Kids and camping are two words that are synonymous with love, wholesome fun. It’s an easy way to cement lifelong memories with your family and you’ll be amazed at how kids interact with the outside world. However, the joy of camping can lose some of its gloss when things don’t go smoothly, but stick to these tips and you’ll be on the right track.
If this is your first time camping with kids, your first time full stop, or you’ve recently upgraded to a camper trailer or caravan, then checking your equipment is a must. Aside from giving yourself pressure free time to become familiar with your setup, you can also check that all other equipment is in working order; nothing worse than setting up camp only to find the gas bottle is three quarters empty. And if you’re still getting the hang of it all, stay local. That way if something forces you to pack up and go home you’re not too far away.
Stopping early in the day or leaving home at a time that will get you to your destination with plenty of daylight to spare will mean that setup is less likely to turn into a nightmare. Arriving by mid-afternoon lessens the chance of anyone being too cranky (and hopefully the littlest has had a nap in the car) so you can see what pole goes where without anyone nagging for food. Give everyone a job to keep them busy whilst you set up the harder stuff. Kids can help collect kindling or throw the sleeping bags into the tent and bringing a pre-prepared meal on the first night will mean an easy dinner so everyone’s happy.
This is especially important if you have multiple children or are camping with kids under 3. Infants and toddlers typically require more changes of clothes and additional items that the rest of the family doesn’t need, so a list is great to tick things off as you throw them in the car. There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to find you’ve left something behind and it can really spoil your trip if you can’t just pop to the shops and buy whatever it is you’ve forgotten. I’m thinking nappies…imagine if you forgot the nappies. Perfect. Weekend. Ruined. Even summer nights can be chilly so warm things for everyone is a good idea. Kids will be comfortable and happy if they are warm, particularly once they’re in bed, and that ensures everyone gets a good night’s sleep.
Kids will go one of two ways when it comes to food. You won’t see them the whole day until they show up at camp around 4 pm looking for dinner, or they will graze on whatever they can get their hands on and refuse to eat a proper meal. Simple food with simple preparation will make certain that Mum isn’t stressed when the kids are nagging for food and means everyone has an enjoyable time. Most kids will happily eat sausages in bread all day, but the rest of us need a little more variety than that, so be sure to invest in a cast iron pot and do some research before you go on the multitude of simple but interesting things you can cook using the coals of your fire. Stockpot recipes are easy to prepare mid-afternoon and then left in the coals to do the rest of the work. Plenty of whole fruit they can grab on the go and healthy snacks within easy reach gives kids independence to feed themselves too, leaving you to relax.
All kids like to help. The slower pace of a camping trip and break from the usual routine combine to make most kids excited to give anything a go. Planning your trip together builds great anticipation too and gets them excited about getting out there. Once you’re at your destination, young kids can be put in charge of many aspects of setup, like handing out tent pegs. Older ones can help with cooking breakfast or the night time meal. Not only does involvement give them a sense of achievement, but it also occupies them while you do other things.
In an age where the average child gets more screen time than any other activity in their lives, a camping adventure allows for some rare outdoor fun and the chance to connect as a family. So, leave behind what normally demands their attention. Kids are amazing at occupying themselves and inventing new games if given the chance, so give them the opportunity for some unstructured play. Besides, games with little pieces or Lego are likely to get lost. However, be sure to pack a few things that will pass the time if you get some rain like colouring books and pencils. Cards are also good and glow sticks are great for night-time fun.
Camping can be dark. And it can be a scary thing for little ones if you don’t have enough lighting in the evening for them to confidently move around the campsite. All kids love torches, so there’s no reason why everyone can’t have one of their own. Just be sure to bring spare batteries. Adequate lighting makes dinnertime and bedtime that bit easier for parents too and is essential for midnight treks to the toilet.
Monkey see monkey do. Relax and slow down. If you’ve planned well there’ll be no reason to not sit back and enjoy the break. Trying to schedule the whole trip, however, will likely leave you with tired and cranky kids so go home refreshed from a weekend of simple, unstructured fun. The whole family will be asking to go camping again well before you’re back to civilization.
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