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5 tips for camping with kids

Camping and spending time in the outdoors with our kids is so important in many ways. In today’s society, quality family time is often hard to achieve. Parents are busy with careers and running in a thousand directions trying to help with homework and getting children to various activities.

Besides family time, allowing kids to appreciate different aspects of life and the world is another benefit. We’re so engrossed in teaching kids, getting them to take homework seriously, do their chores and so on, that sometimes they, like us, have little opportunity to notice the bigger natural world around them.

Out in the woods, kids can be themselves. Peer pressure is so intense, twisting the screws of vanity on how they act, how they dress, hairstyles, and so on, in one big march of conformity and squashing of individuality. Out in the woods kids can be themselves, learn new skills, notice things that are not electronic, and express themselves without fear of peer judgement.

5 tips for camping with kids.

1) Keep them entertained.

Be sure to schedule events that will be fun. One way to do this is introduce them to new things that they might have not seen before and also keeps their minds occupied. Take a hike, but add to it by introducing them to new plants, try out some edible plants (if you are sure of your plant ID skills) or try and spot wildlife. Many forests have history too. My neck of the woods is full of ruins from the California Gold Rush, so a historical tour always keeps their interest and they learn something new also. If they can go back to their friends and brag about what they did on your trip, you’ve hit a home run. Another tip: Keep it short. Spending all day fishing and not catching anything is a sure turnoff to children.

2) Keep them comfortable.

One sure way to teach a child to dislike the outdoors is for them to be physically miserable. If they get cold or are soaking wet, complaining is sure to follow. Bring more gear than you would otherwise. Make sure that you have plenty of gear to keep them warm when the temp drops at night. If there is a chance of getting wet, bring towels and lots of changes of clothing. Bring plenty of snacks: They will be running around a lot more than usual which will burn more calories than usual. Keeping heir bellies full will minimize crankiness. Don’t forget the sleeping pads, bug spray and sun screen. A sunburned or itchy child is not a happy child.

3) Schedule family time.

Now is a great chance to have the family spend time together without the usual distractions of daily life at home. Sitting around the campfire together with a bag of marshmallows and some good stories can be a profound experience, one that will be remembered by them for years to come. Other things are family hikes, canoe trips, or cooking dinner around the fire with hot dog sticks.

4) Keep it simple

A big, backwoods adventure sounds exciting, but for a family having access to toilets, running water and showers often keeps everyone happy for longer. Consider staying at a state park with improved camp sites (there might even be other children there for them to play with). Keep meals and snacks simple so you’re not busy cooking half the day with bored kids sitting around waiting to go do something. Kids also have short attention spans, so change things up and don’t drag it out too long.

5) Keep it short.

Kids will get bored. A general rule is to keep travel times as short as possible. Some kids are good with travel but most don’t like being in the car for hours on end. The other option is to plan fun stops along the way.
Keep the stay at camp short. 1-2 nights is probably best. Hopefully you’ll encounter resistance to leaving so soon. If the kids complain that they are not ready to go home yet, then they’ll be really excited for the next trip. If the trip goes on too long and they get too bored, they won’t look forward to the next trip, so don’t feel guilty for leaving too early. If you found a campsite close to home, returning again is not too big of a project.

Other thoughts.

Kids are not little adults, and do need to be entertained. Make the trip short but fun. Kids love new discoveries, so teach them how to pitch a tent, how to build a shelter from natural materials, how to identify a few plants or discover where critters live. If they get tired of something, move on.

Camping with your kids is the chance to have them appreciate new things and gain a larger awareness of the world. The look on their faces when seeing the natural world in real life, rather than on the internet or television is priceless! Go with their flow and make the trip as enjoyable for them as possible so they are eager to return.

2 Responses to 5 tips for camping with kids

  1. Hi Mike,

    I just found your blog via your Tweet. I'm a sucker for first posts so had to come and check out your blog.

    I couldn't think of a better subject to write about for a first post. Well done, it is a good read with some excellent tips.

    I took the opportunity to join your mailing list, subscribe to your RSS feed and I'm following you on Twitter.

    Best wishes for your blog and I look forward to your future posts and tweets.

    Allan McDonald @


    • Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate the comment! I'm just getting started and developing ideas. I hope you enjoy the content in the future and as always, your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.


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