Ultimate guide for camping with kids (+20 tips)

camping with kids

Thinking of heading to the campgrounds with your kids? While it may seem rather adventurous, camping with your little ones can be quite a fun and educational activity. In fact, with a proper plan and our excellent tips, heading off to the great outdoors (or kid friendly campgrounds) can be totally doable. 

What is a good age to take a child camping?

There is no one answer for this, as it will be different for every family. Your own camping experience will affect how you feel about bringing your child camping. 

Additionally, every child is different. Some kids are okay roughing it out while others are just not outdoor people. Consider your child’s preferences and how they would react to camping.

Can you take a toddler camping?

Yes, you can take a toddler camping. However, before you do, here are some questions that will help you determine whether your child is ready for his or her first camping experience:

  • Does your toddler respond well to instructions? 
  • Will they stop when you call them or will they take off running? 
  • Is your toddler potty trained? 
  • Is your toddler generally easy going?
  • Will your toddler be okay with wearing rain gear or sun hats?

If your answer is ‘yes’ to these questions, then go for it. If you’re not too confident, start small with kid friendly campsites so that you do not have to forgo essential facilities like showers and toilets.

Camping essential for kids: 20 tips

Here are some tips to make camping with kids fun and stress free. 

Prefer car camping

If your kids are totally new to camping, it’s better not to rough it. Choose car camping, where it is possible to drive all the way to your campsite. 

Plan ahead (and involve kids when planning)

Campgrounds tend to fill up quickly so it is best to book up to six months in advance. Involve your kids in the planning. Even the most ‘non-camper’ kid will start to get excited about the trip if they’re involved in planning it. 

Have a trial run at home

A test run can help kids to get used to the idea of sleeping outdoors. Try ‘camping’ in your backyard for a few days. A trial run will also allow you the opportunity to think of the things you will need to bring on the actual trip. 

Camp at an area with facilities around

It’s ok to start small. Pick campsites that have amenities and facilities that are suitable for your family. You can opt for campgrounds with showers and flushing toilets if it’s the first time for your kids. Some kid friendly campsites have playgrounds, safe swimming areas, ballfields and streams that kids can have a good time at. You can try longer trips at more remote locations when the kids are more used to roughing it. 

Rent a tent

If it’s your first time camping, you can opt to rent or borrow a tent instead of buying one. You can also rent camping equipment and gear if you need to. 

Pack an extra tent

If you have a small extra tent, pack it along and use it for your kids’ playspace. Doing so will ensure that their sleeping area is clean and specific for sleep. It’s a handy space for kids to hang out in when it rains. 

Pack light

Try packing as light as possible. Overpacking means you will have to bring extra bags or gear and the last thing you want is the added hassle of lugging your luggage. Remember, you’re already going to have your hands full with the kids! 

For older kids, have them pack their own bags. You can provide a checklist for them so that they do not leave behind any items. 

Pack for all types of weathers

While it’s advisable to pack light, do try to pack for all kinds of weather. Evenings and nights can be cool so being an extra pullover or pants, especially for the kids. Don’t forget to bring rain gear. 

Bring extra clothes

It can be harder for small bodies to generate heat to stay warm, especially when spending hours outdoors. Extra clothes can help kids to stay warm when camping. Remember to pack warm shoes and socks to keep feet from getting cold.

Dress in layers

One of the best ways to pack light while still having clothes for all types of weather is to dress in layers. Dressing your kids in layers allows them to put on or take off clothing as needed according to temperature changes. 

Set up the tent during daylight

It’s always a good idea to set up the tent while it’s still daylight. Once you have your tent up, you can start cooking. Have your kids help you with both these chores. 

setup tent
Photo by Uriel Mont from Pexels

Keep medical necessities and first aid

Falls, cuts, scrapes and other accidents can happen so remember to pack along a first aid kit, bug spray and sunscreen. Keep these items in the same spot so that you’re not scrambling to look for them when it is needed. Also, have a list of emergency numbers to call. If indeed an accident occurs, stay calm, apply basic first aid and call the emergency number. However, it’s most likely that you will only need to use a few band aids and sunscreen. 

Learn ahead to build a campfire

A campfire will give you light and help you keep you warm at night. As such, it’s important that you learn how to build one before you go camping. If your kids are older, teach them how to do it. If your kids are young, it’s wise to remind them of the dangers and keep an eye on them when there is a campfire going. 

Leave gadgets at home

Try to leave all gadgets at home. Use a digital camera for pictures. Use your smartphones only for emergencies. 

Bring bikes

Bikes can be really fun on a camping trip. However, do ensure that your kids wear helmets, and have knee and elbow protection. Remind your children to watch for traffic if they are on roadways. It’s also important to be respectful of other campers. Getting their bikes fitted with lights will help them navigate in low light areas. 

Try something new and adventurous

It’s good to be ready with some ideas on what sort of activities are available at your campgrounds. Do some research and plan ahead. Some campsites have nature trails, bike trails, and even boats for rent. Take the opportunity to let your kids try something new. It’s a chance for them to learn and discover. 

Allocate responsibilities

Camp chores are important and what’s best about them is that children too, are able to help. Have your kids help with setting up the tents, cooking and washing up, gathering water and building the campfire. 

Keep a routine

It’s best to keep to your usual routine for nap time and bedtime when it comes to young children. This ensures that you and your kids get enough rest each day. 

Pack food your kids like

Have your kids help you with the menu planning. Consider food they like to eat and snacks that they want. Camping may not be the best time to let them try new foods. Stick to the usual favourites. 

Get organized

One of the best ways to ensure a great time is to organize your camping gear. Use clear bins for supplies and separate equipment into categories. For example, have all kitchen related items in one box. This will save you time and the stress of having to rummage through stuff just to look for a single item. 

Anticipate challenges

Depending on your child, you may have to troubleshoot potential problems before you head to the campgrounds. For example, if your toddler is still potty training, you might want to consider bringing along a travel toilet. Or does your little one tend to wake up early? If so, you might want to consider packing some books or toys that will keep them occupied while you catch a few extra minutes of sleep. 

Safety first

Set some ground rules. Talk to your children about where they can and cannot go, and what to do if they get lost. Set boundaries and ensure that they have access to a whistle and a flashlight. Also, point out areas that are potentially dangerous, such as nearby roads, fast moving streams or steep places. 

Sleeping essentials

Young children may have a favourite blankie or stuffed animal that helps comfort them when they are dozing off. Bring them along so that your little one is able to sleep well.

stuffed toy
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Be patient and flexible

Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned. While you can prepare and plan a structure for your kids, remember to be flexible. Slow down and enjoy the time with your kids.

How do I have fun camping with kids?

It won’t take much for your kids to get excited for the adventure. Whether you’re camping in a tent, spending the next few days in a cabin or an RV, your kids will love the novelty of sleeping bags, exploring nature trails, cooking outside and hearing the sounds of birds and other creatures. All you need to do is be prepared and flexible for unexpected changes, be patient and embrace the fun!

Camping with kids activities

Here are some kid friendly activities that will make your camping trip a memorable one. 

  • Nature scavenger hunts
  • Playgrounds
  • Scale boulders
  • Hop from rock to rock
  • Use a fallen log as a balance beam
  • Have fun in the water – splash in the stream, swim, rent a paddleboat
  • Get digging if you’re near the beach
  • Explore nature trails and easy hiking trails
  • Talk and listen to each other
  • Pick flowers (if there are no regulations against it)
  • Throw rocks or paint them!
  • Build a campfire
  • Make S’mores
  • Tell stories around the campfire

Meal ideas for camping with kids

Meal times don’t have to be complicated when you’re in the great outdoors with your kids. Here are some easy, delicious meal ideas that your kids will love!

  • Cheeseburgers
  • Fried rice
  • Grilled mini pizzas
  • Breakfast burritos
  • Fish fillet cooked in foil
  • S’mores
  • Baked potatoes
  • Omelettes
  • Tomato and basil pasta
  • Mac and cheese
  • Tacos
  • Bbq chicken 
  • Pork skewers
  • Chicken skewers
  • Sandwiches and toasties
  • Chocolate baked bananas
  • French toast

Camping with kids checklist- Quick reference

Here’s a quick checklist of things to bring along.

The essentials

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Air mattress
  • Bedding or bedsheets
  • Floor mat
  • First aid kit
  • Tarp 
  • Rope
  • Lighter / matches
  • Foldable camping chairs
  • Pocket knife
  • Maps
  • Fire starter
  • Firewood
  • Basin for washing
campfire
Photo by Timothy Meinberg from Unsplash

Personal items

  • Clothes
  • Pajamas
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Outerwear – jacket, sweater, hat, gloves
  • Toiletries
  • Towels
  • Diapers for younger children
  • Wet wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Sunscreen 

For the kitchen

  • Camping stove
  • Eating utensils – spoons, forks, knives, cups, plates
  • Cooking utensils – frying pan, pot, cast iron skillet, coffee pot, marshmallow roasting sticks
  • Sealed containers
  • Cooler to keep food fresh
  • Cleaning supplies – sponges, dish rags, soap, basins
  • Water bottles
  • Trash bags
  • Paper towels
  • Table cloth / table cover

For the tummy 

  • Food – meat, fish, veggie that are packed into meal portions, rice, pasta, ready made sauces, bread
  • Snacks – fruits, nuts, chips, crackers, granola bars and other favourite snacks
  • Spreads – jam, nutella, peanut butter
  • Marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers to make S’mores
  • Water – especially if there is no water source nearby
  • Formula / Milk
  • Coffee and tea
  • Hot chocolate

For the kids

  • Toys
  • Books
  • Bikes
  • Outdoor toys – bubbles, chalk, water guns, ball
  • Fishing gear
  • Binoculars
  • Writing material
  • Favourite stuffed animal/blanket

Conclusion

Camping with kids may sound daunting, especially if it’s your first time but it doesnt need to be! Just plan ahead, be flexible and have fun. You’ll be amazed at how your kids will adapt. Enjoy the moment and make it a memorable experience that you and your family will treasure for years to come.