Camping with kids can be so amazing – there is just something magical about letting everyone explore, disconnect from your normal life, and enjoy eachother!
Alright alright… that sounds kind of like a fantasy right? Does camping with the kids look more like this – the kids screaming and fighting, while you’re frantically throwing everything into grocery bags and already looking forward to that first cool beverage before you even make it to the campsite?
Don’t worry – I’m going to simplify the whole process to you with some of the best tips and tricks to really enjoy camping with your kids (and why it’s worth going… don’t worry, you will end up relaxing!)
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When camping with kids, pack what you can ahead of time (and if possible, have a “camping only” set of clothes and things!)
I can attest to the fact that while spur of the moment camping is cool, and you might think you don’t need much to go hang out in the woods, some planning is helpful.
Get a tote with some bare minimal stuff such as jackets, atleast 2 sets of camp clothes, and basic cooking stuff so that you know even if you do forget something, everyone will stay warm and fed!
Pro tip: For all those items you can’t actually pack till you go (kids sleep items, cold food, chargers) write it down on something and tape that to the door so that there’s no way you can miss it and forget it!
Here are some ideas of what to pack (and the categories to use when putting them in your bins!)
- Cooking stuff (pans, silverware, spices)
- Non perishable food (dry goods, cans, cereal etc)
- Hygiene things (soap, body wash, face towels, wipes, toothbrush)
- Clothes (Make sure to include those camp jackets and easily sheddable layers)
- Kid stuff (toys, entertainment)
- Camping specific things (sleeping bags, tent, lanterns)
Speaking of what to pack when camping…. do you have a specific kids camping checklist? Try mine if not (or if you don’t have time to read this whole article!)
If this is your first time camping with kids, don’t go crazy like I did 3 kids ago and pack the whole darn house, then get to the campsite… and have nothing to do!
Here’s what’s inside this family camping planner!
- Camping Checklist for making sure you pack everything!
- An activity planner to beat boredom at the campground
4 daymeal planner + shopping list so everyone stays happy and full!
- An easy guide to picking a campground to ensure the safest and
camping experience for your baby or older children! funnest
- 4 camping and hiking songs they’ll love!
- 3 crafts and activities to making camping with your baby even more fun!
Do a test run with your camper or tent
You might think setting something up can only be so hard, but when you have alot going on (especially if you have younger kids who might need more help!) it’s good to know how to set it up without having to look at instructions and such too much. Not only that, but it’s also helpful to check for any additional items you might need to make it work for everyone!
Try setting it up in your backyard, or if you have a camper, just plug it in and make sure you know how to turn on the fridge (alot of them run on propane which is tricky at first) and things like the heater work.
Be real about kids sleep while camping (it won’t be the same as at home)
Truth – your kids will likely be completely off schedule, and might not go to sleep till after the sunsets (or even later if you do awesome stuff like s’mores and campfire stories after dark).
Truth – They will be so freaking exhausted that they will likely sleep like a rock!
Have a kid camp sleep location plan, especially if camping with babies
Many parents co sleep with their kids while camping (mostly because it’s easier and you don’t have to buy or pack extra stuff) but if that is not your norm at home, or you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you definitely need to make some plans ahead of time!
Baby camp sleep tips – Get some layers to keep your baby warm at night, a safe baby sleeping bag, and choose either a pack n play style sleep set up or baby tent set up for tents, or modify a bunk if sleeping in an RV or camper. Bring a baby monitor that runs on batteries so that you can actually leave the tent after they fall asleep without worrying!
Toddler camp sleep tips – They can still roll off the bed at this age, so “
If tent camping far from home, have alternate shelter plans!
Tent camping is truly wonderful, and can allow you to go so many places, but it’s good to do a little research beforehand to make sure there are other camping options nearby should a freak storm come.
Make a game plan for kid occupying activities during camp set up, chores, and tear down
We all know you could just hand your kiddo a tablet or phone (and not going to lie
The last thing you want is your kid asking you a million questions and following you everywhere while you’re trying to level your camper or deflate the tent bed in peace!
Related – See the baby camping gear (like a backpack and camping pack n play) that, while not needed, makes camping WAY easier and enjoyable!
If you’re camping with babies, it might be easiest to just carry them in a backpack if they won’t tolerate being set in a pack n play!
Make kids camp meals fun and easy (because all that extra play makes for VERY hungry kiddos!)
Our standard camping meals tend to be easy and fun – bananna oatmeal pancakes in the morning, pb sandwiches for lunch, and hotdogs for dinner. I love these because they are quick, but also unique to camping as we don’t often do these meals at home!
OF course, don’t forget to bring a TON of snacks (we like using these snack carriers because it makes them not eat it all so fast, and prevents as much spilling!) and s’more stuff to end the night with!
Pro tip – If your kids like scrambled eggs, crack
Have some fun camping games and activites planned
For me, there’s always this afternoon lull that feels soooo long (to be fair, we often have hikes scheduled, so when we just sit at camp it feels very long!) and that has gotten alot better since I have started bringing games!
I like that it helps give them some guidance to help explore our campsite, as well as something to talk about with the family!
We make sure to also print out some thing ahead of time like these fun camping songs to sing around the campfire!
Here are two games we love to play when camping!
Camping BINGO – I really like
Nature Scavenger Hunts – Just laminate one of these scavenger hunts and set the kids loose! I like these outdoor scavenger hunts because they include (besides the tradtional) a sensory, experience and alphabet nature hunt as well!
Bring a play tent to contain the toy clutter and provide some shade!
It’s likely that your tent is going to be small, and you don’t wan the kids trampling all over it with dirty feet and making a mess of it!
Instead, buy a play tent and put all their stuff out there!
There are tons of cool kids camping toys to bring (if you choose to really get into it!), so keep it all contained in the tent (and out of yours!)
Be realistic – your kids will get dirty (but bring wipes for quick clean up!)
I’m personally not what some would consider a “neat freak” but I know ALOT of people who do the bath thing every single day! Guess what? Kids are going to get dirty playing outside, especially if you’re camping for an extended amount of time!
Just keep wipes on hand to keep faces and hands clean!
Pro tip: Make sure to have a set of designated “play clothes” that are meant to get dirty! Just switch out of those before bed, wipe down (if you need to) and put your kids in some clean
Talk about fire safety and have clear, set rules for what’s ok for your kids to do in regards to the campfire!
Make a plan with your partner or anyone else who is coming to always have a “fire watch” – this is a person who will not leave the campfire area so that if any kiddo should wander too close, or have an accident and will be able to immediately respond.
It’s also important to talk with older kids about what’s ok to put in the fire and what’s not. For example, our preschooler has been throwing sticks he finds in the fire since around 1.5 (with supervision) which means he has had plenty of time to know things like rocks and plastic trash are not ok to throw in.
Keep your campsite lit (and your kids!)
Kids are pretty adventurous, so let them explore without dampening that too much! Get some light up shoes so that you can quickly see your kids at night, and if you want to up it a notch give them some glowing necklaces and bracelets (you can get those at the dollar store!)
Don’t forget to pick up some lanterns too – try to avoid the gas powered ones because they are way more dangerous and pretty easy to tip!
Plan for some hiking to break up the day
It’s always nice to have the option to go out and explore if everyone gets antsy at the campsite, so just anticipate this by packing good shoes, clothes, hats, etc. Depending on the age of your kids, don’t forget your carriers! We have two backpack style carriers that are super comfortable!
If you haven’t hiked with your kids yet, check out this kids hiking guide!
Control the bugs (while avoiding chemicals!)
I can’t tell you how often bugs have attacked us and made us hide inside our camper the whole time! This is especially true if you plan on camping near any water! Help control bites by wearing lightweight sun shirts and khakis. They both dry fast, are cool, but also provide a barrier against bugs without using a whole bottle of bug spray!
It’s always good to avoid DEET products due to the questionable affects it has on the bodies hormones – so if you do choose to go DEET free, we love this safe and effective repellent for our kiddos!
Most important of all, stay positive – kids catch onto your vibe!
Even if you forgot something, the weather sucks, or the campground is not as awesome as you thought, stay positive. SO MANY TIMES I have became frustrated, and it actually was 10 times worse for me because then all the kids caught on and became frustrated too!
Even if all these annoying things happen, it’s likely your kid won’t know that it”sucks”. In fact, they’ll probably just be overjoyed with the fact that they have you all to themselves with very little distraction, no matter where you guys end up!
So go out, and create those memories. Don’t forget, kids are pretty resileant and forgiving so even if you have to go back home early, it’s likely they’ll be fine with trying again later!