Getting your kids out in nature from a young age can do wonders for their physical, mental, and cognitive development. The benefits are limitless, ranging from increased activity to boosted creativity. The question is, when can you take the kids camping?
The truth is that kids can start camping at any age, even when they’re still babies. However, it’s up to you to make sure that the camping trip is safe, fun, and suitable for everyone.
We’re here to talk about all of the factors to consider and prepare for when taking the kids camping. Our guide will include general advice, age-specific advice, and crucial safety tips to ensure that you have a great family camping trip.
Read on to find out more about camping with the kids.
Pick a Mild Camping Season
As an expert camper, you may love the challenge of setting up camp in the extreme seasons. However, your kids may not be prepared for the challenges that come with camping in the dead of summer or winter.
In fact, if you’re camping with a baby, picking a mild, warm weekend is strongly recommended. Babies struggle to regulate their body temperatures, particularly when exposed to the cold. Even in the mild seasons, bring plenty of layers for the baby!
Find an Age-Appropriate Campsite
When you’re taking the kids camping for the first time, it’s often best to find a campsite that allows you to park and set up in the same spot. While kids ten and up can often handle a one to two-mile hike to your campsite, you may want to opt for something less intense for that first trip.
Check out campsite reviews before making your choice. We’ve all encountered the occasional campsite that’s rampant with outdoor partiers, and a loud campsite may not be great for your child’s sleep schedule.
Camping with kids under the age of five? Look for campsites that:
- aren’t situated within walking or crawling distance of bodies of water
- offer on-site bathrooms
- have good reviews from fellow parents
You may also want to stick with a campsite that’s closer to home. You never know how your little ones will react to their first camping experience. If things don’t go according to plan, it’s nice to get back home in a few hours or less.
Get the Right Family Camping Gear
We’ve put together a helpful guide for finding the right tent for your family. Now, let’s take a look at some of the other considerations to make when putting together your family camping gear. Bringing along the right equipment can make a first time camping trip much easier.
Accommodating Little Sleepers
If you’re camping with an infant or baby, you’re going to want to bring along a pack and play or other portable crib. While they can take up a lot of room in your tent, they’re also crucial to the comfort and safety of your sleeping baby.
It’s also worth investing in air mattresses for camping kids of all ages. Trying to sleep on the lumpy, bumpy ground can cause stress and frustration for first-time campers.
Preparing for Bathroom Needs
If you’ve got a diaper-wearing kiddo, all you need to do is pack enough diapers and wipes to get through the trip. If the campsite doesn’t offer an on-site dumpster, you will also need to bring a bag or bin for diaper disposal.
However, slightly older kids may also need special bathroom accommodations. If you know that your little one will need to go in the middle of the night, bring along a portable potty. That way, you can set it up right outside of the tent, rather than trekking through the dark to the nearest facility.
Don’t Expect to Pack Light
As a pro camper, you may pride yourself on your ability to pack everything you need into a single bag. When it comes to camping with kids, you may want to alter these expectations.
While you don’t have to say “yes” to bringing every toy or electronic your child owns, you may want to be a bit lenient. For example, self-conscious teens may want to pack along tons of grooming gear. Kids who struggle with a change in their routine may need the comfort of a few favorite books and toys.
Remember, it’s okay to pack the car full of stuff when you’re taking your kids camping for the first time.
Take Into Account Each Kid’s Dietary Needs
Planning out the camping menu tends to take more time and effort when camping with kids. If you’re camping with a baby who is still on the bottle, we recommend filling and packing enough bottles for the entire trip and cleaning them all when you get home. If you’re camping with a little one who is new to solid foods, easy-to-mash foods like avocados and sweet potatoes are great for camping.
Amping Up the Energy Foods and Drinks for Active Kids
Chances are, you’ll be getting lots of exercise on your family camping trip! If your kids are going to be more active than usual, it’s important to account for that when planning the menu.
Bring along snacks and drinks that you would give your child if they were playing sports. Extra carbohydrates, proteins, and electrolytes can keep them healthy, energized, and safe during increased physical activity.
Pick Family-Friendly Camping Activities
Take into consideration your child’s interests and skills when planning camping activities. Swimming in lakes or taking short, flat hikes can be fun for kids of all ages. Longer and more strenuous hikes, as well as activities like kayaking or horseback riding, are also fun options if they are available to your child.
By the time your child is a toddler, they likely have opinions about what they want to do! Get them involved as you plan your camping itinerary. If there’s an activity that really sparks their excitement, make sure to include it or a safe, modified version in your trip.
Remember, you don’t have to plan every second of your trip. There are tons of fun and entertaining things to bring to your campsite. Plus, you can spend plenty of time teaching your kids about the animals, plants, and insects surrounding your campsite.
Safety is the most important element of camping, regardless of age. Familiarize yourself with the campsite you’re visiting, taking note of any roadways, drop-offs, or bodies of water. Emphasize the importance of safety when camping and make sure that everyone in your party is on the same page.
Bring “Find Me” Tools
Naturally, you don’t want to get split up from your kids while camping. However, we do advise that you bring “find me” tools and teach your kids how to use them in the event that it does happen. The safest and most effective “find me” tool is a whistle, which kids can easily use to alert you of their location.
Establish Campsite Rules
Once you’ve reached the campsite, establish campsite rules. How far are older kids allowed to venture off on their own? What activities require full-time supervision?
Each day, go over your campsite rules again.
When you’re camping with kids, everyone should strive to manage their expectations. That two-mile hike may have seemed like a good idea this morning but your kids have gotten a little cranky and need downtime. The pond seemed like a great place to fish but your little one is finding the process too overwhelming.
No matter what happens, do your best to stay positive and roll with the punches.
Finally, remember that kids of all ages, from tot to teen, do well with structure. They may struggle to cope with this disruption to their usual routine. There are a few ways that you can embrace familiarity even while camping that can provide much-needed comfort.
Bring a Favorite Toy
Even if your child doesn’t ask to pack any toys, make sure to stow away a favorite stuffed animal or action figure. Your child is likely to go through bouts of homesickness, even if the trip is short. Being able to break out that favorite toy can do wonders when your kiddo is missing home.
Maintain the Normal Bedtime Routine
Try to maintain the normal bedtime routine as much as possible, especially with kids who are ten and younger. Change them into PJs, have them brush their teeth, and read them a story, just like you would at home. Sticking to the normal bedtime routine can reduce moodiness caused by a disrupted sleep schedule.
Are You Ready to Take the Kids Camping?
If you’re wondering how old is old enough to take the kids camping, the answer is simple. Camping is appropriate for all ages, as long as you prepare for each child’s individual and age-specific needs!
Looking for more camping tips and tricks? Take a look at our camping blog for all of the camping guides you’ll need.