Camping Camping Vacations

TIPS for Camping with Kids

One of our favorite summer activities for families is camping. For those that aren’t sure about camping with kids, here are some tips for camping with kids to make sure you not only survive, but thrive! Camping with families is not only doable with these handy tips, but can be loads of FUN, create priceless memories, save you a fortune on vacation costs, and more!  Plus we’ve included a camping packing list with camping essentials for kids!

One of our favorite summer activities for families is camping. For those that aren’t sure about camping with kids, here are some tips for camping with kids to make sure you not only survive, but thrive! Camping with families is not only doable with these handy tips, but can be loads of FUN, create priceless memories, save you a fortune on vacation costs, and more!  Plus we've included a camping packing list with camping essentials for kids!

TIPS for Camping with Kids

Nervous about taking your kids camping?  I understand the thoguht of loosing the comforts of home, roughing it, and packing up what seems like your entire house doesn’t sound relaxing as a family summer vacation. But I promise it can be a lot of fun! Here are some tips for camping with kids to ensure you have a great time camping with your kids!

Camping with kids

We love getting away from the hustle and bustle of life and unplugging. Especially in this age of so MANY devices it is essential to get kids off their iphones, ipads, game consules, and televisions to enjoy nature. They may have a day of detox (LOL) but will soon come to appreciate the world around them. From exploring nature with a fun hike, looking for animals, hearing the sounds of insects, the bright stars in the night sky, and the joy of a shaddy tree on a hot afternoon. Camping can be so magical. My family especially loves telling stories and playing campfire games! But if you’ve never been camping before, or it’s been a while, there are deffinetly some family camping tips you will want to read!

Best family tent

If you haven’t been camping in a while – get a new one! The stretch part o the poles wears out, snaps, and can be a real headache. Plus some seems may not be so waterproof anymore! The new tents are made better and can be set-up more easily too. Personally we like the cabin style where even grown-ups can stand up! This 10 person tent has plenty of room for your family whether you fill it with air mattresses, pack n plays, etc. WE like that it has a curtain to seperate the parents from the kids!

  • Make sure your tent can be set-up easily by mostly one person in case one of you needs to tend to an infant or other children.
  • As soon as your kids are able to help, give them jobs to help. They will love the responsibility and it will make your job easier (and with less complaining). Kids can help hold the stakes, tie down flaps, carry  sleeping bags in the tent, put in poles when they are a little older, and eventually they will be very helpful pros.
  • Make sure your equipment is good, free of holes. You don’t want to end up getting all wet during a middle of the night rain storm.

tips and tricks for camping with kids

Camping with Toddlers

Bigger just may be better

We started out camping with a 2-3 person tent.  If it was raining the ceiling was so low that we weren’t able to do anything buy lay down. That may work okay when it was just grown-ups, but not with kids.

Since then we purchased a “cabin” style tent. We can all stand up in the tent and move around. There are two “rooms” that meet in a curtain in the middle. This allows the kids to go to sleep in separate rooms (if need be) and for us to have a tiny bit of privacy.

If you are traveling with small child remember it needs to be able to comfortably fit your pack-and-play. Ours has our air mattress in one “room” and the port-a-crib and two sleeping bags in the other “room”. The porch is very handy. Not only does it provide a screened in area where you can hang out if the bugs are bad, but it is a great place to store your camping chairs at night to avoid all the dew or rain.

Where to Camp

Now by picking a good spot I mean two things – the physical location (site) you pick within a campsite AND where you choose to head to camp:

Pick a Good Campground

Sure setting up the tent, watching the fire, and eating are great fun. But chances are your family might need something else to do. Pick where you want to camp based on your families interests. We love camping at National Parks because they are usually pretty cheap (around $10-20/night) and have great facilities (including clean bathrooms).  But a spot is more than just a clean bathroom and cheap cost. You want somewhere you can fish, hike, play at the beach, wander some dunes, explore the woods, or visit a nearby city.

Our family typically camps while on road trips (at least 3 out of every 4 nights). We also like to camp annually at a national park along the beach for several days so we can truly relax and develop a rhythm there. Not only does it have a beach, it has trails and nearby berry picking too.

Camping at Arches National Park

Pick your Site Carefully

Sometimes you don’t have a choice which tent site to choose. but at many campgrounds it is first come first serve, so if you have a choice here are some recommendations.

  • Don’t tent by a camper (they are noisy and bright at night, hiding the stars). Stick to the tent only area.
  • Park close to the bathroom, but not the next 1-2 campsites away as they get a lot  of traffic (especially at night).
  • Don’t choose a site at the head of a trail. People will be wandering by your tent all day and besides being annoying and at times unsettling, they may wake up sleeping children.
  • Remember that shaded/wooded sites my shield you from some rain or wind, but they will also be more buggy, your tent will dry more slowly from morning dew, and you won’t get to see the stars very well.
  • Remember that wide open spots may be windy (our site at Dunes State Park above was very windy!) and hot during the day, but your tent will dry off quickly.  We tend to pick part shaded/part sunny spots.
  • The more room in your particular site, the more room you can leave between you and a neighboring camper.
  • If you camp somewhere near home that you will go back to, spend a couple minutes to find the “good sites” and make a note before you leave. Most camping locations allow you to choose a site online ahead of time.

Tips for Camping in the Rain

Have a Rain & Severe Weather Plan

Without fail the days you pick to camp there is rain or worse – severe weather!  First get to know your campground and where to go in the case of tornados (unlikely, but there’s no time to loose in those instances).

If it is raining only (no lightening or thunder) it is so nice to just sit in your tent – it is very relaxing!
If it starts to lightening and thunder you should be in a protected space and your tent is not safe during a thunderstorm. If it is the middle of the night we just move our family inside our fan to sleep for the night. Since we are not driving anywhere kids can lay on the floor or across seats and we simple recline our chairs.

Note: If you think you might drive somewhere (like if you are parked under tall trees that could fall) make sure kids are buckled in to allow you to move quickly without waking them during the night.
We’ve also slept in our car when there was a bear sited nearby and when one campsite in the mountains was to have a low overnight of 20 degrees. It was just warmer to sleep in the car!
If it starts to thunder during the day, you can drive to a nearby Wal-Mart and walk around, see a movie in a theatre, go out to eat (sometimes storms pass as quickly as an hour), or have a family movie night in the van. It’s memorable!

Remember you set the tone. If you are upset and frustrated that your plans have been ruined your kids will be more grumpy about it to. Have a good attitude and see it as an adventure and it just may be your favorite camping memory! By the same token, if there is a storm, be calm and decisive in moving your family to safety. The kids don’t need to be worried.

Camping Ideas

Plan Fun Camping Meals

I didn’t grow up camping and neither did my husband, so it took us a while before we ventured away from hotdogs as the main staple when camping.  Here are some ideas for meals while camping:

Lots of Camping Meals Ideas for Families

Simple Camping Meals using only a stick

  • hot dogs & chips with fruit
  • Baked Potatoes (set foil wrapped potatoes directly on the grey coals for 30-45 minutes) – serve with cheese and sour cream
  • Cinnamon roll on a stick (just bring a cinnamon tube and wrap a cinnamon roll around the edge of stick and hold over the fire until done, rotating as you cook)
  • Baked Goods from home (muffins, coffee cakes, cookies, brownies, etc.)
  • Corn on the Cob (just wrap husked corn in foil and set on coals or raised surface for 20 minutes or so)

Camping Classic – SmoresCamping Glassic - Smores

Don’t forget to bring marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey chocolate bars to make smores! This classic camping treat is just as fun for kids to help make as it is to eat. Your kids will LOVE this delicious, classic treat.

HINT: WE’ve started using a recess peanut butter cup instead of the hershey bars and it is SO YUMMY!

Raised Cooking Surface or one Pan Meals While Camping

  • Eggs (with or without bacon)
  • Pancakes (get the just add water containers for easy mixing & clean-up)
  • Doritos Bags (see complete directions)
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with chips & fruit
  • Steak (the best steak we ever cooked was over a campfire. You’ll need a raised surface which some campgrounds provide. Serve with baked potatoes – Yum!
  • Tin Foil Pouches (throw in some veggies and meat and seasoning if you like and cook over campfire for 20-30 minutes) – like a camping casserole
  • Campfire Quesadillas
  • Campfire Cones (dessert – Yum!)
  • Soup (canned or premade and brought in cooler)
  • Kabobs (just put meat and veggies on skewers and put on raised cooking surface until cooked through (about 20 minutes)
  • Pie Iron – tacos, sandwiches, or pie
  • Popcorn
  • Hamburgers
  • Nachos (just put nacho ingredients in a pan to warm enough to melt the cheese)

What to bring with you when camping with kids

Camping essentials for kids

What to Bring with you Camping

  • Tent (including steaks and mallet)
  • Tarp (helpful for covering chairs from morning dew, wrapping a wet tent in, around firewood you didn’t use, cover a leaky tent, etc.)
  • Sleeping Bags (even if it is hot during the day, it can get chilly at night) & pillows
  • Air mattress (if you like to be comfy like we do) – bring a battery operated pump or one that plugs into the outlet in your car
  • Chairs – to sit around the campfire (Hint: Kids love having their own special chair)
  • Coal (for cooking), lighter or matches, and wood (or buy from campsite)
  • Cooking pan or sticks
  • Cooler (to keep drinks and food cool – a large cooler with 1/5 full of ice can keep food at a refrigerated temperatures for 3 days before needing to add more ice. HINT: Bring meat frozen if you are going to camp for a week)
  • Food (plan your menu ahead at home and do as much of the cutting, preparing, and storing in Ziploc bags as possible)
  • Blanket (for kids to sit on the floor of campsite or beach)
  • Paper plates, cups (with sharpie to write names), silverware
  • Toys (books, balls, drawing boards, etc.) – just don’t bring too many!
  • Towels (if you are planning on showering or going to the beach)
  • Bug Spray & Sunscreen (you may also want some citronella candles for the campsite)
  • Flashlights (and larger lantern for campsite)
  • Cell phone or weather radio (to know if there is a storm coming)
  • Clothes – remember to pack sweatshirts and comfy clothes for sleeping in
camping-checklist

Camping packing list

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>> Download FREE Camping Packing List <<

Tipsf or your Families first camping trip

Camping ideas for families

Tips for your Families 1st Camping Trip. Prepare your kids by watching shows or reading books about camping – then they will know what to expect (Example: Curious George goes Camping)

Make it Short and Sweet – make your first trip for 1 night only, serve classic hotdogs and smores.
Camp close to home – although 99% of the time camping is great, what if you (or your child) really don’t like it.

When our oldest was 3 we took him camping for the first time. It was a terrible campsite with lots of tents packed together, very noisy neighbors, and we were on the corner and had a steady stream of traffic (and headlights) shinning in our tent. It was also before we learned to bring the pack-in-play which gave our kids a feeling of safety. At about 11:30 at night, with the noise/lights still going strong, we packed it up and headed home. Luckily we’d thought to only go about 30 minutes from home.  The next time, Goofy did GREAT and he loves camping now.

Go with the flow – not everything may work out just right, but go with it and enjoy the moment!
Bring warm clothes and bug spray
Don’t forget to have a campfire – it is the best part of camping! And typically, kids favorite memory of camping

 

camping-with-kids-tips-and-tricks


Take lots of pictures to remember this trip. Even the “it’s raining and we are going to have to feed baby on our bed even though she is making a huge mess” are memorable when you look back. Trust me – I’ve been there and all those moments are priceless memories now!

Make it Memorable

Camping is lots of fun and is something your kids will remember their whole life. Make it memorable by slowing down and enjoying the quiet, carefree moment! Instead of busying yourself (as we often tend to do) just be. Making Memories with Your Kids while Camping

Sit. Watch. Listen. Engage.

Spend extra time cuddling around the campfire or in your tent. Let them crawl into bed with you in the morning when they’re cold. Go on some fun family hikes and teach them about nature. Listen to their thoughts, dreams, ideas.  Let them stay up late to enjoy the beauty of a campfire and the immense night sky.
Sing songs or tell silly stories around the campfire. Use this time to recall your family stories – keep the stories of the fun you’ve had together fresh! “Remember the time……” or “My favorite vacation has been……”

Our family has been camping from coast to coast and it is still our favorite summer activity. We the love the simplicity, quiet, and the chance to reconnect without life’s distractions.

20 Road Trip Games - so many fun, easy to play kids activities for cars, planes, trains, and boats. Great for family vacation, summer road trips, and more. #roadtrip #familyvacation #vacation Printable Roadtrip Games Kids will enjoy exploring the state park or campground with this free printable camping scavenger hunt. This camping scavenger hunt for kids will have children searching for different shaped items such as a flashlight, tent, campfire, and more. This free printable scavenger hunt is fun for toddler, preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade students as it contains not only the name, but a cute picture too.  Simply download camping scavenger hunt printable pdf file with camping activity for kids in color or black and white and you are ready to play!  Disney World Planning in 6 simple steps

DIY Lava Lamp - super easy way to make your own lava lamp with simple things you have around your house. This homemade lava lamp is such a fun science project for kids of all ages to sneak in some summer learning. This science experiment is for toddlers, preschoolers, pre k, kindergarten, first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and kids of all ages at home, homeschool, summer camps, classroom, etc. Looking for a really fun and memorable science experiment for kids? You will love these EPIC pop rocks experiment. Try this pop rocks science experiment with preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th grade students to try a simple chemical reaction. This Whether you try this pop rocks science experiments for homeschool science, at a science birthday party, or as part of a summer science project - this is a MUST try,  really cool science experimentkids will LOVE. Take your homemade playdough to a whole new level of FUN with this amazing Color Changing Playdough recipe. This is sure to be a hit with toddler, preschool, pre k, kindergarten, first grade, and 2nd grade children alike.  These super EASY to make marshmallow shooters are a must for your summer bucket list. This summer activity for kids is not only fun, but it is actually a STEM activity for kids too! Students assemble, tweak, and design this simple marshmallow cannon to try to get the most distance they can. THis is such a simple, but fun summer activities your preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, and elementary age students in first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grdae, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade students will want to try over summer break!

Summer Fun

Looking for more outdoor activities for kids and things to do in the summer? Your toddler, preschool, pre k, kindergarten, and elementary age kids will love these fun ideas to keep them busy all summer long:

If you are looking for a fun unique activity using eggs, you will love this silly egg head craft. This egg shell diy chia pet is cute, simple and silly spring activities for kids. This egg shell craft is fun for toddler, prsechool, pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, and 2nd graders too! bleeding tissue paper fireworks craft Spring is the time for field trips to the local zoo. In an attempt to make our homeschool field trips extra fun (and educational) I created these super cute, zoo scavenger hunt templates. We have lots of choices with these zoo scavenger hunt printable pack to accomidate kids of all ages from toddler, preschool, pre-k, kindergarten to elementary age students in first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade students. Whether you use the simple animal scavenger hunt or learn about endagered animals or animal habitats in one of these zoo scavenger hunt ideas - kids will have fun learning about zoology in science. Simply download free printable scavenger hunt pdf file and you are ready to learn about animals with this printable scavenger hunt at your local zoo. i spy diy bottles with colored rice in recycled water bottles

Summer Activities for Kids

Edible Ice Cream Playdough Recipe - amazing 2 ingredient playdough recipe perfect for toddler, preschool, kindergarten and kids of all ages for an ice cream thing, kids activity, or summer bucket list #playdough #playdoughrecipes #icecream This vinegar and baking soda rocket is an out-of-this-world fun AND educational summer activity for kids! Preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade students will enjoy making the baking soda rocket. This how to make a bottle rocket project is one of those really cool science projects your kids will remember forever! Tin Foil Art This EPIC summer activities for kids uses a really fun technique to make squirt gun painting! This water gun painting is such a fun summer art project for toddler, preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th graders. The squirt panting is as much fun to make as it is to look at afterwards with the unique patterns. This Summer Painting for kids is a MUST for your list of summer activities for preschoolers!

Fun Summer Activities for Kids

About the author

Beth Gorden

Beth Gorden is the creative multi-tasking creator of 123 Homeschool 4 Me. As a busy homeschooling mother of six, she strives to create hands-on learning activities and worksheets that kids will love to make learning FUN! She has created over 1 million pages of printables to help teach kids ABCs, science, English grammar, history, math, and so much more! Beth is also the creator of 2 additional sites with even more educational activities and FREE printables - www.kindergartenworksheetsandgames.com and www.preschoolplayandlearn.com

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