How do you make camping with kids even more fun? Outdoorsman and grandpa Jim Mize offers five tips to make camping a true adventure for young children - and make your life easier, too.
Camping trips with kids can create memories for a lifetime, both yours and theirs. They will remember the dog leaping through the tent-door mesh to get inside with them, the critters that come through the campground at night and rustle through the cookware, or the rainstorms that led to late-evening card games inside the tent. It’s the unpredictable nature of nature that makes camping fun.
5 Ways to Make Camping Even More Fun for Kids
For those who don’t camp regularly, it can appear intimidating. Actually, camping with kids can be a healthy activity and a lot of fun, especially if you gear it to their ages. Here are five tips for making your next trip a success.
1. Keep it simple:
Short legs can make a short trail seem long. Keep in mind that sleeping outside to a youngster already feels like wilderness. So for those early trips, roadside campgrounds can be a great way to test their interest in camping.
Don’t worry about a plan or agenda for the trip. Children can just have fun playing outside. Rocks and sticks make great entertainment and you will be surprised how readily kids will amuse themselves. The routine of camp life is agenda enough. Learn about primitive camping.
Finding creatures makes camping memories - Photo courtesy of Jim Mize
2. Everyone has a job:
Part of the fun of camping is doing things together, so approach it not as doing things for the kids, but doing things with the kids.
If you’re roasting marshmallows, send them off in search of sticks. Then let them roast their own. If it’s a bit charred, they seem to like them just the same. If you’re washing dishes, they can help fetch the water. The same goes for gathering firewood, unpacking the car, or cleaning up the campsite after the trip.
Rolling out their sleeping bags, helping with breakfast, and looking after the family dog can become their contribution to trip. Camp chores don’t seem like work when you’re splashing at the water pump or tromping through the woods in search of sticks. It’s just part of the experience.
Tip: You can easily make a campsite on your own property! Read our article about how to make a campsite on your land here.
At a marshmallow roast, everyone gets to cook and eat their own - Photo courtesy of Jim Mize
3. Highlight the fun parts:
Building fires and cooking your own hot dog isn’t something kids get to experience at home. The fun parts of the trip shouldn’t be rushed through, and to the degree possible, should be anticipated. Give them something to look forward to.
Also, leave plenty of time for splashing in the creek, turning over rocks for salamanders and crayfish, or taking hikes in search of wildlife. These will be things they talk about with their friends.
4. Mix in downtime:
Remember that hiking, gathering firewood, and rising early when the birds start chirping can be tiring. So don’t worry about lulls being boring. Have that second cup of coffee and let the kids loaf, too.
When they are ready to create a little more excitement, they’ll let you know.
Hank joins the kids in the tent - Photo courtesy of Jim Mize
5. Stay as long as it’s fun:
Kids of different ages have different levels of endurance. Over time, they will become able to outlast you. Until that day arrives, pay attention to their level of enjoyment on the trip. When you leave, you want them asking for more rather than being glad to be gone.
Camping with kids can be a family getaway you all remember, especially if the dog does jump through the mesh tent-flap to get inside with the kids. The tent door will become known as the “Hole that Hank made.”
Someday you’ll find it funny.