As your family grows, so will your adventures. There’s no adventure quite like taking a trip to enjoy the great outdoors. Camping is an especially wonderful activity that allows your family to bond, create memories, get some exercise, and learn about life. Yet, as a parent, you may not be sure if you are ready to take your children on their first camping trip. Here are a few tips to make sure your trip goes smoothly.
MAKE CAMPING COMFORTABLE
One of the special things about camping is the very same thing that can make it so difficult for children. Camping is different. The key to helping a child to enjoy camping is to make them comfortable with the changes they will experience on a campout.
START CLOSE TO HOME
When introducing children to a new activity, it’s always good to start off with some practice. The same is true for camping. A trial run in the backyard or outside grandma and grandpa’s house is a smart way to let children grow accustomed to being around a campsite, spending lots of time outside, and sleeping in a tent.
A dry run will also get them comfortable with the idea of being away from home and unplugging from technology, while still having the reassurance of being in a familiar place.
This practice exercise will give you a chance to take notes on what items you should bring when you go on a real camping trip. Take notice of the supplies you needed or forgot so you have them for the real deal. If you’re a little rusty on the camping skills yourself, you’ll also get practice setting up the tent. That way, it won’t be a pain next time.
KEEP CHILDREN INVOLVED
By allowing your children to help out around camp, they’ll get to learn about and develop a sense of the many responsibilities camping entails. Show your children how to do easier chores, such as gathering kindling or washing the cooking pot.
It’s also important to teach kids about how to plan and prepare. Help them to pack their bags with useful items and proper attire. The more involved children are in preparing for a campout, the more invested they will be during.
Every camper knows that things don’t always go as planned. It could rain, you might forget the marshmallows, or you might have to leave early. Lead by example and stay positive if things don’t work out as expected. Your children will take after you in how you handle each situation.
Safety is always a concern when going camping, but even more so when you’re bringing children. If you’re going to be building and using a campfire, stress the importance of fire safety. Have a reliable way to put the fire out in case of emergency and before going to bed. Also, check that the area you are camping in doesn’t have fire restrictions or a burn ban in place.
AVOID GETTING LOST
Ensure that everyone knows where the campsite is and how to find it again. Give your children flashlights and whistles in case of emergencies in the dark. It’s best to go to a campground your first time as they often include campsite numbers and maps. You can also use nearby unique landmarks to help children stay oriented: “Remember we are down 3 sites from the playground.”
Adhere to wildlife precautions and respect the creatures around you. Store all food properly, especially during the night, so that you avoid any intruding animals. Keep an eye on the weather and come prepared with rain gear, extra clothing, and a rain tarp to keep your tent and supplies dry.
A sizeable tent, perhaps even with room to stand, is ideal for an extended camping trip.
Extra snacks, especially s’mores, are necessary to keep kids’ energy and spirits up during the long time spent outdoors.
In addition to the regular camping supplies like a reliable tent, sturdy flashlights, and plastic-ware, you’ll need to bring items to keep the kids occupied and engaged. Bringing bikes along for the trip is a good way to get exercise with the kids and traverse the campgrounds in a fun way. You can also bring yard games, like a bean bag toss, or other items, like a soccer ball or Frisbee.
Proper sleeping supplies are vital for children in the cold, dark outdoors. Extra blankets, air mattresses, and sleeping bags are great for the nighttime. Glow sticks can work as nightlights for children afraid of the dark.
Taking along favorite toys and stories is a way to help children become more comfortable at night as well. Just be careful about bringing any favorites your child would mind losing.
It’s very important to stay organized to ensure you have a smooth camping trip. Develop a camping checklist of all the supplies you need before heading out so you don’t forget anything. Additionally, have special places for commonly used items (dining-ware, water jugs, etc.) so that the campsite stays clean and tidy. This will make the process of packing up when it’s time to leave much easier.
Stay organized but don’t have too busy of a schedule–camping is supposed to be a fun and relaxing experience.
Make sure all games/toys are practical and safe, card games are better than board games because there is less risk of losing small pieces.
Use the opportunity to introduce children to the nature around them. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the local flora and fauna. After all, every plant, critter, and geological feature is an opportunity for a learning experience.
Have fun and cherish the time you spend with your family on great adventures, like your first family campout. Camping does require a bit of work, but it’s worth the effort!