After a long, long winter here in New England, we are beyond excited to get outside to do some of our favorite things! We got out for hikes and lots of sledding during the cold winter months. But if I’m being honest, snow is not my favorite.
However, I am a pretty big fan of Spring, Summer, and Fall!
My husband and I have always been the outdoorsy type. Hiking, biking, and camping are some of our happy places. For my last birthday, we celebrated by hiking the highest mountain in Massachusetts (Mt. Greylock). Not everyone’s idea of a perfect day, but this girl was super happy!
Once we had babies, we decided we weren’t going to change our lifestyle – instead, we were going to raise our babes to love Mother Nature as much as we do. They are now 5 and 8 and cannot get enough of the outdoor life. Mission accomplished!! One of our favorite things to do with them is to camp. And as you can imagine, camping with kids is much different than camping without them. Turns out they require quite a bit more planning and gear than we did.
After camping with kids for 6+ years here are some tips for an amazing experience that will keep you going back over and over.
1. PLAN AHEAD
What are you prepared for? Totally roughing it with no bathrooms, no running water, and no other human in sight? Or maybe you’re an RV family with all the conveniences at the tip of your fingers. There’s always an in-between option too where you’re able to set up your campsite with your tents and gear, but there are more amenities that are provided to you: a bathroom, hot showers, playground, grills, etc.
Before you choose a place to camp make sure you do your research and truly understand how you’re prepared to spend your trip and especially what makes the most sense with your baby and kids.
2. SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS
Camping with toddlers and older kids is much different than camping with babies. If you’re heading out with your baby remember that you should still be practicing safe sleep. Your baby should be in his/her own sleep space like a playard, portable crib, or something similar where they will be comfortable, but safe. It’s also a good idea to use this sleep space with the baby prior to your trip so they get used to it. You certainly don’t want an unhappy baby at bedtime!
For the toddlers and older kids you can use a sleeping bag or a portable cot as a bed – and if they are old enough, try giving them their own tent. We bring friends sometimes and the kids sleep together in their own tent and think it’s just the coolest! We actually use this portable cot for our kids and it works great while giving them their own space (off the ground).
3. BE PREPARED FOR THE ELEMENTS
We learned this the hard way. The forecast isn’t always accurate when planning to be in the great outdoors for the weekend. Even with no rain in the foreseeable future – prepare for it. Tarps, umbrellas, and board games are key.
Also noteworthy – the nights can get cold! The daytime weather may be showing beautiful, warm days which are ideal for getting out on the lake (sunscreen please!). However, the nights can (and probably will) get chilly. Dress in layers. Bring extra blankets. And make sure you have a spot for a great campfire.
4. ALL THE FOOD
The kids are in a new environment. That means they probably aren’t as comfortable as they would be at home. Now is not the time to offer them a bison burger. Bring food that they are familiar with and that you know they like. Also – snacks. ALL. THE. SNACKS. They will be running around and will need to replenish that energy with some healthy snacks. We absolutely love these organic snacks.
We definitely needed more “stuff” when we started camping with the littles (obviously). But the first time we went we brought way too much. It was a learning experience for sure, ha! The car was packed with 85% baby stuff and 15% ours. I think we were a bit nervous so we brought everything from a highchair, camp chair, portable crib, playpen, diapers, wipes, stroller, front carrier, bather, playmat, toys. Yea… you get the idea. We learned quickly what we actually needed and didn’t need and our second trip was much more curated. We used this portable chair for feeding and playtime, as well as around the campfire. And we actually still use that same one since it grows with the kids. Definitely grab the products that are multi-functional to help you save on space – and sanity.
6. SAFETY ALWAYS COMES FIRST
We weren’t unsafe campers before, but with kids, it’s kind of always top of mind. My biggest focus was on the safety of the fire. Our toddlers were very curious about everything so we were extra careful to verbally explain to them about the fire being hot but also never to turn our back on them anywhere near the fire. Toddlers are FAST. And since we traveled to various campsites and didn’t always know what the firepit looked like (or if there was one) we actually started bringing a Solo Stove so there were no surprises. We use it at home too when we’re not camping. If you haven’t seen it before – check it out. One of my favorite purchases ever! But it still gets hot so we make it a point to remind the kids not to touch it (even when it’s not lit). We make sure to keep their chairs a safe distance away from it too and have extra-long smores sticks to accommodate that extra distance.
And for the minor boo-boos that are always bound to happen (bug bites and knee scrapes are inevitable) don’t forget to grab the First Aid kit.
This should have been #1, but I always like to end on the best possible note! I heard a quote recently and it was something along the lines of how we shouldn’t tell our children about the world around us. We should show them. And camping is really the epitome of that sentiment. Let them explore. Get dirty, and wet, and messy. Let them go barefoot and walk in the river. Let them study all the parts of nature and fall in love with it. Adventure truly is the best part of life.
As they get older, camping with the kids definitely gets easier. They learn how to adapt to the new environment quicker and they also become great little helpers! So don’t be afraid to get out there – we definitely recommend starting them young. I promise that these will be some of your very best memories together and certainly ones that they will remember (and cherish) forever. ?