Camping with kids is wonderful. Camping with miserable kids could convince you to pick a new family hobby. When was the last time you went camping? Was it in a tent, tipi or yurt? Was it proper camping or more along the lines of glamping? Perhaps you consider caravanning the same as camping? The experience can be highly enjoyable or bit of a nightmare should things go wrong. The memories you can make are incredible though, even if they are bucketing water out of your tent at midnight. It can be swings and roundabouts sometimes. However, it’s great to know that there are ways to ensure a happy camping experience. Here are my picks for the three most important ways to have a successful trip, camping with kids.
1. Keep The Sleeping Bag Dry
Let’s face it, sleeping comfortably is pretty important to all of us, but a wet sleeping bag can make a kid totally miserable. This is especially true if your child’s sleeping bag is one of the big box store £20 variety. You know, the ones that weigh 15 pounds (dry!) and are made of cotton. Get one of those wet, and your camping trip is over, it will take until next year to dry. Even a good kids sleeping bag can get wet, however, and it’s not easy to convince a kid to climb into a soggy bag to sleep.
The key to keeping a sleeping bag dry is to keep its surroundings dry. If you’re going to be in wet conditions (rainy season, or paddling on a lake), prepare your gear. Put kids sleeping bags, and any other gear you treasure into dry bags, garbage bags, or some other water barrier. Put a tent cloth under your tent (properly!) so you keep water out of the tent. Teach your kids good tent etiquette so they don’t crawl all over the tent in their wet boots, or dump a mug of hot chocolate over their sleeping bag.
2. Avoid Constipation
Think I’m kidding? Probably not the conversation you want to have now. However, it’s probably not the situation you want to deal with when you’re camping with kids! I used to take city kids on month long canoe trips, and several of them showed insane talent for “poop in the woods” avoidance. Some made it as long as a week before they gave in and took Mr. Trowel off to dig a hole. Kids like routine and predictability, some kids a lot more than others. When that routine is turned upside down, even by fun activities like camping, it can cause system backup. That can lead to stomach troubles, cramps, and really stinky farts (amongst the 2-12 year old set, this is serious business, and might be for you too, if you’re sharing a tent). Fortunately, there’s a really easy fix for camping constipation. Eat beans.
I used to serve chili the first night out on trail. Vegetarian chili with 5 kinds of beans. Sometimes it took a day or two, but no kid could hold out a week against my 5 bean chili. Other forms of fibre help too – oatmeal for breakfast, dried fruit to snack on. Take pieces of fruit with you, stuff that won’t go off quickly or get squashed. Apples are fantastic! Also have your kids drink lots of water, especially if fibre isn’t a really common part of their diet.
3. Don’t Take Over
We spend most of our lives “organising” our kids, making sure they get up, dressed, off to school, to weekly activities and play dates. It’s an easy trap to try to organize their camping experience too. This is especially easy to do when it looks like their first choices of activities involve sleeping in the tent all day or throwing rocks at one another across the firepit.
However, one of the most fundamental lessons camping can teach is that you are responsible for your own experience. Give them some freedom. Give them chance to step up, use their brains and grow. Mother Nature is a great provider of natural consequences. Don’t put up your tent right, you’ll get wet. Don’t collect firewood, you won’t eat hot food. Do collect firewood, and discover the mesmerizing dance of a night campfire. Get up the energy to paddle to the middle of the lake in the middle of the night, and see stars like they were meant to be seen. Step back, and let your kids learn from their own experiences. You might just pick up a little something too.
Camping can be so much fun. You don’t have to go far for a staycation either. These are trips that your children will look back on with fondness. It’s great to be away in the wilderness. Reconnect with nature. Reconnect with yourselves! Camping with kids is fantastic, book your next trip today!