Ditching daily conveniences and comforts for my tent and sleeping bag is a no brainer. I’ll happily set up camp with all my kids in tow whenever possible. It’s such a gratifying adventure. As parents we all have these magical experiences of our own pasts that we want to create for our children.
Camping is (one of) mine.
My love of camping began, and remains, in the mountains of Colorado. An annual family camping trip to hike and fish at Steamboat Lake is now a time honored tradition going back over 60 years. Sneaking off in the summers in my grandparent’s Scamp was the essence of my childhood. I’ve set up camp in a little hut on a beach, carried gear and camped around Europe, and laid down my sleeping bag in the backyard. A tent is my preferred accommodation. Sitting around a campfire under the stars, sleeping to the quiet sounds of nature, waking up to crisp fresh air, and the overall feeling of having nothing to do.
Taking kids camping can come with enough challenges to make a relaxing weekend a stressful event. I was determined to keep camping pleasurable, and instill a love for it within my children. Now with three kids and seven years of camping experience with them I’ve found some ways to ensure our trips go (mostly) smooth and everyone is having a good time.
- Prep as much food before hand as possible. There are endless pins available on the topic of camp food. Have everything cut and chopped, seasoned and marinating ready to throw on a cast iron. Camp food is one of our favorite cuisines, and definitely worth the prep work. And snacks. Take your regular amount of snacking and double it. Pack all the snacks.
- Double check all of your gear. Rain guards, tent stakes, lighters…. these items are worth the time to make sure you’re stocked up and ready to go. A leaky tent, and a fire that won’t start are quick ways to kill the camp vibe. Do a trial run before you go, make sure you know how to set everything up, and it’s all in working order.
- There is just something incredibly peaceful to me of only having a thin layer of tent between me and the world, but it can become a scary night of sleep interruptions for children. Bring comfy sleep mats, favorite stuffed animals, and dim lighting. Try to stick to your normal bedtime routine as much as possible. A homey peaceful bed plus tired camp kids make for a solid night of sleep. If electricity is available I like to run a fan at night. Missouri camping can be hot and mosquitoey, keeping the air moving helps a lot.
- Invest in a shade tent. Late afternoons are hot. Shade, cool drinks, and an easy activity are always a great way to have some camp quiet time with kids. It will rain too. So be ready to tuck everything under to stay dry. Pop up canopies are affordable, pack easily, and a great addition to your site.
- I’m one of those people that keeps a stocked first aid kit in the car at all time, but bringing one to camp is always a good plan. Adventuring can lead to bumps, scraps and boo-boos. Mend them up and send them on their way (I like to keep a good supply of Benadryl on hand, too).
- Preaching to the choir on this. Packing less is more! You’re going camping to enjoy the area, the time, the peace. I’m all for bringing the essentials and some camp friendly amenities but the less stuff you bring the less stress you’ll likely have. Just let the kids explore and play while you enjoy a good book.
And the advice I’ll always give, for any situation, lower your expectations. Plans will go wrong. There will be bumps in the road. Preparing ahead of time is one of the best ways to enjoy camping. Take the adventure. Say yes to camping with kids.