Nowadays kids are spending far too much time in front of a screen, and not enough time experiencing the great outdoors. Camping is one of the best ways to remedy this problem, as it gives kids a reason to go outside that’s both fun and adventurous.
While camping does a great job teaching kids how to live the outdoor lifestyle, it also teaches them how to appreciate the planet they live on. As they’re learning how to fish, build fires, and navigate the night sky – they’re also getting to experience nature in a much more satisfying way than simply exploring your backyard.
However, it’s becoming harder and harder to convince kids to go camping in today’s society. The idea of not having their TV or (computer, smartphone, tablet) is just too much for them to handle. Sure, you could just force them to go along like most parents – but this often does the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Instead of your kids (assuming you have multiple) going camping with an open mind, they now hate the idea of it from the very start. While it’s possible they may start to have fun once they actually get there, it’s better to turn the entire trip into one fun adventure. In order to do this, we recommend you follow these 10 tips below.
1. Start the camping experience at home
One of the easiest ways to get a kid interested in the idea of camping is to start them off in the living room or backyard. This gives them an adventurous night away from the normal bed they’re used to, without having to deal with the fear of being terrorized by a bear in the middle of the night (best not to mention bears when camping).
After a successful night or two of camping around the house, your kids will be a lot more inclined to go to your local campground as they’ll already find the idea of camping to be fun.
2. Be prepared to leave early
Any true camper knows it’s best to head out to the campsite when it’s still early in the day. That way you’ll have plenty of time for all of your daily activities, and yet still be able to pitch your tent, gather the wood, and build a fire before it gets dark.
By having everything packed the night before, you’ll find the process of leaving early in the day to be much easier to manage. It will also give you time to think over everything you’ve packed – ensuring you don’t forget something.
3. Don’t do everything yourself
Instead of doing everything yourself, make sure to keep your kids involved by having them help you with the different activities around the campsite. Gathering wood, building a fire, and even pitching the tent are all tasks that kids are more than capable of helping with (depending on age).
Many parents will often try to handle everything themselves, but there’s really no need to. More often than not kids would much rather help than sit around with nothing to do. It also gives younger kids a sense of responsibility knowing they can handle the tasks that an adult would normally take care of.
You should also include your kids when planning what activities to do while camping. This way you can be certain they’ll have fun, as well as give them a chance to negotiate with each other on what activities to do throughout the trip.
4. Bring imagination to the campsite
Many kids may find camping to be boring at times, but if you add in a little imagination – you’d be surprised at the difference it can make.
Instead of making a game of collecting pinecones and feathers, you’d be better off to have them searching for the lost pieces of the Ark of the Phoenix (which is actually pinecones and feathers). This may require you to use a little bit of your creativity, but if you take your time, it shouldn’t be that hard for you to do.
5. Keep your kids comfortable
Even though camping is all about getting away from the normal luxuries you’re used to in everyday life, it’s best to keep kids from being overly uncomfortable. While there’s nothing wrong with getting a little dirt under one’s fingernails, you have to remember that kids can only take so much.
So yeah, maybe taking an inflatable mattress isn’t very “camp-like”, but at least your kids will be comfortable and have less trouble sleeping. What’s even more important though is making sure you pack the appropriate clothing.
If the weather is cold, dress them warmly. If it’s hot outside, make sure they’re wearing light colors that won’t easily absorb heat. It’s also best to bring a few different types of clothing along if you’re unsure what kind of weather to expect.
Mosquitoes (and even ticks) are another big problem to worry about – depending on the weather and where you live. While the smoke from the fire may help to deter those annoying skeeters away at night, you should also pack some repellent just in case.
6. Keep things moving
If you want to keep your kids from constantly being bored throughout the day, you want to keep things moving at a steady pace. While fishing, hiking, and canoeing may be fun for a little while, kids are bound to get bored if they do only one activity for hours on end.
Remember, you can always go fishing again the next day.
7. Have plenty of activities planned
Because kids easily get bored, you want to have plenty of activities planned for your family to do. Below are just a few of the many different things that you and your kids can do while camping.
- Skipping rocks
- Play with water guns
- Climb trees
- Bring a mason jar along to catch fireflies
- Use a magnifying glass to look at bugs
- Find out what wildlife is in the area and make a game out of who spots it first
- Use one of the free apps to match up the constellations in the sky at night
- Scavenger hunt
- Board games
8. Bring a friend along
Inviting some of your kid’s friends along to go camping is always a good idea – especially so if you have an only child. While your kids may love your company, they are bound to have even more fun playing with kids their own age.
9. Teach them in a way that’s entertaining
Because children tend to learn better in a hands-on environment, a camping trip is a great opportunity to teach your kids many valuable lessons about both nature and outdoor survival.
Some of the basic knowledge you can teach your kids includes how to fish, how to start a fire, and even important plants they need to be able to identify (such as poison ivy).
You can even download an app on your smartphone or tablet that will allow you to identify any animal tracks you come across. This is a great way to keep your kids entertained while hiking as they’ll be constantly searching for every animal (or possibly big foot) track that they can find.
10. Pack the right equipment
When camping with kids you need to make sure to pack the appropriate equipment in order to make their camping trip as enjoyable as possible. Below are some of the basic supplies that can really make a difference in a kids camping trip.
- Flashlight (especially important if a kid is afraid of the dark)
- Whistle (great if someone gets lost)
- Plenty of snacks
- First aid
- Tweezers for splinters
- Insect repellent
- Boots or sneakers (avoid sandals or flip flops)
- Waterproof matches
While not everything on the list above is needed, it should at least give you some ideas of what supplies you may want to bring along when you go camping with your family.