For those who enjoy the great outdoors, it may be more of a challenge when introducing young children to the idea of camping and spending time away from the comforts of home. Most likely, your parents introduced you to this outdoor activity when you were young. Although you’ll need to pack more for the little ones, you’ll find that once you get the first camping experience out of the way it will be much easier the second time around.
We visited our San Diego store to ask our Sport Chalet about their tips on how to survive a camping trip with your family. Plus, they shared answers to questions they often get asked by newbies.
Hold a Practice Sleepover
Before introducing your children to an outdoor adventure far away from home, make sure they know what to expect when camping under the stars. A practice run gives you the opportunity to test out the tent and different needs of the entire family sleeping outdoors for the very first time. Here’s how.
Set up a tent in your backyard and let your kids decide what they’ll bring to help them feel more comfortable sleeping somewhere other than their bed. Whether it’s their favorite pillow, blanket or stuffed toy, you’ll want to start a checklist of those comfort objects your kids won’t want to be without when you finally venture out for your real outdoors. These items are bound to get dirty but if you let them decide if they still need to bring them, you will save yourself from tears in the middle of the night.
With flashlights and campfires, you can mimic a true camping experience in your backyard or even at a local campground close to your home.
Pick out some camping books at your library to help set the mood for your camping trip and give your kids an idea of what to expect.
Get Everyone Involved
Give your children a few options to help make your camping trip a memorable one by getting them involved as much as possible. If you and your spouse are torn between two campgrounds or spaces within that campsite, let your kids decide which is the more appealing option.
Pack each child’s backpack with toys, games or small puzzles and books that will help keep them busy should they utter the phrase “I’m bored” during your trip. It will especially ease the transition of getting your “connected kids” to unplug and enjoy the great outdoors. Grown ups count too and you may want to bring your own activity pack!
Have your kids pick out some snacks or treats they can bring along that will help give them something to look forward to while hiking, fishing or watching the sun go down.
Make sure you have one flashlight for each child or bring glow sticks or bracelets for a more peaceful evening. Same goes for binoculars or walkie-talkies. And yes, you’ll want to make sure your batteries are fully charged and extras are on hand in case someone decides they can’t sleep without a night light.
Keep the Same Routine
As difficult as it may sound, keeping the same routine for meals and sleep schedules (nap or bedtime) will help to ensure that this camping trip will go smoothly for everyone.
We recommend having separate sleep environments for parents and kids. If you co-sleep at home, you’ll want to sleep in the same tent, but otherwise, invest in a smaller tent for the kids and a larger one for the adults.
After the kids are tucked in for the night, make sure to spend some quality time beneath the stars unwinding with your spouse. These quiet nights connecting with nature are sure to be exhausting when toddlers and young children are involved, but your memories from these outdoor adventures will be much different if you set aside time to relax when the kids are asleep, and before they wake you up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
Tip from our experts: When changing diapers after dark, the best thing you could have handy, besides extra wipes and a plastic bag to dispose of the dirty diapers, is a headlamp. This is much more effective than trying to tell your spouse where to aim the flashlight. And, in case of nighttime accidents, pack an extra sleeping bag, just in case.
Make a Backup Plan
Emergencies happen, kids get homesick and weather can be unpredictable. Pack a first-aid kit or pick one up at Sport Chalet which has everything you could ever need for an outdoor emergency. Bring extra clothing for drops in overnight temperature or additional clothing for your kids who are bound to get dirty and wet.
Be prepared for one of your kids to insist on going home to sleep in their own bed. Have a plan for if this should happen but know that you may need to pack up your gear and try again next time. Your first camping trip should hopefully be close enough to home so you won’t have to travel too far, or far enough away that driving back isn’t a viable option.
Camping with the kids should be a fun and memorable experience for all, since enjoying the great outdoors is really the goal here. Depending on the age of your children and the number of nights spent away from home, getting away and connecting with nature is a wonderful way to bond with your family. Have a family camping tip? Please share in a comment!