Being outdoors has been a past time enjoyed by man kind since the beginning of time. Before the introduction of television, game systems, cell phones, and other tech gadgets, the best way to spend time was to trek into the woods and get lost. Childhoods were spent exploring orange groves, swimming in local swimming holes on the weekends, and indulging in imaginary play after school before supper.
In fact, the fresh air, the long hours spent outside, all of those things helped to make up the soundtrack of my own childhood. As children it wasn’t uncommon for myself and the neighborhood kids to have hair bleached by the sun or to have glowing tans by the end of summer. Things were just so different back then than they are now. Of course, now that I’m all grown up and have a family of my own, we spend time outdoors together on a regular basis. Being cooped up indoors isn’t very well tolerated within this family!
Family camping trips are one way that we can gather as a family to spend a few days recharging our batteries, soaking up those glorious rays of sunshine and marveling in the beauty of the nature that surrounds us. Now, I know that some of my readers might be thinking that I’m crazy to try and take kiddos camping or shake their heads wondering how on earth we manage. So, in an effort to encourage more families to heed the call of the wild, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the tips and tricks I’ve learned from my own experiences.
From start to finish, camping wasn’t always the most enjoyable experience for our family. Sometimes there were tantrums. Other times there was chaos. Then there were times where trips were cut short just because of how overwhelming everything was mid trip. Hopefully the tips I’m about to share will serve as encouragement for those who aren’t yet about that camping life. Even if you have a few trips under your belt hopefully these tips will make things a little bit easier.
The most important strategy for any trip or event is simply to organize. It’s literally half of the battle. Some people prefer to use individual backpacks, or even canvas totes. But I’ve found plastic totes work best if you happen to have the extra cargo space. I’ve found that plastic totes, even the smaller thinner ones, work best as they’re easily labeled. You can see through them rather than having to dig through blindly hoping you eventually come up with what you’re on the hunt for.
Totes are ideal for:
Food storage that also helps to keep animals and bugs out
First Aid supplies
Plastic totes or storage containers work because they keep everything right where you need them, without all of the guess work. You can pile in your dirty dishes so nothing gets shoved into a bag somewhere and forgotten about till months later, you can place dirty clothes in them so they can be washed upon returning home. The uses are endless to be honest. Depending on what kind of space you have to work with, they are the most ideal solution to keeping everything together during the length of your trip.
BUY A STASH OF BABY WIPES OR ANTIBACTERIAL WIPES!
Those with little ones already know that there is wisdom in buying wipes in bulk. They can be used to babies, kids, quick clean-up and much more! Unless you’re the adventurous type that feels comfortable taking a dip in the stream after a long, dirt stained day. You’ll want to bring along a couple of packs of wipes.
The wipes also come in hand for wiping away any dirt or sand from kiddos who might trek the stuff into tents with them. There is nothing more uncomfortable than a sandy tent floor, and I should know. We’ve slept on rocky terrain, sticks, and more but the absolute worst was the itchy, uncomfortable sand that comes along with kids and camping.
Make sure you also make plans to keep the winged creatures at bay. There is nothing worse than having to deal with a buggy situation while you are camping.
PLAN OUT SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS AHEAD OF TIME.
This is very important, especially if you ask your kids. Personally, I can rough it with the rest of them but I like to keep at least one air mattress on hand for myself and one of the little ones if one happens to be having a hard time settling down. Not every kid can do the whole sleeping on the ground in a hot sleeping bag thing. I never could.
If you have a baby along for the trip, bring a pack n play. Chances are they’ll sleep easier and better with something that resembles their routine back home. Mosquito netting or extra sheets can be utilized to keep the winged creatures at bay. Bug bites and babies/toddlers rarely ever mix well.
PACK ACCORDING TO THE WEATHER.
This one is easy to remember and to practice. We’ve camped in sweltering heat and freezing temperatures, with and without the kids. We make sure to take clothing to keep cool during hikes or extra coats for when the weather is cold. For warm nights, it never hurts to pack flat sheets for the whole family! For winter, we pack the sleeping bags and an extra comforter or two, that way we can all bundle together. Or at the very least utilize for padding along the floors.
KEEP LITTLE HANDS CLEAN WITH A HAND WASHING STATION.
Here again is where you can utilize totes again. Anyone who has ever camped knows that you’re going to get dirty. You just can’t avoid it! By filling an empty tote with river/lake/bottled water, you can help cut down mess and keep little ones clean after meals, hikes or even family game night by the fire. Without running water or available bathrooms (depending on where you go) it can be hard to keep kiddos clean while out in nature. A hand washing station will be your new best friend.
As an added benefit, you can even double the station as a bathing station too. A few hours out in the sun will have your water warm enough by mid morning or end of the day to give a quick rinse off. This tends to keep mom happy and little ones in a less crabby mood after a tiring day.
MAKE DINNER A FAMILY AFFAIR.
Some people might cringe at the thought of letting kids help with dinner at home, let alone by an open fire but it’s a wonderful bonding experience. It teaches responsibility around fire, practical skills and makes the winding down part of the day a fun experience for everyone. You can do some meal prepping at home to save time too, and make hobo dinners (foil and ingredients cooked over the coals).
Camping also gives you the opportunity to try your hand at catching dinner, which in our experience has proven to be a blast for kids. If they don’t manage to catch anything, you can fall back on your prepped food items and have them help add, stir, etc. during the cooking process. Cleaning utensils and pots/pans in nearby streams can also prove a fun activity while being helpful to the adults in the group!
BRING ALONG THEIR FAVORITE TOYS/GAMES.
Trust me on this one. At the end of the day when tempers are high and the adults are content to sit around the fire, the little ones won’t always be happy to do the same. Remember those bins and backpacks we talked about? They’re great to store kids personal items like toys and games. Especially if you have a larger family or bring along a few cousins for the trip. Nothing makes more magic than memories created with cousins!
Now, those are just 7 tips and tricks for having a successful camping trip while having little ones along. I have found them to be the easiest and most stress saving tips in my arsenal. I hope they at least prove to be helpful, whether you’re planning your first camping trip or one of dozens. Camping in the great outdoors is a fun and a way to create memories with loved ones!