Camping with Kids

We’re leaving tomorrow to go camping. This will be Mr. Wonderful’s and my first family vacation, ever. It should be fun, and it should be interesting. A 13 year old boy, an 11 year old girl, and an 8 year old boy, plus the two of us for two nights and three days. We’ve been planning for months, making lists for weeks, and packing for days. And tomorrow we will embark on our journey, and hope with positive thoughts that the integration of our families for several days will be chalked up as a successful vacation we’ll want to do again year after year.

This brings me back to years ago. I have always loved camping. My family and I would go with a group from the neighborhood. We would rent several sites and make a weekend party of it. On the spit would be a whole pig with an apple in its mouth, turning slowly over open flame to make the best dinner I had ever tasted. We would stay up late at the campfire, swapping stories and toasting marshmallows. At night, us kids would go to sleep with our flashlights, telling ghost stories till way too late. We thought we were being sneaky back then, not realizing that the glow from the light cast our shadows against the tent twice the size of us. But no matter, we were camping. As long as we were in our beds, the parents didn’t seem to mind.

Years later I brought my own daughter camping. She was a little over a year, and loved sticking her tiny feet in the lake water the best. Unfortunately some of the dinner she ate one of the nights gave her the worst colic ever. She screamed and cried, waking the neighboring sites until I brought her into my car to mask the noise. As a baby she had been a very colicky baby. Since, though, she had outgrown it. That is, until that night. But other than that, it was a great experience having her there. And I have taken the kids camping several times since then with only great experiences.

Some tips I have learned several good ideas for keeping the kids happy when it comes to camping:
– Try to choose a campground that has water. When there is a lake, river, or ocean within walking distance, you have just sealed the deal for hours of fun throughout the day.
– Showers are a good thing. Some people claim that it really isn’t camping if there are showers. But think about it. You have kids running around all day in the dirt. Then they are crawling into their sleeping bags. Their skin is getting irritated, not to mention that those sleeping bags might be destined for a one time use. Yes, showers are good.
– On that note, bring quarters. Some showers at campgrounds make you pay for 5 minute showers by the quarter.
– Consider camping with another family that has kids, or letting your child bring a friend. If there are too many adults and not enough kids, there is a for sure forecast of the “Mom I’m bored!” complaints.
– Bring board games, baseball gloves and balls, a Frisbee, anything that will pass the time when sitting around the campfire has lost its luster.
– Teach your older child how to build a campfire, pitch a tent, find the perfect roasting stick…. Let them be involved with the responsibilities.
– Have fun! It’s just camping!

Do you camp with kids? What kinds of activities do you plan for the trip? And do you have any suggestions for parents who might be embarking on this kind of vacation with their kids for the first time?

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Are you ready for school?  Share on the forums how you make the transition from the lazy days of summer to the busy life of a schoolkid, and how you make the new schedule easier.

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2 thoughts on “Camping with Kids”

  1. We go camping every year and the kids love it. Here’s some things I’ve found that will keep them busy:

    Squirt guns. Great fun, cools them off and works great for keeping the squirrels and bluejays away. Establish a “no-squirt zone” around the tents and tables.

    Glow sticks, glow bracelets or necklaces, etc. They not only provide entertainment, but having all the kids tagged with one makes them easy to keep track of at night. Ends up as a nightlight.

    Last time, the kids used watercolors to paint the firewood like people. They got tired of paper.

  2. Our family camps quite often. One thing we find works best is a three-drawer plastic storage piece, similar to a small dresser, that can be found at Target. Each kid (we have 3) has a designated drawer and fills it with their clothes and any other items they want to bring camping. Our kids have learned to pack for themselves and the best thing about this is that it can remain outside the tent and leaves more room inside for sleeping. It also tends to pack better in the vehicle than several duffel bags.

    Great post, have a wonderful trip!

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