How to Camp with Kids and Not Lose Your Mind 

Picture this, a warm cup of cocoa next to a babbling brook, s’more-covered, smiling faces glowing in the light of a campfire, adventure-packed days exploring every type of flora and fauna Mother Nature has to offer. At least that’s how euphoric camping with kids sounds, in your mind.  

Now let’s bring it back to reality. Even for the most seasoned adult campers, throwing kids in to the mix takes camping to an entirely different level. As nature-loving parents, we know how important it is to get our kids out and into the great outdoors as much as possible, so here are a few camping tips and tricks to keep organized and, most importantly have fun, so no one has to lose their mind.  

exploring

Create a Kid’s Toy Bin  

This one little tip just might change your life forever. In our family, we are big on bins to organize camping gear. There is one for kitchen supplies, one for pantry items and one smashed full of our kid’s favorite toys. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, given you’re out in the middle nature with so much to explore and discover, but kids still get bored. Consider, also keeping this bin off limits when you’re not sleeping under the stars. It will make it all the more appealing when your little one finally gets to unpack it from the crammed car.   

Don’t know what to put in your bin? Here are some ideas:  

• Bubbles  

• Glow Sticks  

• Kite  

• Markers, Colors & Paper  

• Magnifying Glass  

• Bug Catcher Set  

• Binoculars 

• Cards 

• Travel Checkers  

bubbles

Camp with Awesome Friends  

The best gift you can give your kid (and yourself), on a camping adventure is an adventure buddy their own age, leaving you and YOUR friends a bit more time for rest and relaxation. Camping with friends also offers some pretty great perks like splitting up campsite chores and on the off chance you forgot the wine bottle opener, your awesome camping friends have your back. There’s also something pretty special that occurs when you make camping communal. Together, through a shared experience of Mother Nature, an amazing tribe can form, and in turn a beautiful group of kids emerge, growing up together with shared experiences and discoveries.  

Get the Kids Involved  

Camping trips offer a whole host of ways to engage your kids. Let them pack their camping bag, allow them to help set up the tent, delegate a few campsite chores and you’ll watch your generally uninvolved kid get energized by the adventure. Hand over a bit of the control and you will see them adopt a new-found sense of ownership of their own experience. Letting kids lead the way is an incredible confidence builder and helps to shape their decision-making skills.  

Get the Right Gear  

A family of three doesn’t need a three-room tent with a screened-in porch attachment, but a nice self-inflating sleeping pad can do wonders for a comfortable night’s sleep. Talk to your friends about what gear works best for them. Ask them if you can borrow theirs and give it a test run. If you don’t have friends who camp, reach out to bloggers in the community or your local outdoor club for advice. Bottom line, do your research and don’t go overboard and you won’t lose your mind.  

gear

Prepare Ready-to-Eat Meals  

Without question, this is our family’s number one life-saving rule for an awesome camping trip. Make your meals before you get to the campsite. Create a camping trip menu to do your grocery shopping and you will cut your camping food budget down by one third. Pre-marinate your steaks and vegetables and make yummy side dishes that are meant to be devoured cold. Bring dry foods like nuts and dehydrated green beans (a family favorite) and cook easy lunches that travel well and fit in your hand like quiche and zucchini fritters. Preparing the food the day before you leave, can save you countless hours of chopping, mixing and cleaning at the campsite, which leaves more time for exploring or just sitting and doing absolutely nothing.  

Glow-Sticks

Go With the Flow  

For some, this might be the hardest, but once you have it mastered, you will find campsite peace. Understand from the beginning that this isn’t a spa retreat with the girls or a Vegas trip with the guys. It’s not even camping with anyone else, this is camping with kids. Try not to go in with any expectations. That will always end in frustration. Know from the moment you set foot on the rocky terrain, that this is all about their discovery and exploration. Kids are like the wind, they are guided by invisible whims and flights of fancy. Don’t try to understand them, just go with the flow and you may not lose your mind.

kids-helping

All images take by:  Kerem Hanci Photography

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Travel writer, editor of MommyHiker.com and founder of Outdoor Families Magazine, Mrs. Fontaine strives to enrich the lives of families by providing unparalleled, award-winning outdoor and adventure related content meant to inspire a connection to, participation in and stewardship of the natural world.

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