Going camping with children is one of the best activities we can share as a family. Not only because nature is a constant source of inspiration for children and makes them feel free, but also because it is the ideal environment to enjoy activities that are difficult to do in the city.
To make the experience of camping with children a great one for everyone, we share some tips with you. You can add others in the comments, so all moms and dads can read them.
IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT’S FAR OR NEAR
It is not necessary to go far away from home to have the experience of camping with children. We can go camping for 15 days, several months or just for a weekend.
It is not necessary to be an expert in camping. Anyone can camp and anyone can enjoy it. Of course, some will find it easier than others to adapt, but with a bit of good humor and patience, everyone will make it. So, of the tips for camping with children, this is the first one: take heart, even if you have small children.
The truth is that nowadays, many campsites have an infrastructure designed for families who go camping with children. In addition, the comforts of going camping nowadays are more than guaranteed. Nowadays there are countless elements that will make our camping very comfortable, so the lack of comfort can no longer be an excuse.
Just to name a few items to go camping: large and compartmentalized tents, very comfortable, resistant and light folding chairs, inflatable mattresses, pumps to inflate inflatable mattresses, small lamps that are charged with solar energy, portable stoves with gas cartridges, refrigerators or, believe it or not, even a bread toaster for camping or a folding grill for BBQ.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLACE
Related to the above, the second tip for family camping is to choose an appropriate site. That’s not to say that we can’t camp with kids in the middle of nowhere or on a deserted beach.
But if it is the first time, if we do not have much experience in camping, if we still have some doubts about camping with children (especially if they are small), or if we just want to enjoy the comforts of camping, it is best to go to a place that offers:
- all the basic services, such as drinking water, hot water, and electricity,
- plenty of shady trees,
- that has a place to take shelter in case of rain if the tent “does not hold out”,
- that it has a full supply of provisions,
- that it has tables and benches in each plot (if we don’t bring chairs),
- and ideally, it should also have a sector with children’s games or some attractions such as table football, ping pong table, volleyball or soccer field, etcetera.
Although it can fail, nowadays it is very easy to find references of the different campsites on the web. We as a family only camped in Patagonia and at the end of the post we mention the places we have been and some others we haven’t been to, but don’t stop looking for references.
GETTING THE RIGHT CAMPING GEAR
This advice is a bit subjective because what is “right” for some families may not be “right” for others. But nowadays, there are so many new products for camping, which provide a lot of comforts, that if you can and want to, it is good to get them, especially if we are going to
camp for several days and if we are going in a vehicle.
The most important part of the equipment is the tent and the sleeping bag.
The type of tent depends on the time we stay, the way we travel (it is not the same to go with a backpack than with a vehicle where we can carry more things), the constitution of each family, and so on.
For example, we went with a small igloo tent (we went with backpacks) and slept the three of us together, but there are tents with compartments in which parents and children can sleep separately.
There are also larger tents (many call them “structural”), which have a space at the entrance that serves as a “dining room or living room”, where many families put the table and chairs, the refrigerator, the heater, and so on. But if you don’t bring all these elements, it may not make sense to bring such a big tent.
The type of sleeping bag depends on the season of the year, although most families who go camping do so in the spring and summer months. Therefore, it is not necessary to have a super warm bag.
Another important thing to bring is an insulator, although more and more, almost all of them carry inflatable mattresses to be more comfortable. We, as we were with the backpacks, took insulation.
If you are traveling with very young children it is a good idea to take a small inflatable pool to fill it with water from the river or lake. There the child will be able to get in, cool off and play. On occasion, even without water, with the toys inside it can act as a “ball pit”.
Going camping with children does not necessarily mean more work for any member of the family.
On the contrary, it can be used as a very good excuse for all members, both adults and children, to participate in all activities, from the nicest ones, such as fetching branches to light the fire, to those that may be more “heavy”, such as washing the dishes. And thus develop a sense of cooperation.
One of the things that caught my attention in our last camping experiences was to hear many women complaining and saying that they didn’t want to camp anymore because they worked a lot: they were the ones who cooked, did the laundry, washed the dishes or tidied up the tent, while their children and husbands went to the lake, fished or barbecued.
I don’t know what the reality of those women was in their homes, but I believe that both at home and on vacation, all members of the family should collaborate in household chores.
We believe that one of the nicest things about camping as a family is being together and sharing as many activities as possible, of all activities.
Another thing to keep in mind is that we adults are an example for the children. Even if we don’t realize it, they are always watching and listening to us. That’s why it’s good that we also cooperate with the other adults: lend our things, borrow, talk to the neighbor, etcetera.
INVOLVING THE KIDS BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER
Related to the above, one of the tips we like to share is to try to involve the children in as many activities as possible (according to their age, of course), especially those they cannot do if they live in the city.
In the before: we can tell them where we are going, show them a map, ask them what they would like to do and plan some activities based on that.
They can also prepare the luggage together, not only their clothes or belongings but also the camping part (check the tent and sleeping bags, think about whether to take a cooler or not, check how the weather is going to be those days, etc.).
During the day: set up the tent together, explain how to do it; gather branches for the fire; go shopping at the grocery store; talk to the camping neighbors; wash the dishes, cook together and ask them to improvise a recipe (they can knead bread or prepare cookies), give them different roles and change them if there are several siblings, etcetera.
We are not experts in anything nor do we have the last word on anything, but having lived the change of traveling alone for a long time and starting to do it in threes, maybe our experience can help you, it can come in handy to try to change the chip, understand that traveling with small children is another kind of trip and learn to enjoy the new stage that is just as beautiful.