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Tips for Camping with Kids

Heading out into nature during the summer months is a seasonal tradition for many people. It’s one thing to rough it on your own or only with adults, but it’s entirely another to camp with children tagging along. To combat short attention spans and the minor discomforts that can come with camping, here are some tips to keep the kids entertained and active during the day and comfy at night.

On the Drive

A little research and pre-trip planning can go a long way to building children’s excitement about the trip. Pointing out changes in foliage, geological formations or the history of areas you pass through will simultaneously educate kids and help make the vacation about the journey and not just a destination.

Adding an extra day for stops along the way at roadside attractions, historical markers and scenic viewpoints will break up long drives and add even more memories to your summer vacation.

kidAt Camp

Choosing the right campsite can mean all the difference, as it sets the stage for all other aspects of the excursion. A mix of items geared for outdoor adventure and those more familiar will give the kids options when it comes to entertaining themselves during family outings. Outdoor items to pack include:

  • fishing rods and tackle
  • a magnifying glass and an insect-collection kit
  • binoculars for viewing wildlife
  • field guides for identifying unfamiliar flora and fauna
  • buckets and shovels if a sandy beach is nearby
  • a bevy of squirt guns
  • if you’re boating — skis, a tube, life jackets and swimming attire.

While you’re heading out into the woods, sometimes the common items brought from home bring new ways to have fun. Bicycles can provide entertainment around the immediate campsite, but they can also open miles of trail for exploration. A football, baseball or Frisbee can lead to family games and fun. Reading books can help during wind-down time before bed and coloring books come in useful during the day if kids get tired of the sun and fun.  And, of course, there’s the most simple of endeavors, which requires only a pair of shoes – a family hike.

While the adventure and fun of camping should be the focus, all of that should come after, or at least hand-in-hand, with safety. Incorporating a few simple tips can keep your family safe.

Keeping Comfy

Keeping the kids engaged and entertained is only the first step; proper apparel during the day and a good night’s sleep count big time.

Depending on where in the country you’re camping, warmer clothes might be necessary in the evening hours even during July and August. Sunscreen is always prudent, as is mosquito repellent – tight, burned skin and itchy bites will quickly ruin any trip. Raingear is also a good idea regardless of location or time of year. And, don’t forget a necessity like camp chairs.

If you’re in an extremely warm climate, a well-ventilated tent will be key to regulating the inside temperature with several bodies sleeping in close proximity. Sleeping mats, heavy blankets or even inflatable air mattresses will relieve the discomfort of sleeping on the hard ground – for both the kids and yourself. If it cools significantly at night where you’re going, make sure to place plenty of insulating padding under your child’s sleeping bag; the ground will suck more heat from them than the air.

All in all, camping with kids can be a fun and rewarding experience, both for the kids and the parents. The keys are being prepared, but also being flexible and realizing that the unexpected can happen even during the most well-thought-out camping trips. Enjoy the adventure!

Photo courtesy of Blythe Mayer
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Brian Lynn
As an editor and writer for such publications as ESPN.com and Outdoor Life, Brian has extensive experience in the outdoors realm. However, his knowledge comes with at the price of experience. You can learn a lot from him because he’s done most of it wrong the first time and can tell you all about what you should do instead.

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