It’s summer, and for me, that means camping. In many ways, camping is the ultimate minimalist vacation. You get out into nature, and you spend time without some of the luxuries of modern life. I even try to choose locations that don’t have cell phone access because I don’t want to be bothered while I’m enjoying my trip.
What makes camping a little difficult, though, is the kids.
When you go camping with children, you have to be prepared. My son has been camping with me since he was three. As a result, he’s an old hand at it; last year I even let him start the campfire one morning. However, you have to acclimate your children to camping if you want them to grow up to enjoy it.
Here are 5 tips for camping with children:
1. Start with Other Outdoor Activities
Don’t immediately throw your child into the outdoors — especially if it’s a new experience for him or her. Instead, start with other activities. Go for a short hike. Camp out in the backyard. Drive to a day use area and cook over the provided fire pits. Take your child fishing. Figure out how your child responds to these activities. Introduce them a little at a time, and then head to the campground.
2. Flush Toilets
If you have young children, it’s easier to stay at campgrounds with a few amenities. While you might be able to get away with bringing an infant along on a your backcountry adventure (just bring out the baby’s waste), it gets harder with elementary-aged children. Start out at campgrounds with a few amenities, like a water tap and a flush toilet. You can then graduate to vault toilets, and finally, as your children get older and as their enthusiasm increases, do a pack in/pack out experience.
3. Bring Acitvities
One of the things that we do for the kids is set up an “activity tent.” This is where the kids can go to play board games or card games, or color. My son and his cousins usually enjoy running around and being in the outdoors, sometimes they just need to play quietly, or they need something to amuse themselves with while we prepare meals. My son brings non-tech items to use during downtime. It varies things up, and he’s ready for the next outdoorsy thing.
4. Stay One Night to Start
When we first started camping, we only stayed for one night. Now, though, we often stay for two. We aren’t quite ready for three nights, though. My siblings have children that are younger than my son, and two nights is about all they (and their parents) can handle. Start out with one night, and then work up to two nights — or even more. When I was a teenager, my parents took us on a camping trip with our uncle and cousins that lasted five nights. It was awesome. But not something I’m ready for with my son.
5. Be Safe
Make sure that your children are safe. I send my son with a watch, and make sure he checks in when he is staying near the campground. He always has a flashlight with him when he goes to the bathroom at night. We are careful to take other safety measures, especially with the younger kids. Don’t let them play in the water unsupervised, or wander off on their own.
What are your best tips for camping with kids?
Image source: Joel Friesen via Flickr