Jun 17, 2014

7 Tips for Camping with Kids

Ah, Camping.... I have such fond memories of being outdoors at State Parks with my family when I was a kid.  About a month ago, we took our two toddlers camping for the first time. 

We learned a lot.

I should put that in bold, because the learning curve was steep.  So here in lies the motivation for this blog post.  Being outdoors is INCREDIBLY important, especially when you are young.  Camping shouldn't be a scary task to dread, it should be a fun family bonding experience.  I'd like to share with you 7 tips for Camping with Kids that will make your life much easier (and make the trip a ton of fun!).

7 Tips for Camping with Kids

1.  Prepare your Kiddos

When our babies are used to playing Legos inside or watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates at a certain time each day, camping can be quite a culture shock.  Prepare them and get them excited by talking about what camping is, watching videos, and reading books.  You might even think about a short day trip to a nearby nature preserve or State Park for a day hike to help them get a feel for what camping is like.  Get them excited by talking about the animals and birds you will see, or swimming holes you will visit.

2.  Involve your Kids in the Planning and Packing

Need a few pieces of gear?  Take your kiddos to the sporting goods store to let them help you pick out what you need.  When they are involved in the planning and packing, they take ownership of the trip and everything goes more smoothly.  This is even true for my 3 year old.  She was in charge of the outdoor toys - she had a bag full of buckets and shovels and bubbles and she made sure it got packed and put in the car.  She was proud of herself and it made playing with those toys even more fun!

3.  Pick a Great Campground

Ok, I have done a lot of camping in my life, but camping with kids is a whole different animal.  When we took our girls for their first camping trip, we chose an incredibly beautiful, privately owned campground without reading reviews at all.  When we selected our camp ground, we got our first red flag when our neighbors came over and said "oh, I see you have children.  Please let us know if our partying gets too loud tonight." (Cue the movie Neighbors...)  Needless to say, yes, they were too loud that night, but so was every camp ground in the area.  Rave like music until 2 am is not my idea of a good time, especially when I am in Mama Bear mode and trying to get my babies a good night's sleep.

State Parks are safe bets because they are patrolled by Park Rangers who enforce quiet times and take care of noise complaints. Read reviews on Trip Adviser and  Yelp, ask friends, follow facebook groups who know their stuff - do your research.  I truly believe that the camp ground you select plays a large part in the success of your trip.  Pick a place that has activities and swimming locations.  Check on burn bans before you go if you plan on having a fire.

4.  Bring Toys and/or Friends

During the day, we had no problems keeping our kids entertained with hiking and swimming.  They had a BLAST!  But once it was wind down time in the evening, the sun started to go down, but it wasn't quite bedtime yet, we got bored quickly.  I packed lots of flashlights and my girls truly enjoyed sitting in the tent (they thought the tent was SO cool) and looking at Look and Find books.  Be prepared for some down time at the camp ground with games, outdoor toys, bubbles, and a disposable camera for the kids to use.  If you can go camping with friends with kids the same age as yours, even better!  Camping with friends is the best!

5.  Stay Positive and Stay Flexible

Let me just tell you now - things will not be on a strict schedule, things will not go exactly how you plan them - no matter how many lists you make or how well you prepare, something will go bonkers.  Roll with the flow.  Take a deep breath, remember that you are away from the city, away from responsibility, and just let it go.  If the kids don't nap, it's not a big deal.  If they eat a little dirt, they will have a stronger immune system (so says my Grandma!).  Put a smile on your face (remember, this is supposed to be fun for THEM, too) and Stay Posi (one of my favorite quotes from my husband).

6.  Be a Kid Yourself

Have FUN!  See through the eyes of your child - explore, hop in puddles, get dirty.  Stop and look at the bug or the garden snake slithering along the trail.   Take the time to get on your kids' level and see things from their fresh perspective.  Not only will your kids love this, but you will have a much better time, too!  My girls and I were on our way back to the camp site after a potty break and Izzy spotted a tiny little frog hopping along the trail.  We followed it for a while, and then the rest of the day they hopped like frogs.  It was magical for them!

7.  Be Safe

Be prepared for situations that may arise.  Be sure to pack sunscreen, bug repellant, rain gear and dress for the weather.  Bring lots of water to avoid dehydration.  Also make sure you pack gear for water play - life jackets or puddle jumpers for the little ones.  Keep a balance of relaxation and watchfulness. 

Now tell me... where is your favorite place to go camping??

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