ByMolly Smith

May 27, 2015
family camping

Introducing kids to nature at any age is a good thing! Cater your May camping trip to your own kids’ ages, from infancy to those teenage years, with these easy tips.

Overpack for your little ones

When it comes to little campers, there is no such thing as overpacking. Be prepared for a wide range of weather changes, as daytime and nighttime temperatures can drastically vary in the woods. Bring a number of items to layer, plenty more diapers, wipes and formula or milk than you actually think you’ll need and — this is vital — do not forget Baby’s special blanket, stuffed animal or pacifier.

If you have space, don’t hesitate to bring a pack ‘n play or portable swing so you have a place to lay Baby down for nap and night time, or just for some downtime while you relax in a nearby hammock under the trees! Research child carriers such as a sturdy Kelty Kids unit that provides safety for little ones and comfort for Mom or Dad. A child-carrying backpack is ideal for long hikes that young children might not be able to manage.

Let them get dirty

Trying to keep kids clean during a camping trip is an exercise in futility. Plus, getting out into nature … yes, really “getting into” nature, is a surefire way to allow your child to develop a true love of the outdoors. So let them play in the dirt and mud or get in the lake without worrying too much about the “clean up.” Pack clothing for them that you won’t mind getting mud or grass-stained. Then sit back and watch your kids’ relationship with nature blossom without limits!

Family campsite
Image courtesy of Aaron Fulkerson.

Invite their opinions and participation

If your children are old enough to have an opinion, ask for it! When planning the trip, ask the kids what they want to do most during the camping trip — whether it’s hiking, fishing, bird watching, cooking over a campfire, picnicking, etc. — and then plan accordingly. Ask them to pack their own bags (with your direction and supervision, depending on their ages and ability), and help the rest of the family pack and prepare for the adventure. Once you arrive, assign fun tasks such as gathering wood for the fire, pitching the tent and setting up the campsite.

Stave off boredom

Once your kids reach a certain age, simply playing in the dirt or splashing in the fishing pond may not keep their attention all day. But resist the urge to allow your tweens and teens to stay glued to their “enter-their-favorite-electronic-device-here,” which defeats the purpose of getting them out into the woods. Bring cards and board games, a football or Frisbee, take a challenging hike that leads to an interesting cave, canyon or unique sight. And use the “downtime” to really communicate and ultimately bond with your kids. And check out some more ways to enjoy the outdoors this month.

Camping at the Dunes
Image courtesy of OakleyOriginals.

Be patient

Whether it’s your first camping trip with an infant or a teenager, camping with kids can have its challenging moments. Be patient and prepare for “speed bumps.” For example, if you have a long car ride ahead, drive through the night when Baby is sleeping and be prepared for extra stops to change diapers and for potty breaks; pack extra bottles, water and healthy snacks in case hunger comes on in between meals; ask older kids to prepare playlists the whole family can enjoy in the car; or play silly old-school road trip games like “I Spy.” It’s also a good idea to limit a first-time camping trip to just two or three nights so every member of your family can adjust to this new adventure without becoming overwhelmed.

Pack an everything bag

Don’t forget an “essentials” bag with all-natural sunscreen bug repellent, a first aid kit, “emergency” rain gear, extra flashlights (little ones are always a big hit with little kids) and batteries. Though it’s unlikely you’ll need everything in the bag, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t stress!

Finally, camping is about fun and relaxation so try not to worry too much about filling every moment of the trip with an activity. Though it’s great to have a scavenger hunt in your back pocket in case that aforementioned boredom creeps in, allow your whole family to simply be in the moment and enjoy connecting with Mother Nature.

Image courtesy of Tim Regan 

By Molly Smith

Molly Cerreta Smith has been writing as a passion for as long as she could hold a pen and professionally for more than 15 years. Molly has hundreds of local and nationally published articles under her belt on topics including health and fitness, pregnancy and motherhood, food and dining, businesspeople, pets, travel, green living and love. When she’s not putting pen to paper, she loves reading, baking, sweating it out on a hiking trail or in a Zumba class, and engaging in “game nights” with her husband and their two kids.