Listen, camping with kids can be as daunting of a prospect as heading to Mordor with a ring in your pocket! Now I’m not going to profess to be the world’s leading expert on what to pack for your kids or how to keep bears from getting into your food. Honestly, when I was younger, I spent a good portion of my childhood dreading camping- and when we went, I would forget things like sleeping bags and winter clothes (but never snacks, oh no, never snacks).
The past few summers, we’ve made a bucket list of things we want to do together, since my kids live out of state and come here several times a year for a week or two at a time, but the big trip is spending summers here. Year after year, my kids have asked to put camping on the bucket list. I oblige mainly because I know I can talk them into minigolf instead of camping. This year though, I decided that we’d actually buy the tent and sleeping bags (Hello Chase Bank, can I get a small camping loan? Thanks.) and hit get a spot up in the mountains for a few days. Enter trepidation.
As I began doing my nerd research on camping with kids and what to bring, I was inundated with lists and packing procedures and ultra practical CAMPING suggestions like how to organize your gear. As I was reading I was like, okay 1) we will die in the great outdoors and 2) where’s the stuff about kids and parenting in the great outdoors?
This post is not so much the ins and outs of what to pack for camping with your kids (you can find great resources HERE and HERE and HERE) or how to make a tinfoil dinner (you can find great resources HERE and HERE). Instead, this post if for those parents brave enough to venture into the unknown with your kiddos and want to make it a fun, memory-filled experience that is successful from a parenting perspective. Here are a few tips to help you survive (and have a little fun along the way). The three P's of camping if you will!
1. Don't forget to PLAN.
I'm not just talking about meal planning or creating a camping check list for the necessities. When preparing for the trip, think of a few activities you’d like to do, stories you'd like to tell your kids about camping trips you took, and even some history or facts about where you're camping. I love the idea of asking your kids to write a ghost story before going camping and then to share them around the fire. Or have your kids research about an animal you may see on the camping trip and have them teach the family about it while out and about. This is also a great opportunity to do a parent-check-in with your kids. You’ve got them away from their friends and distractions of home, so make sure you take time to ask them how things are going in their world. Are there things you want to address with them? Concerns you want to flush out? Plan those conversation topics beforehand and then casually dole them out while hiking to the lake or putting up the tent. If you just think you've got to get the sleeping bag and toilet paper, then you're missing out on a lot of fun memory-making activities.
2. Pick your PACE.
Not every kid is going to be pumped to a 5 mile hike to a gorgeous waterfall and not every kid is going to be totally adept to life in the wilderness. If you plan activities to do while camping, remember the different pace of your kids and decide what and HOW you should do it. There are no awards for the dad or mom who gets their kids to the summit in the fastest time. Take time to have breaks. Don't overexert yourself or your kids. Tired humans = grumpy humans. I definitely encourage you to ASK YOUR KIDS before you go camping, what are some things they want to do, and yes, what things are they hoping we don’t do. This will really help with creating a healthy pace. When kids do things they want to do, they’re much faster at it and shockingly don’t complain about it. If we drag them to do things they don’t want to do, you may as well strop them to a handcart and pull them up the mountain. So govern your pace expectations accordingly.
3. Remember to PLAY.
On our summer bucket list, we've got camping and the affiliated activities under the "BONUS" category with other fun activities like bowling and pool parties. We need to make sure that camping is something FUN- not just something we survive. It's an awesome opportunity to play games, or stare at the stars, or listen to music, etc. It should be a FUN activity. So make sure you make it fun! I get it- I hate being hot and sweaty and have an unhealthy affinity for my mattress, but camping is still supposed to be a good time! So do what you can to help your kids have fun by PLAYING with them. They will love that time together more than any vista or tinfoil dinner. My kids asked if we could put a movie on the iPad and bring it up to watch in the tent together and instead of coming down on them about why we don’t need technology in the great outdoors, I was like- heck ya kiddos, let’s get something fun on there to watch together. Their fun may be different than your fun, so strike a healthy balance between the two.
I’ve got a few things I’m pretty pumped about brining on my camping trip this summer. The first is our new ChappyWrap cotton blend blankets. They are totally plush and soft (which names them very warm without lots of the weight) and incredibly they are also machine washable, so you can get that campfire smoke smell out of them! We’re also camping at a site with a reservoir so we’re bringing our swimming suits. Tom and Teddy sent my son and I these matching suits and I’m not sure if he’s more pumped to eat s’mores or dawn our matching set (complete with the rash guard t-shirts) and hit the water! I wanna know what are some must-have items for you guys when you go camping!
We got this dads, and yes, I’m mostly talking to myself. I know that camping isn’t for everyone, but if you got nuggets that are dying to go, I hope you’ll go and make the most of it! Also, I hear you gotta bring bug spray.