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Camping with small kids: Your ultimate survival guide

So you want to go camping with your young kids, do you? You do know that what you’re proposing can either be a fantastic experience or one of the worst ideas ever. Right?

The truth is that going camping with small kids could be either, but we’re sure you’re hoping for the former. Get ready for stories around the campfire, nights with skies full of stars, the sounds of animals in the dark, and a tremendous opportunity to build memories. In this article, we’re going to let you in on the secrets of how to make a camping trip with your kids an incredible experience for everyone!

Small Child At Camp Ground
Photo by Caleb Oquendo/Pexels

Start with your reason why

If you don’t think there are any good reasons to go camping with small kids, it’s unlikely that you’ll even attempt it. However, there are some great reasons to take kids camping, and knowing what they are can help change your mindset if you’re starting off with misgivings.

Some terrific reasons to go camping with children are the following:

  • Fun: Watching young kids experience elements of nature, exploring, discovering their environment, and participating in that as a guide and protector can be immensely rewarding.
  • Learning: The truth is, kids are rarely too young to begin learning skills that can prove beneficial later on in life. Things like helping to gather firewood, setting up a tent, or learning the position of the constellations in the night sky are great examples.
  • Meeting new people: Kids can meet, play, and have fun with the kids of other campers. It’s an excellent opportunity to build interpersonal social skills outside of a classroom setting.

Start simple

You don’t have to go all-in the first time you take little kids camping. No rule says you must take your kids out into the wild right away. In fact, even if you are an experienced camper yourself, it might be best to just go sleep out in your backyard and tell your little ones that you’re “camping.”

The reason you might want to do this is so that they can experience something new in the safety of an outdoor space with which they’re already familiar. You can slowly graduate to farther away areas from home or even go on day trips to local nature parks and see how your kids respond.

When you think they’re ready for a more extended trip that’s more in keeping with your idea of really camping, then by all means, go for it! But, don’t think you have to start with the world’s grandest, most involved adventure.

Pack favorite foods

Whether you’re sleeping out in your backyard or you’ve gone on a real trip somewhere, you need to take the time to plan some things out ahead of time. One of those things is what to take for food. Ideally, you ought to allow your little ones to provide input on that subject.

You can bet your boots they’re not going to be thinking about beer, bottles of wine, steaks, or other food items most adults enjoy. Also, don’t bust out the deer jerky unless you know your kids already like that sort of thing. A camping trip with small kids is a bad time to experiment with new foods they’ve never had before (unless you brought a backup of stuff you know they like).

Allow your kids to pack with you

It’s all about making camping a family event. Let your kids join in while you’re getting everything ready. Ask them questions and encourage their input. It will make them feel like they’re a part of the decision-making process and will push them to think critically about what the family needs on the camping trip.

Additionally, make a list of camping gear your kids should take, then get them to pack it themselves (while helping them). Be sure to check what they’ve stuffed in their bags. You might find all kinds of things, like extra stuffed animals or other toys you know you won’t need on your trip. You’ll also want to ensure they actually have everything they need.

Finally, if you have more than one small child, you might wish to choose different colors for their bags to differentiate them.

Brown And Grey Tent In Forest
Photo by cottonbro/Pexels

Choose a campsite that fits your family’s needs

Remember that not all campsites are created equal. Some are literally a clearing in the woods and nothing else, while others are found next to the beach, playgrounds, picnic areas, and areas that have amenities like showers and working toilets.

It bears repeating that if your kids have never been outside the backyard before, you might do well to choose a place that has a lot of amenities the first time you’re camping away from home. You can find great, kid-friendly campgrounds by asking other parents or by searching online. Finally, enjoy the adventure and remember … your kids are small only once. Enjoy that while you can!

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