Admit it, it’s happened – you haven’t even backed out of your driveway, the kids are arguing in the backseat and you’re thinking, “It’s going to be a LONG weekend of camping with kids!”
I interviewed three “camping with kids” experts who have over 75 combined years of experience camping with children and grandchildren alike. They have seen it all, done it all, and have some awesome advice for both novice and experienced campers who want to plan a successful camping with kids. Here’s what I learned.
1. Safety First
You know the basics, right? Life vests in the boat, water bucket next to the fire, bring the first aid kit, and so on. All of the moms I interviewed also talked about the importance of having flashlights or glow sticks for each kid. Deann, a mom and grandmother, who has camped with children for over 25 years says, “We bring a different flashlight for each of the kiddos, that way they feel special and remember to bring it with them while hanging out around the campground.” Another camping connoisseur, Cindy, states that her grandchildren use glow sticks that they put around their necks in addition to flashlights. Cindy also marks their camper with a piece of glow in the dark tape so that her camper is easily seen by the kids when it starts to get dark. This tape is available at just about any home improvement store.
2. Where to Camp? Try State Parks
In my interviews, two types of campgrounds came up most often, State Parks and KOA. The KOA campgrounds were well liked by my experts because of the planned activities, clean showers, family-friendly atmosphere, and because they almost always have a pool and kid play area. State Parks were also popular with the moms I interviewed because they also had lots of planned activities (stop at the Ranger desk for pamphlets), most have a beach and kid plan area, as well as nature trails and fishing. Kristin, a mom of three who has been camping with kids for the past 10 years says, “If you are looking for a quieter camping ground with regulated hours, then the State Parks are perfect”. Kristin points out that sometimes campgrounds can be noisy at night for little ones, and at the State Parks, they have rules regarding late night noise.
3. Lets have some fun!
Bikes were the number one thing mentioned by my mom experts as a must have item for the kids. Other popular items mentioned included: card games, crayons, yard toys, footballs and Frisbees, and books. One mom I interviewed, Cindy, also mentioned that she enjoys home-maid scavenger hunts. She gives each kid a paper bag and then makes a list of items for them to collect. Some of the items might include a pine cone, moss, a certain color rock. Cindy, who has been camping with kids for about 40 years, also stated that they like to paint rocks and sometimes they paint the date and location on the rock, and keep them as mementos.
4. Be Prepared For Rain
All the moms I interviewed agreed that camping and electronics don’t mix! Electronics are to be left at home! So what if it rains when you’re camping with kids? My experts said that when it rains, its a perfect time to read, color, play cards, and do some sightseeing in town. One mom reported that they “save all the sightseeing and in town activities for the rainy days”. Another mom said that if you are going to bring electronics, “keep them only for a day when it is raining and even then limit the time they can use them”. According to my experts, rainy days are also a good time to sit around and tell stories and play board games.
5. Chow Time – Get Kids Involved
One of the things kids like best about camping is the food, of course! Kristin, who frequently camps with friends says that it’s really fun to assign each family one night for preparing dinner for the whole group. She likes to have her kids involved in helping prepare the meal when it’s their turn to serve everyone. All the moms I interviewed agreed that Hobo Meals (meat, potatoes, and other fixings wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked in the open fire) are a child favorite. Of course, my camping with kids experts also said to bring treats, and snacks that are easy to prepare since kids get hungry fast and frequently when they are expending so much energy running around the campground.
Camping with kids can be a blast! Cindy, who has camped in over 10 different States in the US and in Canada says “camping with kids is wonderful, you just have to be prepared, understand that sometimes things may not go as planned, and have a backup plan for every situation!”