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8 Tips for Camping with Children – and Actually Enjoying it!

I am not a stellar camper – I’ve probably camped just five times in my life. But I have this urge to take my children camping this year. I have visions of a family-focused adventure; hot dogs and s’mores by the fire; fishing and swimming in a lake; and leisurely hikes through a beautiful, wooded park. I just know that my kids (ages 2, 4, 7) will love it ─ following a brief complaining phase about a lack of video games!

In preparation, I interviewed a group of mothers who have years of “camping with kids” experience.

Here are the top 8 tips:

  • Do a trial run. It’s important to test the waters before taking the plunge. Pitch a tent in your backyard for an overnight outing. Or find a park that is close enough to home that if you really had to pack it all up in the middle of the night, you could do so.
  • Borrow gear. Camping equipment is expensive. Until you know that this is an activity that your family will enjoy and want to repeat, don’t buy a bunch of stuff. Ask a friend (perhaps someone who is involved with their son’s Boy Scouts) if you can borrow gear for a short trip.
  • Make a list. You don’t want to forget the tent poles, bug spray, or bathing suits! Check your list twice when packing. Download a comprehensive checklist at
  • Plan simple meals. Faith C., mom to two tweens who have camped since they were toddlers, says simple meals are key, especially with little ones. Faith’s favorite recipe is “eggs in a bag.” She explained, “Eggs in a bag are a super simple way to have breakfast. Take good quality Ziploc bags, crack open the number of eggs you need into the bag, add cheese, bacon, sausage, peppers, onions, or desired toppings. It’s ready to be boiled in a pot to create a campfire omelet!” Other easy options: hot dogs, taco salad in sandwich bags, and tinfoil meals. Stacey M., mother of seven, says “S’mores may seem like a good idea… until placed in the hands of children. Then, they are just an ooey, gooey nightmare. And don’t EVER buy the gigantic roasting marshmallows! They may be great for grownups, but not so much for tiny hands.” Simplify by opting for graham crackers topped with Nutella spread and mini marshmallows.
  • Air mattress! Who cares if you feel wimpy ─ it will be difficult to enjoy the trip if no one sleeps. An air mattress or camping pad will make a world of difference in how much rest you get.
  • Fight off boredom with planned activities. Think nature walks and hikes, a scavenger hunt, rock/leaf collecting, campfire sing-a-longs, bean bag toss, horse shoes, tic-tac-toe on a dirt board, etc. Make easy bird feeders with peanut butter, pine cones, and bird seed or try another outdoor craft.
  • Bring extras. Extra socks are something no one thinks to bring until they realize they need them. Be sure to have plenty of wet wipes, hand sanitizers, bottled water, etc. Pack lots of gallon-sized Ziploc bags; they are good for so many uses: food items that you don’t want wet in a cooler, stowing items that you want to keep away from flies, collecting things on nature walks, and storing toiletries. Extra sweatshirts and other warm gear often come in handy.
  • Keep it simple with low expectations. Just try to relax and enjoy yourselves. If the kids would rather play in the lake all day than take a hike, don’t fight it. If you’d rather eat hotdogs all weekend than do anything fancier, pass the buns around. Go with the flow!

With the right attitude and a little bit of preparation, camping with children is not only do-able, but can be fun. Unplug, leave the distractions behind, and fill your kids’ memories with laughter and outdoor adventures.

Items to pack in first-aid kit:

  • Daily prescription medicines
  • Pain relievers for adults & kids
  • Medicine dispenser
  • Ear drops
  • Tummy meds
  • Cough drops
  • Band-Aids
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe
  • Bug spray & bite cream
  • Burn gel
  • Nyquil
  • Hydrogen peroxide spray
  • Medical tape & gauze
  • Vaseline
  • Wet Wipes