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5 Tips for Great Family Camping

Great faily camping

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.

wagon in natureThey 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 5 gallon water jugbringing 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.



How to Encourage Independence


New Chapters in parenting

This weekend we hit a new chapter of parenting: Independence! Our kids are now 4 and 6, and this weekend was the first time they independently played outside with our neighbors for about 2 hours. It was incredible.

As a disclaimer – we live in Montana, where the Covid-19 restrictions in our county are allowing for outside interactions of groups up to 10.  So, we are definitely still obeying all the health laws and guidance.  But you guys.  This was an incredible milestone for us.  We just moved into a new home in March, and we are starting to feel like the wonderful family next door, and the neighborhood park in our backyard are the two best parts of this home.  Here’s how we got there:

1.  We make the outdoor play materials accessible to the children, so they don’t need our help.  The basketballs are in a box that is on the bottom shelf near the garage entrance, and sidewalk chalk is stored right beside it.  Also, our daughter just learned to ride her bike in April, so bikes are THE primary necessity right now.  We invested in this bike rack, so the kids can easily get their bikes on their own.  Also, they can park their bikes and put their helmets easily on the handle bars, so there is less, “Where is my helmet?”, when they want to go play. This preparation of the environment has proved worth it’s weight in gold!

2.  We have discussed clearly the expectations for independent play. To prevent the need to constantly intervene, with corrections on their behavior, we discuss rules beforehand.  Our expectations include:

  • Use kind words and gentle hands
  • Be respectful to all people and things
  • Stay within the sidewalk, yard and neighboring yards/sidewalks.  No going in the street/across streets.
  • If another child isn’t respecting when you ask them to stop – come get help from an adult.

3.  We are working REALLY hard to allow them the chance to be independent.  Sometimes I uncomfortable with the fact that I don’t know exactly what they are doing.  But I try to remind myself that children build self-esteem through feeling capable and competent.  I want them to grow the internal confidence that they CAN function without mom and dad.  I want them to grow in their ability to solve a problem without me.  These types of things really require a bit of independence to really develop.  So, I peek my head out the door every now and then, to be sure there isn’t an emergency. But I do my best to keep my nose out of their business.

With these 3 tools in place, we are reaping huge benefits! This morning I was able to drink an entire cup of coffee, before it got cold.  Who knew we would ever get there?!

Supporting Parents During Covid-19


Hi there! It’s April, 2020 – and Covid-19 has made our world a very different place.  To connect with parents who are facing such a variety of challenges in this socially-distanced world, I hosted a Facebook Live question/answer hour.  Join me again this Monday, at 2pm MST to get YOUR questions answered.:) Here is the replay, if you missed it:

Join me Monday 4/20 at 2 PM Live on Facebook, as I answer YOUR questions, and shares some non-judgmental, supportive tips and tools for the struggles & challenges of parenting during COVID-19. Hope to see you there: https://www.facebook.com/justastayathomemomblog/. We will record for those who can’t make it live.

Decide What you Will Do (To Motivate Children to Clean-up)


Today, I want to share how this tool can be very effective in motivating a toddler to clean up.  “Decide what you will do and follow through” is one of my FAVORITE Positive Discipline tools right now with my 3-year old.  But I have been using it since he was about 1, though.  It helps in SO many situations.

Here is how I use this tool to motivate clean-up:

“If you choose not to help me clean up, I will just clean them up myself.  But anything I clean up alone will be put away and not able to be played with until tomorrow.”  So far this has worked every time.  However, you have to have a few things in place for it to work. A) I use this to clean up the toy he has been playing with before he goes on to a new toy (when I see that he is starting to leave and just forget about the toy he got out).  If you try this at the end of the day with an entire room that is a mess, it will likely not work.  It’s too overwhelming to imagine you are going to put away ALL of his toys for an entire day (for you and him!). B) It works because I have always followed through in the past, so he knows I mean what I say.  If you have gotten into a bad habit of threatening, but then retracting your consequence if he throws a tantrum or you are just too tired…etc – you are likely going to see them refuse to clean-up in order to test if you mean what you say.  Follow through confidently and kindly, and after 1-3 times of follow-through, it will effectively motivate clean-up.

As a side note, if my child starts to have a melt-down about this approach, I use tools to validate his/her feelings, while still holding the boundary.  You can read more on that in my article, “How To Help a 1 Year-Old Having a Tantrum”.

Author: FLORA

I am a post-career SAHM (Stay-at-home mom), living in Bozeman Montana. I share stories and ideas from parenting with a Montessori and Positive Discipline inspired perspective. Also, I LOVE DIY projects and finding great ways to use thrift store or hand-made toys for my little ones.
Learn more about why I say I'm "Just" a stay-at-home mom.

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