Camping with kids can be a fun and inexpensive family vacation. From morning hikes and fishing trips to evening games and treats around the campfire, camping is fun for the whole family. One of the best ways to maximize the adventure is to plan some games and camping activities that the kids can participate in and enjoy. Activities such as scavenger hunts are fun for kids and adults alike.
Another way for your kids to learn about the woods is to show them the various types of animal tracks and signs that they leave behind. The more they learn about the wooded environment and its inhabitants, the more exciting that morning hike will become.
When you go camping with kids, it’s always a good idea to have the camping safety & sanitation talk, especially if this is their first time out in the woods. Below is just a short list of things that you might want to discuss with your kids before the trip:
- Don’t play-around near the campfire. Let them know not to touch the rocks around the campfire or the wood in the fire. After a few hours of hanging around the campfire, kids can forget the danger that it poses. Moving the firewood or leaning on the hot rocks can cause serious burns. The campfire can be a lot of fun, just make sure that they maintain a safe distance.
- Keep food outside of the tent. Depending on your campsite, you might even want to put the food in an empty backpack and hoist it over a tree branch. There are plenty of hungry critters at night that are best left outside of your tent (skunks, opossums, bear, etc..).
- If lost, stay put and whistle three times. The woods can be very confusing. One ridge line looks the same as another and there are very few unique landmarks in the woods. In areas like State forests, you can often walk for many miles without hitting a road or any inhabited property. If you’re going on a hike, you may want to give your kids a quick lesson on how to use a compass and also give them a whistle. It’s a natural instinct to hasten our pace when lost. But sometimes this results in going farther and farther away from the campsite. Let them know that it’s far better to stop, have a seat on a log and stay calm. The 3 whistle blasts is a universal distress signal and if not heard by you, can alert others nearby.
- Draw some sanitary limits around your tent. If you’re going to an area of the woods where you’ll be for a few days, you’re going to want to have your bathroom area be at least 50-100 feet away from the area where you eat and sleep. If you have kids that like to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, put a chemical light stick on the designated tree. Sounds silly…I know…but when camping with kids it’s far better to have these ground rules discussed at the front end than deal with the alternative!
- Take off your shoes before you enter the tent. In the past, we’ve packed a carpet remnant as a tent doormat. This is a good idea so that the kids (& adults) get used to taking off their shoes outside. This keeps a lot of mud and dirt out of the tent, and it also deters hanging out in the tent during the day.
When you go camping with kids, you’ll have stories to tell for years to come and wonderful memories for the whole family. For our boys, it has been a lot of fun and a great escape into the outdoors. And from the kid’s perspective, where else is throwing rocks encouraged?; walking across streams allowed?; and cooking marshmallows on sticks expected? I hope that you have a fun and safe trip!