How We Survive (and Enjoy) Camping With Kids

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Camping with kids can be a bit overwhelming the first time. Let’s face it, kids complain they are bored easily, get into everything, and are not always willing to take a great afternoon nap in the tent. But don’t worry! All it takes is a little bit of forethought and you can have an amazing time camping with kids. Today I am going to share our tips for camping with kids. Everything from camp chores, to activities, to games- we have you covered.

Camping With Kids

My family loves hiking, and what goes along with hiking? Camping! Mike and I went camping quite a bit before having kids, but camping with kids was a whole different ball game.

When we first took the Goof camping it was a little overwhelming. He seemed to get bored easily, or just want to eat dirt. HAHA! A few trips in I started to realize camping with kids takes a little more prep work…or at least forethought.

Now with three kids we have come to not only survive camping with our kids, but we actually enjoy it. Part of that is because we have lightened up a little bit, but part of it is because we realized there were a few things that helped:

Chores and activities.

Having camp chores for our kids was a huge help for camp set up and take down. It gave them things to do while we were busy with set up. It also helped teach them what needs to be done when you go camping.

Activities were great for when our kids would say “I am bored.” Having some games and activities on hand definitely help our family not go stir crazy while camping. I wish my kids would just agree to a nice nap in the warm tent each afternoon, but sadly, nope…

So check out the chores and activities that have seriously changed how we camp with kids.

Camp Chores For Kids

I think the most overwhelming part (for parents) when camping with young kids is setting up camp. Why? Because here we are as adults trying to get everything unloaded, tent pitched, beds set up, and there are these little ones wanting to be entertained. This is especially true when you have little ones. You know, preschool age, or even toddlers. But guess what, it isn’t too early to have them help out with some of the camp chores. Here is a list of camp chores perfect for little ones.

  • Help clear the tent area of rocks before pitching the tent
  • Help pound the tent stakes into the ground
  • Help carry sleeping bags, pillows, etc to the tent
  • Gather up sticks and other kindling for the fire pit
  • Help make sure the fire pit is enclosed with rocks
  • Walk around the campground (with a parent) and find important items such as the outhouses, water pumps, etc
  • Help fill water buckets, etc at the pump
  • Help make sure food is put away and trash cleaned up each night
  • Help sweep out tent when packing up
  • Help roll air out of sleeping bags and tents (remember how fun this was as a kid)
  • Help carry out trash to dumpsters
  • Help check campsite after packed up

Camping With Kids
Camping With Kids Is All About Activities

Here are some great activities for when camping with kids. Having activities ready will help when your child decides they are terribly bored. Remember these are just a few ideas, get creative and add your own.

  • Nature walks or hikes are always a great activity for kids. Be sure to search for great family friendly trails before you go. (You can search by skill level, length, even incline)
  • Scavenger Hunts are a great way to help kids find different things in nature. You can find lots of free printable nature scavenger hunts on pinterest. I like the ones that have you draw the item you find. Simply pack some colored pencils in a ziploc bag and take them with you.
  • Fishing
  • Swimming in lakes (with parents and with life jackets)
  • Building sand castles on lake side beaches
  • Hopscotch
  • Make S’mores (of course!)
  • Roast hotdogs over the fire
  • Sing songs around the campfire.
  • If camping with a larger group- do skits around the campfire in the evening. It is always fun to see what kids come up with.
  • Tell stories around the campfire

Games for Camping With Kids

One thing I always love doing while camping with kids, or without, is playing games. We love to take board games, and yard games, to play during our excursion. Below are some of my favorites. (Disclosure- This part of my post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through an affiliate link does not change the price you pay, but I do earn money from purchases made)

Activities for camping with kids

  • Ladder Toss Game– We love to set up this game during the summer or during camping trips and play it. It can keep us busy for a good hour or two, and it is a little more active, while not being physical enough to have kids complain that they are too tired to play.
  • Sorry– This is just absolutely one of our family’s favorite board games. We play it almost every day. This is a great game to play while camping as it doesn’t have a ton of little pieces, but it does have a fun competitive aspect to it. I strongly suggest making sure you get the version that has the fire and ice pieces added to it.
  • SkipBo– This is such a fun game and I remember playing it while camping with my family all the time. They also make a SkipBo Junior.
  • Spoons– This is a great game to play in the tent if you end up getting some rain while camping. You can purchase the entire set, but if you know the rules, you can actually use decks of cards and regular spoons as well.
  • Rummikub– Another favorite I grew up playing, and taking along camping.
  • Horseshoes or Ring Toss games. These are fun and simple games for kids because they can just throw things.
  • Flikin’ Chickens– This is our new one for this year. We played it with some friends and it was SO MUCH FUN! We had to order our own.

Camping With Kids

 

More Tips For Camping With Kids

Even with all of those activities and chores on hand, there are some other tips you should know for camping with kids. These tips just make things a little bit easier.

Tips for camping with toddlers

Camping with twin toddlers is a whole different ball game. We found that the best thing for us when taking our twins camping for the first time was borrowing our sister’s tent trailer so that we weren’t trying to wrangle them in a tent. This might be a great idea if your family is not used to camping.

Another tip I have is to bring a child size folding picnic table. It can be really hard for toddlers to eat in a camping chair, and some camp sites may not have tables.

Be prepared for a child who hates getting their hands dirty. One of my toddlers has sensory issues, so was constantly worried about his dirty hands. Be sure to either have wipes or soap at the ready.

Tips for Camping With Older Children

As your children get older, you will need to change your approach with them and camping. Here are some tips for camping with older kids.

Give your child a bit more freedom. Set up some ground rules about how far they may go, what they are allowed to do by themselves, and what is expected from them.

One thing we have done is start thinking about letting our oldest sleep in his own tent. He isn’t quite ready, but it is definitely on our radar for in the future. If you have a two room tent, even just letting them sleep in a separate room can be a great way to give them some freedom.

Think about letting your child be in charge of a meal. Learning how to cook while camping is a great right of passage. Younger children can simply be in charge of a meal of helping set up to roast hot dogs over a camp fire. As they get older, you can let them take over more complicated meals.

Think about splitting up and having one parent stay with younger siblings while an older parent takes the older children on a special hike, out on the lake in a boat, or another older activity.

Hopefully these tips will help you have a great time camping with your family. If you are wondering about some great locations to go camping, check out our posts on Yellowstone With Kids and The Redwoods With Kids.

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7 thoughts on “How We Survive (and Enjoy) Camping With Kids”

  1. I love the idea of giving children chores to keep them busy while setting up the site. I’ve never been camping with small children, but I can see how that could be difficult!

    Reply
  2. You are so right! There is nothing worse than a kid with nothing to do. I really like the chores concept. You don’t want to entertain them all the time and this also teaches them independence.

    Reply

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