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By: Jennifer Gervens
Posted on: May 17, 2018

Basic Dos And Don'ts for Camping With Kids

Camping is a wonderful way to enjoy quality time with the family that is actually fun for everyone. But, as with many family activities, it can be overwhelming. The packing and preparation can sap the fun right out of you, if you let it. Check out these tips from Jennifer Gervens of Sweet T Makes Three to help keep you camping plans light (literally) and flexible. Adventure on, family!

Camping is a great way to get out of the house, recharge, and spend some time in nature with the people you love. It can be stressful, though, especially if you've never gone before (or at least haven't gone with kids). Here are some basic dos and don'ts for camping with your children.

DO expect your kids to turn feral

Kids and campgrounds go together like beans and weenies (Awesome camp food, BTW.). All that sunshine, fresh air, and things to explore just really brings out their wild side. Don't be surprised if they start losing clothing almost as soon as they leave the vehicle. It's totally cool. The more primitive the camp, the less fabric the kids are wearing. Every rock becomes a treasure. Every rustle is a lion, each bent twig a bow-and-arrow, every low-hanging branch a chance to be Tarzan. It's amazing!

DON'T suppress that wildness

Kids need an outlet just like adults do. Their stress relief just looks a little different than ours. We want peace and quiet and a good book. They want to run and yell and climb trees. Average family living in this day and age doesn't allow for much of that, so don't miss this opportunity to let loose. It's part of the fun of camping! There are some basic etiquette rules to follow, but they're really pretty simple:

  • Reign in the noise between sunrise and sunset
  • Stay out of other people's sites.
  • Avoid campgrounds with strict rules regarding kid behavior

DO widen their boundaries a bit

Children benefit from being reasonably responsible for themselves and making their own decisions. Happily, campgrounds tend to be very safe, welcoming communities. It's heartwarming to see kids, who were strangers upon arrival, happily traveling in packs. Take a walk with your older kids to set some boundaries (We usually restrict ours to whichever loop we're on.). Then, toss them a walkie-talkie and let them roam a bit. They'll love the freedom!

DON'T over-pack

I massively over-packed for our first camping trip. So much so that I almost didn't fit a kid in our vehicle. I know it sounds crazy. You're going to be in the wilderness for a few days. Surely, more is better? Nope! You won't use half the stuff you bring with you, especially when it comes to toys, games, and electronics. If your kids are like mine, they'll be spending all of their time in the creek, anyway. You won't need your make-up, hair dryer, or evening outfit, either (BTW, bandanas are awesome for disguising day-four camp hair.). Lower your standards a smidge, and stick to the basics. You'll all be happier for it (An exception to this would be glow sticks. They're excellent for tracking kids in the dark.)

Also keep this point top-of-mind when packing for the campsite. Easy-to-fold Venture Outdoor camping pads are comfortable and easier to manage than bulky air mattresses or other materials. Plus, they include built-in technology to protect against mold and mildew in the event that the camp site is damp.

DO meet your host

Most campgrounds have a host. Usually, it's the RV with the tackiest decorations (besides mine) and a pair of retirees sitting out front. Your host can fill you in on things like where to buy camp supplies, trail and fishing conditions, the location of the closest grocery store, and how to contact emergency services should your child get too involved in their quest to be the next Indiana Jones.

DON'T over-plan

Part of the beauty of camping is the relaxed atmosphere and spontaneity. Don't plan each moment, and don't be in a rush to move on to the next activity. Soak in the present. It's amazing how fulfilling it is to do something as simple as lounge in a hammock and watch the leaves rustle and glow above you. You'll be surprised to see your kids doing the same thing, as they watch a squirrel climb a tree or wait for a lizard to come out of a crevice.

DO tell campfire stories or sing songs

It's a tradition for a reason. It's a ton of fun. It also acts as a closing ceremony for the day. It lets you get the kids wound down without them realizing what's going on. Light a fire, throw on some Magic Flames, pass around the hot cocoa, and let your imagination take over.

DON'T go overboard on the scary stuff

I mean, unless you enjoy sharing your sleeping bag with multiple small people. My personal “scary story” favorites are funny shockers like The Big Toe (Alvin Schwartz) and The Pink Jellybean (traditional Girl Scout fodder). Don't forget tall tales as well. Patrick F. McManus has several books with hilarious (and mostly kid-friendly) stories based on his childhood in the outdoors. Some of my favorite memories of my family are the times we spent together in tents and hammocks.

Camping presents an opportunity for bonding that is beyond comparison, especially when you're able to relax and have fun. Follow the simple tips that I've laid out and your trip will be smooth-sailing! See you at the campground!