5 Tips for a Great Family Camping Trip
It’s family camping season and we couldn’t be more excited! We have camped (in a camper), with our children since they were babies. Now that we have a 4 and 6-year-old, we have had a few years of practice. Here are my 5 tips to make it a great family camping trip. Keep in mind, the 5th tip is the absolute most important.
1. Bring kid sized water blatters
This may seem odd, but they are such a key to an awesome camping experience for our family. First, the kids don’t ever have them for use, except while camping. That makes them special. We want our kids to love camping, so it’s worth the investment of time, to think about how to make camping special in the child’s eyes. As a side note, I try to bring a special dessert, special snacks, and a special breakfast item, too.
We bought 2 of these Camelbak 2 Liter blatters, and the kids drink from them all day. You don’t want kids getting dehydrated and cranky. But, you also don’t want to be hounding them to drink water, during a fun relaxing camping day. Our kids absolutely love these! We also use them inside the kids’ small backpacks for day-time family hikes. At this age, my children can safely do about a 1-2 mile hike (that’s not too steep).
2. Bring Sand Toys and a Wagon
Camping is a great time for kids to dig, collect and create with nature. This last camping trip, my kids spent hours digging up large rocks that were around our campsite. They were mostly using these tools that we bought for them to play in our garden and sand box at home.
They also use this small wagon to collect campfire-starting materials (small sticks and pine cones). Shhhhhhh….we didn’t really need these items to start our campfire. But, it gave the children a task that was meaningful. When we put the sticks and pine cones in the fire that night, the children got an extra boost of self-esteem by knowing they contributed to that fire.
Other times, our kids have used sand box toys and their wagon to collect rocks, sticks or sand by a stream. From ages 2 – 6, sand toys and a small wagon have been items that always provides hours of camping fun.
3. Prepare the Environment for Their Independence
I love the Montessori principle of creating an environment that fosters independence in your child. Here is a great webinar about bringing Montessori into your home. While camping, see if you can have a lower cupboard, or bin set on a bench, where the children can access their own cups, bowls, plates and silverware. We also invested in kid-sized camping chairs. Thrift stores are a great place to snag these on the cheap. Camping chairs allow children to sit down and get back up, without assistance. In addition, seek to make snacks and toys independently accessible. Lastly, we put a 5 gallon water jug on a picnic table or stump that the children can easily reach. It’s a great way for the children to wash their hands or get a drink of water. When children can reach the items they might want throughout the day, they will be more likely to take care of their needs independently.
4. Use paper plates and foil for meals
Typically, I try to be eco-friendly and use re-usable items wherever possible. Camping, however, is a place where I compromise on disposables, in the name of simplicity. Plus, if you use paper products (not Styrofoam), you can burn them in your evening or morning fires. That makes less garbage to carry home, and you have an easy fire starter. To save time on washing dishes, meals in foil are key. I made these Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets last week and they were easy, tasty, and easy to clean up. A friend of ours also pre-makes breakfast burritos at home, brings them in foil, and heats them on the fire in the morning. Super Easy! There are tons of great suggestions you can find online. This is a list with 25 tin foil dinner suggestions.
5. Keep it simple. This is the MOST important tip. You don’t need to bring all the toys your children play with at home. In fact, definitely leave technology at home, if you can. The outdoors ARE the toys for this trip. This is a chance to enjoy a different kid of fun, and you will really be pleasantly surprised with how less is really more. Occasionally, my children will come up to me during the weekend and say “I’m bored. There’s nothing to play with.” I just say, “Well, I’m sure you will find something creative to do.” After a pause of about 1-2 minutes, the kids often get engaged in a deeper level of creative play than I see on a daily basis. The simplicity ignites creativity. So, don’t underestimate the power of a fun grove of trees, dirt and sticks everywhere, or a large rock boulder.