Camping with Kids

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My daughter keeps asking me almost every day, “When are we going camping again?”  Our family loves to camp.  We enjoy it for many reasons… the dirt, the food, the family time away from home, and a cheap place to sleep while visiting our beloved National Parks

Scott and I have gone camping every year since we’ve been married, with the exception of one… the year 2004…when our first child was born.  We thought the idea of camping with a baby was insane.   Then in 2005 we went to Acadia, but were still nervous about the thought of tent camping with a toddler, so we got a cabin.  By 2006, when we welcomed baby number 2, we realized that we didn’t want to wait till all of our children were older to enjoy one of our favorite past times.

So, off we went on a camping adventure with our 2 year old and 6 mth old.

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The next year we went with our 3yr old, 20 mth old, and 3 mth old.  We’ve discovered, camping can be done with small children and believe it or not, we actually enjoy it.

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not every moment was happyHere’s a few tricks of the trade we’ve picked up along the way.  I am not going to claim we’ve got it all figured out, b/c we don’t.  But I will say that despite a few set backs and minor fiascos, we’ve made some great memories and we keep planning more trips, so it must be working for us!

  • When we camp with small infants, we tend to let them sleep in their infant seats.   It keeps them warm and snug and they tend to sleep better.


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  • Once they are too old for the infant seat, we bring the pack-n-play.Singing my baby sister to sleep


Disclosure:  I’ll just go out and say this right now, we aren’t minimalists when we go camping as a family.  We aren’t out to prove how rough and rustic we are.  We are out to have a good time as a family.  And that generally means you gotta have a good night’s sleep.  So, we pack any and everything that helps with that endeavor.

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That’s right we bring the pack-n-play (or plays), air mattresses, radio and batteries with lullaby music, favorite stuffed animals and beloved blankies… all the comforts of home to make them feel safe and secure.

Gone are the days of minimalist packing.  This is survival folks!

  • I have found those little glow sticks to be a huge asset while camping.  You can get them at the dollar store.  I get one for each kid for each night and throw in a few extras in case you get a dud or two.  These work great as night lights.  The kids get pretty psyched about them, so I have also learned, the hard way, to give them to them a little before you tuck them in bed.  Otherwise, you’re tucking them in bed and then giving them a toy, which basically totally back fires.

  • Pack lots of layers, even in the summer.  It gets cold at night.  It’s always colder than  it is at home because at home your not sleeping outside on the ground.  At least I don’t think you are.  Pack winter hats for their heads, 2 layers of pjs, those footie pjs… especially if you are going in fall or spring.  If it’s July in MD, you can skip the hat… but seriously, bring a sweatshirt for the morning… trust me, it gets chilly. And cold sleepers are fussy sleepers and fussy sleepers equals a grouchy family.  Those sleep sacks work great for babies… they really keep them warm… Put a sleeper on underneath and a hat on top and you’re sure to have a warm and happy baby.

  • Be prepared… it’s the Girl Scouts way, right?  Bring the thermometer,camping and WV 019 and motrin, and for us, we always, always have to leave home with our nebulizer and meds… b/c it never fails, no matter how healthy we were before we left, someone almost always gets sick.  Can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to do nebulizer treatments in the van in the middle of the night.  (we have one of those ac/dc adapters… works wonderful for this… if you don’t have a kid with asthma, this isn’t a necessity… if you do, it is a MUST).

  • With toddlers, I have found the portable potty seat to be a huge help,  b/c sometimes you can’t make the walk to the bathroom fast enough.

  • Pack lots of baby wipes and bags (trash bags, grocery store bags, sandwich bags… really you can’t have enough little baggies) oh and paper towels.

  • Build a camp fire.  Loads of good memories are made around a camp fire.  Click here for a yummy dessert recipe you can make around the fire, in addition to the classic Smores.  IMG_6120


Making Pancakes Little breakfast tip… we have found those already cooked sausage links are awesome for camping.  I love the smell and taste of bacon as much as the next gal, but bacon takes forever to cook and is a mess to clean up.  Those little sausage links are so great, you just have to heat them, no worries about whether or not they are cooked enough.  And pancake mix is another great hit… the kind where you just add water, easy and yummy.  Mmm… perfect camping bkfst….. pancakes and sausage….

  • I think the number one rule I have found for camping is be flexible.  You are not at home and things aren’t going to go like at home.  Your schedules will be off.  I have found we always get back on track once we are home though, so don’t sweat it.  Your not going to eat and sleep at your normal times.  Nap time may occur in the car or in the backpack carrier.  Dinner will take longer and you’ll get dirty.   But for us, that’s all part of the fun.


IMG_5759Man, all this talk about camping makes me really wanna go… it’s not quite warm enough here yet though and I’m not so sure about sleeping on the ground (even if it is on an air mattress) when I’m 7 mth preggo… so perhaps we’ll hold off until summer.  Hopefully we get at least one night away over the summer before our trip this fall.

IMG_6178 How about you?  Any camping tips or memories you can share with the rest of us??

I am linking this post up on Works for Me Wednesday.

17 comments:

  1. We have never been camping as a family. The last time I went camping I was a teenager. I'm sort of ready to give it a try and this might be our summer for that so I'm tremendously glad I read this. Will add it to my favorites because so many of these tips will be useful.

    Just gotta figure out how to get my queen sized bed in our tent now....

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  2. We have never had the nerve to go camping, but you have inspired me. Hubby and I have been trying to come up with a cheap, fun vacation with the kids, and this might be just the thing.

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  3. you might make me brave enough to try again.

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  4. I haven't been camping since I was a kid. My family didn't rough it though! We usually had a camper of some sort. I can only think of a few times I went camping and stayed in a tent. I really had fun though! My husband is a city boy. Camping scares him!

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  5. What a great summary of your experience as the best camping family I know !!!! Your kids love it :-) My favorite camping trip is meeting you all for Steeler training camp!! Second was our trip to TN.

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  6. Yay for camping! I love the picture of you and kids at the water! That must be a great memory! Just this week my kids started asking about camping out in the yard, so maybe we'll have some fresh-off-the-press stories soon! (We hear the mosquitoes are pretty bad around our house, so we might need to venture into earlier home-camping and therefore some cold to avoid venturing into Bite-ville later on.) Any tips on good bug repellents for the kids?

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  7. JPg, I too love the pic of us in the water... we were playing in hot springs right beside the Rio Grande river, literally a stones through away from Mexico at Big Bend NP.

    As for bugs... we use Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent Wipes.

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  8. Those 'space blankets' make a good ground cloth on which you can put pads, sleeping bags, what ever, on. They will help keep the ground temp on the ground and the body heat around the body.

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  9. i'm so glad you posted this. i want to see more camping in our future (was tempted for a minute when i was 6 months prego) but have wondered how to do it with a kiddo. perfect post, as usual.

    and ps: i can't get over how much your son in that first pic looks like Eli. or maybe it's the other way around. but like seriously, it's scary.

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  10. You make camping actually sound...fun! It's been ten years since I've been camping, and that was pre-kids. We had drunken, noisy campers next to us and woke up to a very foggy morning that left everything damp. Our kids would LOVE to camp, but Mommy and Daddy really like hotels. :) Maybe some day!

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  11. We camped for the first time as a family last Labor Day Weekend. I found that having prescrambled eggs and sausage (frozen in a ziploc bag) and using my electric skillet made for a yummy and easy breakfast. We also used the PNP and air mattresses as well as a small space heater in our tent. I think I'll take a shoe crate next time, to eliminate the string of shoes from all over the campsite, though! :)

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  12. We just got back from camping with our 3 yr old, 2 yr old and 1 month old. It was great fun! (And we actually did it backpacking in.) We've been camping with the kids since the 3 yr old was 3 months old. Good for you not giving up a family activity you love but rather sharing it with the kids.

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  13. Thanks for reminding me that camping is possible with little kids. We haven't been camping with our kids since our 3rd (of 4) was about 2. Of course we now live in Texas where it's too darn hot to camp during the summer. Now that my husband is done with school maybe we can plan some camping trips. We have a group of friends who go camping over Thanksgiving break so maybe we'll join in this year.

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  14. Oh yeah, I've got a camping memory with you! Remember that hiking camping trip we went on in high school? Just recently, I was very proudly telling Bryan how tough we were on that trip. I bet the places you camp actually have bathrooms. We had fun though!

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  15. You guys are giving your kids awesome family memories! Good for you! I think it's fantastic to make memories and enjoy each other as a family, no matter how many you have, or what the ages are. If you stay calm and go with the flow, everyone will have a great time. We do the same with our brood, and we love it. Thanks for sharing and inpspring us!

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  16. Yay you. I always love to hear of other families that camp with little ones. People looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I was beach camping with my toddler. The only year we missed was the first year when she was six months old. We go at least once a year.

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  17. I love this article, it's so true, you need go pack everything you need to have a good time, no point going and being miserable. There are loads of ways to entertain kids when camping from traditional camping activities to printing off some free printables and packing some pencils for down time when us parents need some peace ancd quiet.
    Also cooking is a great way to invovle the kids. Recipes don't have to be difficult.
    Check out http://www.family-travel-made-easy.com/kids-camping-recipes.html for suggestions on kids camping recipes and loads of other family camping tips.
    Kind regards
    Mandy

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