have an added sense of responsibility.

Bug Spray

No one wants to be covered in mosquito bites or, even worse, get a tick bite. To minimize the risk of your child being bitten, make it a rule to apply bug spray at least once a day. If your children refuse to be sprayed, try spraying some bug spray onto their clothes before they put them on.

Going camping with your kids is an experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. It is important now more than ever to build your children’s appreciate for nature and the environment around them. Camping with kids requires a little more preparation and planning, but the rewards of spending quality time with them in the wilderness are incomparable.

Resources
http://www.mykidsadventures.com/backyard-campout/
http://www.artofmanliness.com/2011/09/08/camping-with-kids/
http://realfamilycamping.blogspot.com/2011/05/10-fun-camping-games-for-kids.html
http://www.beyondthetent.com/keeping-kids-safe-while-camping/