3 Tips for Camping With Kids for the First Time

Do you ever just want to unplug from your electronics, rip the kids from their endless re-runs of "Phineas and Ferb" and go to the woods? Camping provides our kids with the chance to learn about plants, birds, bugs, trees and everything else Mother Nature has to offer. Camping can also teach kids valuable skills like how to stay warm in the great outdoors, how to prepare meals over a campfire and which plants and bugs are best avoided.
Depending on your experience and level of comfort, even babies can go on a family campout. However, to get the most out of it, kids should probably be a bit older — at least preschool or kindergarten age. To have a successful and fun camping experience that will inspire your kids to adore nature, check out the following tips:

Try a backyard campout first

Before hiking deep into the woods with your youngins’ in tow, plan a backyard campout first. This will give you a chance to teach your kids how to pitch a tent and try cooking hot dogs over a fire — if you don’t have a safe space for a campfire a small hibachi will do — and also experience sleeping in the black of night. You can still enjoy many of the traditional camping experiences in your backyard, from stargazing and singing songs to telling ghost stories andmaking s’mores. As a bonus, if Jane or John wakes up at 2 a.m. completely scared of the dark and wanting to go home — they can, without having to pack up your entire campsite.

Make sure you have the necessary gear

It is pretty much a given that your kiddos will get filthy during their first camping trip, and perhaps wet and muddy, too. To keep them as comfortable as possible, pack extra shoes and clothes as well as plenty of warm layers. This goes for you grownups, too —bring along flannel shirts, enough pants and plenty of socks to stay warm and dry. If your kids only have lightweight sleeping bags adored with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Hello Kitty designs, you should spring for something heavier so they will stay warm.

Other essentials for camping with kids include plenty of flashlights, glow sticks, tons of extra batteries, toys and games to keep them happy in the tent should it start to rain, a first aid kit, sunscreen and bug repellent. To make bedtime as easy as possible, let children bring along a favorite “lovey” and pillow from their own bed.

Choose your spot carefully
Although your favorite camping spot might be 200 miles away and require a 5-mile hike to reach it, remember that you are camping with little ones who will probably appreciate something a bit closer to home. Consider choosing a campsite that offers some modern amenities like bathrooms, showers and organized activities for the kids. 

To find some great family-friendly campgrounds near you, check out GoCampingAmerica.com. Also, take your kids’ interests into mind when selecting your spot; for instance, if your daughter loves fishing you might want to camp near a lake, or if your son loves picking out constellations, choose a campsite that is not totally surrounded by sky-blocking trees.

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