Camping is one of the best summer activities you can enjoy as a family! The weather is perfect for going outside, the kids are out of school for summer break, and there’s tons of nature to enjoy! It’s easy to get cooped up inside these days and kids can quickly get preoccupied with tv, phones, and video games. If there was ever a more perfect time to get outside and in touch with nature, it’s definitely summer! There are so many different ways to enjoy camping with your kids and making sure they get the most out of the experience. Whether it’s your first time camping with your family or your 10th, we’ve got you covered with great tips and activities to make this trip the best experience!
1. Picking the Right Place
There are some big decisions that need to be made before going on this journey, but the biggest one is probably deciding where to go. Are you willing to take a long road trip to the campsite or would you prefer somewhere much closer to home? It’s a good idea to check out local campsites first to see what options are available around you, then spread your search a little farther out.
When booking your campsites, think about the location for bathrooms, distance to the beach, distance to playground, location of firewood source, location of the campsite, etc. If you have the option, choose one that best suits your family’s needs for camping.
You can also think about the kind of scenery you’d like to enjoy. For example, maybe you’d like to camp lakeside, or in the forest, or near the ocean. There are so many different options, it can get a little overwhelming, but this is the perfect time to talk with your family about what they might enjoy. Perhaps your kids love swimming, so you might want to choose a location with a river or lake. Or maybe your family enjoys hiking and a forest path would be perfect for you. Get everyone together and see what kind of campsite sounds like the most fun and decide as a family! Your kids will feel like their voices are being heard and their opinions matter in the decision making process.
2. What Should You Bring?
Depending on where you’re going and how long you’re staying, what you bring might vary, but there are definitely some basics that you should bring along when camping!
Sleeping Arrangement Supplies:
- Tent (Depending on the size of your family and the type of camping you are wanting this could vary.)
- Tent stakes
- Tarp (Have a tarp underneath the tent to keep the bottom of your tent free from rips and keeps the dampness away from the tent.)
- Sleeping bags (A sleeping bag is probably one of the most important items for camping. There are a ton on the market, so check for the right one for you. Do you prefer to sleep warm or cold, do you need it for certain outside temperatures? etc.)
- Air mattress (with air pump) or mattress pad
- Cooler with Ice
- Meals and Snacks
- Plates, Cups, Bowls and Utensils
- Cooking Utensils and Can Opener
- Large Dutch Oven, Griddle and Small Saucepan
- Drinking Water (if no potable water on-site) and Refillable Water Bottles
- Trash Bags
- Plastic Zipper Bags
- Cook Stove and Fuel
- Firewood, Paper and Matches or a Lighter
- Camping Chairs
- Headlamps, Flashlights or Lanterns (Great for when you are cooking in the dark, starting a fire in the dark, or late night walks to the bathroom with the kids. Camping must haves for families!
- Weather-Appropriate Clothing for All Family Members
- Basic Toiletries: Sunscreen, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Soap, Shampoo, Deodorant, Flip-Flops for Shower (if necessary) and Toilet Paper, Insect Repellent
- Daily Medications
- Fire Extinguisher
- First Aid Kit
3. Keeping the Kids Safe and Happy
Going to an unfamiliar place can be a really exciting adventure for most kids that they can’t wait to experience, but there may be some tough moments where they might feel homesick. This is a natural feeling and happens to many kids when they spend the night away from home. But luckily there are a few things you can do to help and some things to look out for while you’re away from home.
Explore the campsite together as a family and get a good idea of the layout. Make sure your kids know where the bathrooms are, where any dangerous areas are that need to be avoided, and where to find an adult or park ranger if necessary. Going through these points can help put your child at ease and make them feel more secure.
Another thing to look out for is making sure everyone is settled in at bedtime. Some kids may have no trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, but smaller children might be confused when trying to fall asleep in a new place. It may be colder and darker than usual and this can be a bit uncomfortable for some kids. You can try having a chat about the fun you all had during the day followed by a bedtime story and cuddles.
Also, be sure to keep an eye on everyone during the day. Campsites tend to have a lot of interesting things and places in them that might distract kids so they could accidentally wander off. You can avoid this by planning family activities that everyone will love and will keep everyone in the same area.
Depending on the location of the campsite, the activities available to you may differ, but there are plenty of things you can enjoy as a family!
If you’re going to be near a river or lake, you can try kayaking, canoeing, swimming, tubing, or even white water rafting! Drifting in a rowboat could also be a relaxing alternative to the more intense water activities. Or for the little ones, playing along the beach could be a fun way to experience the water without getting too close. Just be sure that everyone wears sunscreen and lifejackets and you’ll be good to go!
If you’re lucky enough to be near a forest with some hiking trails, you can go on a little trek together to enjoy the scenery and fresh forest air! You are likely to see many different kinds of trees and plants along the way, which could be a great learning experience for young kids. Certain plants thrive best in cool, shady forests and may even provide food and shelter to forest creatures. There’s a chance you might even encounter some of them, like birds, squirrels, chipmunks, or even deer!
5. Life Skills
Camping isn’t just a great opportunity for family bonding time and getting into nature, it’s also a time for potential learning! Kids have the chance to experience and try things they might normally be able to, which can result in some new skills or knowledge.
For example, building a fire can be a wonderful lesson about heat and energy. Fire needs fuel to burn, usually paper, wood, or charcoal, but also requires a spark. Once a fire is started, it produces heat energy, which keeps us warm and can cook delicious food, like S’mores. This is a fantastic, basic science experiment and lesson that kids can really benefit from and have fun participating in. It’s also a chance for kids to learn about fire safely at the same time and understand the dangers that an accidental fire can pose and how to safely put out a fire.
Kids can also benefit from helping parents prepare meals, set up camping supplies, and learning how to clean up after themselves.
6. Down Time
Since camping can be such an exciting and stimulating experience, it might be a good idea to plan for some downtime. For younger kids, this could be a much needed nap, a little story time, or some coloring. Older kids might want to write a journal about their time camping and reflect on what kinds of experiences they’ve been having in their new environment.
Parents might also enjoy some time to relax and enjoy sitting around the campfire together or just having a sit and looking out at the beautiful scenery.
You can also prepare some coloring pages or books for your children to enjoy during this time to keep them focused and relaxed. Red Cat Reading has pages and pages of free coloring books, workbooks, and phonics books to keep your kids entertained and learning even while on vacation! You can find them in our Download Center for free! Our leveled reading worksheets contain challenging word searches to reinforce kids’ vocabulary learning. Kids really love these word searches and they stay occupied for hours!
So, do you have any idea of where you’ll go camping? Will it be by the beautiful lake or in the lovely forest? We hope that you now have all the tools you need to have a fun and safe camping trip with your family. You’re guaranteed to have tons of fun and make lots of special memories with your little ones! Happy trails to you!