When camping with your kids, there are a few pearls of wisdom to follow. First, don't go far away from home—your house should be a 20-minute drive away so you can make it quickly in an emergency. Second, if it's your child's first camping trip, start with just an overnight trip. Third, create a detailed list of what you need and double check everything before you go.
Even following that advice, taking your kids camping can be stressful—especially if they have never gone camping before. In today's world of screens and constant entertainment, it's a definitely a change of pace for kids to be camping. In fact, they might turn into zombies without their screens. (Or are they zombies with the screens?) So, it pays to be prepared with great activities for your kids to enjoy their time out in nature.
Snacks: These are good for any age, but especially important for kids. Even for picky eaters, they're bound to love certain camping foods. Remember to keep it simple and prepare as much as you can beforehand. Metal foil is your best friend since you can cook in it, and then just toss it out after using it. Also, to save your sanity, pack paper plates, utensils, and cups. Even if you're the greenest parent around, you'll be glad you went the disposable dishes route.
Here are a few recipes that are kid-friendly with minimal clean up:
Blowing Bubbles: While this is a good outdoor activity in general, this is a camping must-have where toddlers are concerned. Right around 18 months is when most toddlers are walking and becoming more interested in the world around them. It's cheap, it's easy, and it might be one of the few activities your toddler can actively participate in.
Fishing: Even if you're not much of a fisher, this is a great way to spend time together. Most kids especially are thrilled when they do catch a fish. Here is a great article step-by-step article by WikiHow that details how to teach kids fishing.
Scavenger Hunt: This activity is great for all ages, but is easy enough for even the littlest kid to join in. Even if they don't know what's going on, going on a scavenger hunt introduces them to the nature. While some older kids might not think this is fun, simply add a time limit or a bit of competition. Create a list of items based on the items you know are in your area. Here is a an example list to get started:
- Animal tracks
- Unique rock
- Pine needles
- Clover leaf
- Wild flower
- Seed or seed pod
- Picture of a bird
- Picture of an insect
Exploring: Don't underestimate the power of just letting kids get into nature. They can look around, build forts, play in the dirt, and take in nature around them. This is another activity where multiple kids can get together and really let their imaginations run wild.
Build a Campfire: Who doesn't love fire? While it might seem scary to teach a kid how to start a fire, this great way to teach kids the basics of camping. Most kids are already fascinated with fire, so this is a great opportunity to show them how to properly work with fire. Be sure to emphasize to your kids to never build a fire without an adult present.
Biking: Many parents swear by this. It's an easy activity that is entertaining for hours. Bikes are easy to take exploring, and for little kids it helps them keep up with the older ones.
Tell Stories: Talk about your childhood or a story your grandparents told you. Weave your own tales. Give a chance for your kids to tell you stories from their lives. After a busy day, this is a nice way to wind down and let your kids get ready for bed.