8 Tips for Camping with Kids

Following my tips about booking a camping trip + gear essentials, the final post I wanted to share about camping is about tips for the camping trip itself. But quickly, before I do that I wanted to share a recommendation from Kris-Ann. Kris-Ann's family participated in a Become an Outdoors Family Camping Workshop last year, which included lessons on how to start a campfire and how to set up your tent, as well as other activities. So cool!

Now, here are 8 tips for camping with kids. Feel free to add any others in the comments below!

1. Give your kids jobs. Giving kids jobs will make them feel that they are part of the team, and also helps kids really experience what camping is all about. Kids can help gather kindling, set up the tent, arrange items inside the tent, etc. Laurel and Vi were really helpful with both setup and breakdown!

2. Go over ground rules. We didn’t have a ton of rules, per se, but remember that kids will not necessarily have the same context as you do for experiences like this. Our main issues were to talk to them about fire safety, water sources, and trash/food cleanup.

3. Explore the grounds. Laurel and Violet are 6.5 years apart so obviously, their physical abilities are very different. If we had stayed two nights I think Jon and I would have probably split up, with one of us taking Laurel on a longer hike and one of us taking Vi on a short hike or to scrabble around the woods. But a simple exploration of the grounds -- walking to the beach, climbing rocks, finding the general store -- all made for good adventures.

4. Go device free. Seriously, you’re in the woods -- enjoy unplugging your family! I loved kicking back and relaxing with the girls amidst a pile of books and magazines. They never once asked, “Where’s the kindle?”

5. Enjoy the slowness. One of my favorite things about camping is that it really strips life to the basics; it’s wonderfully slow and simple and I suggest enjoying the slowness! My friend Charles referred to this as “saving the time to breathe.” Charles shared: “Sometimes it's tempting to do the hike and the swimming and the campfire social and the kickball game and the boating... Overtired kids don't make good tent mates.” So true!

6. Embrace the small teaching moments. Related to #2 and #5, we found that many of the tasks associated with camping offered an opportunity to teach the girls about something practical in a setting where we had the time to slow down and chat and teach (vs. just doing it ourselves). For example, we taught the girls about building a fire, how to identify poison ivy, interacting (or not interacting) with animals, etc.

7. Collect nighttime needs while it’s still light out. I really didn’t want to be fumbling around in the dark so after dinner I collected and arranged in the tent various things we might need in the middle of the night, such as water bottles for everyone, flashlights, and extra clothes in case of accidents.

8. Keep them up. We put the girls to bed around their usual bedtime and in retrospect, we should have kept them up until it was totally dark and they were really tuckered. What with different surroundings and sounds, the girls had a harder time falling asleep which led to many frequent visits to the tent. Next time we'll keep them up late!

Do you have other tips to share about camping with kids? Feel free to comment below!

Image credits: Christine Koh