As a new father, I’m excited for the day that I’ll be able to take my entire family camping. Camping can be a great, formative experience for children, giving them the opportunity to explore nature and let out some of their boundless energy. That said, I’ve known many adults that cite disastrous childhood camping trips as reasons for not enjoying the outdoors as an adult. Now, as a lover of the outdoors, I feel some obligation to ensure that my daughter is exposed to nature at a young age. As a family, it can be difficult to plan a successful camping trip with the obligations involved, but there are steps you can take to ensure a great excursion into the wild!
Know Your Destination
Finding a campsite close by is never quite enough; you need to be fully aware of what it provides, especially with kids in tow. Campsites are common and generally fairly inexpensive, but note the amenities that it provides; know what your child is interested in when you plan. Try to find a location that offers swimming, hiking, and other activities to keep your children engaged.
Beyond that, you should also know what your campsite provides; while most provide a firepit, a picnic table, and a flat area for tents as a general rule, a packing scenario can change dramatically depending on whether or not a site has bathhouses, water faucets or electricity. While I’m partial to roughing it in rustic sites, some families may find that access to electricity is a plus, or even a necessity, especially with children in tow.
Buy Gear With Kids In Mind
Again, realize that your children are going to be a big influence on how you prepare and conduct a camping expedition. I won’t go through every single piece of gear that you’ll need, but there are certainly a few things that will have to be purchased with kids in mind.
Tents, the big staple of camping, should be just large enough to accommodate your family. The trouble with setting up massive tents is that your kids may be unable to help you given the size of the equipment you are working with.
Don’t forget to pack backups of some essential gear; where would you be if you ran out of bug spray, sunscreen, water, firewood, or shoes? On a similar note, invest in hardy water bottles and flashlights; with children, there’s no telling what will happen with the gear that you give them.
Camping should be a special occasion, so make your meals special as well! Cooking over a fire gives you options you may not be able to usually make, from the stereotypical s’mores to roasted cobbler. Let your children assist in the meal process, but remember that the quicker the meals, the better! Prepare some of your food ahead of time so that it’s ready to be roasted when you arrive at the campsite, and be sure to pack some meals that require little to no preparation, such as peanut butter and jelly.
Don’t be afraid to get creative; purchase ingredients that you will be able to reuse as much as possible. Hamburgers can be used as advertised, or ground up and used in chili or tacos, among other things.
Talk to Your Children Beforehand
If this is one of your child’s first big experiences with nature, they may not be sure how to react to it. Educate them about local wildlife; tell them what to look for and what to watch out for. This not only makes them more invested in the trip, but helps them stay safe and properly secure things like food when out in the wild.
Teach them to respect nature, especially when it comes to matters such as littering. You may discover the a campsite’s previous visitors have left some garbage behind, but this is a great moment to teach your children the importance of making a minimal impact on the environment while out camping.
Keep them safe, but give them the chance to look around for themselves and properly experience the outdoors. And hey, if something goes wrong, be sure to pack a first aid kit to deal with the myriad of little injuries that may occur on a trip.