Camping with Kids: Tips & Activities
In my life I have had some disastrous camping trips with kids. The one that surfaces first is a campground camping trip when our daughter was 7 and our twin boys were 1. My husband and my daughter were going on a boating adventure for the day and I was ready to hang out with my boys. In my mind, the boys and I were going to play on a blanket at our campsite, have a snack, read a book, eat lunch and take a nap. Reality hit as soon as I got the blanket out. I was immediately faced with bugs, pine cones, dirt and two babies moving in opposite directions; one toward a puddle and one toward a neighboring camper’s dog. I summoned my internal “Mommy Manual” and decided to take them for a walk in the double stroller. “Great idea!” I said to myself as I started around the campground loop. I can’t tell you exactly how many times we went around that campground loop but I can tell you that by the time my husband and daughter got back from their day on the lake the boys were taking a nap and I was making a for sale sign for the trailer.
Luckily my husband talked me out of selling the trailer. With more experience I did learn how to camp successfully with kids. Here’s what I have learned to make camping with kids fun.
Tips for Successful Camping Trips with Kids
Be prepared for kids to get dirty. In fact, enjoy the dirty kid and learn to rate the color of the bath water when you get home. Cocoa colored water means you had fun. Coffee colored water means you had a blast.
Stuff to help you explore and collect. Shovels, rakes, containers (big enough to bring home some cool stuff but small enough that they won’t ask to bring home a branch), magnifying glass, paper and pencil, paint brushes (one inch sized works great to paint rocks with water and to clear the dirt off your treasures).
Make their sleep experience as close as possible to what they have at home. Bring their comfort blankie or toy, a porta crib for your infant, and lots of clean jammies.
Tons of snacks.You are going to spend the major part of the day outside and everyone will be hungrier than usual.
Plenty of clothes and extra shoes. Your kids are going to get dirty so bring their old clothes, not necessarily their cute clothes.
Patience and a smile. Try to make sure your expectations are realistic. Your kids are going to have fun but they also still may argue and cry. Be patient and use your internal “Mommy Manual” frequently to help you redirect unwanted behavior.
Friends. Because it’s easier with more adults. More adults mean that you can take turns leading activities and watching children. You may actually be able to sit down and enjoy the scenery.
Plan activities. Here are a few that my crew always enjoyed:
- Geocaching is a very cool way to hike while you search for a hidden treasure.
- Scavenger hunts are a great way to explore the area you’re staying in.
- Rock painting with colored pencils or watercolors.
- Books for quiet time. I promise there will be some quiet time. Remember to bring a book or other quiet activity for yourself too. You can browse some good books for all different age groups on the Bright Horizons Growing Readers site.
- I Spy with My Little Eye is fun as long as everyone understands the geographic boundaries for the game.
- Flashlight games. Shine a light on ___ or go for a family flashlight walk after dark.
- Phone pictures. Let children use the camera on your phone to take pictures of things that start with a certain letter or sound.
- Build a structure or tower with pine cones or rocks.
Make a list and keep the list. You are going to pack essentially the same things for each trip.
Have fun and please share your camping with kids experiences here or in the Bright Horizons Online Community. I’d love to hear your ideas, your successes and your challenges.
NOTE: The picture above is one of my boys on a camping trip after the disaster trip. We kept camping with our kids until we got it right for us.