Camping with Kids

by Stacey Schifferdecker
family-camping.jpgMy oldest son turned seven the day after his baby sister was born. We didn’t intend to have such a gap in ages between our kids—it just turned out that way. But it meant that either my son missed out on fun family activities or we brought the little one along. And that is how we ended up camping with a seven-week-old infant. Our friends thought we were crazy, but she was a great camper. In fact, she was even useful: when our tent started leaking during a heavy rainstorm, her disposable diapers were very handy!
Why camping?
Like it or not, life for most kids today is pretty conscripted. They tend to spend more time driving to play dates and planned activities than randomly exploring the great outdoors. Camping introduces kids to nature and gives them a feeling of freedom as they safely explore the campsite. It can also be a special family time when everyone can hang out and play together without other commitments or the lure of electronic toys.
Start out slowly
OK, maybe pre-kids you backpacked the length of the Continental Divide. It’s time to dial your adventures back for a few years. Try car camping at a local state or national park for a night or two or even setting up a tent in your own back yard. Our first camping expeditions were with our son’s Cub Scout pack, which is a mother’s camping dream: someone else did all the cooking!
Get the right equipment
In addition to the usual camping equipment you bring, there are a few specialty items that are helpful when you are camping with kids. First of all, you need to think about your tent. When our family got bigger, so did our tent. A lot bigger. In fact, we now have three tents: two three-person tents for when it’s just one parent/one child going out, and the ten-person condo tent for when all five of us go. If you have little ones, make sure the tent is big enough for a portable crib. We set a Pack-n-Play up in our tent for the first few years.
If you plan any hiking with little ones, a baby backpack is a must-have. Older children will love to carry their own and water bottles. For extra fun, give them a disposable camera to shoot photos of the camping adventure.
Also be sure to bring extra clothes and closed-toe shoes. Dirt and mud puddles are part of the adventure, but when your kids are done playing in the puddles or wading in the creek, they will need dry clothes and shoes to put on. Sandals and flip-flops are a camping no-no. (I admit, I do bring flip-flops for those emergency trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but slip-on tennis shoes would be a better choice.)
When camping, you want to give your kids freedom to explore, but you also need them to be safe. Of course, you will set up boundaries and rules for them, but also give all the kids a whistle just in case someone wanders off and gets lost. You will also want to bring a basic first-aid kit.
Plan entertainment
If you camp at a state or national park, there will probably be rangers’ programs your family can attend. may also offer a playground, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, paddle boats, and swimming in a lake or swimming pool. Decide what amenities are important to your family and make sure the campground includes them.
You also need to be sure to bring books and games for those rainy afternoons when you are hiding out in your tent.
A great book with lots of ideas for camping fun, as well as general camping tips, is The Kids Campfire Book: Official Book of Campfire Funby Jane Drake and Ann Love.

Have fun hitting the camping trail with your kids!

Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies. 
No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2007
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June 11, 2007

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November 10, 2009

If you plan any hiking with little ones, a baby backpack is a must-have. Older children will love to carry their own backpacks and water bottles. **********************
shirley jones

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