First Time Camping with Kids? 5 Tips!

It’s that time of year when parents with young children are beginning to plan that very first camp trip with their young child.  Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve read a ton of articles about camping with kids.  What can possible be added to the discussion?  I have a few extra tips for that very first overnight camp trip specific to camping with a baby, toddler, or preschooler.

  1. Stay local:  Road trips are always a little stressful when traveling with little kids, so why not keep the “road trip” out of that first camping experience?  I recommend finding a campground within an hour drive from your home.  And make reservations, if possible, so there’s no reason to stress about getting to the campground early enough to secure a site.  Or worse, getting there and finding there are no spots available at all.  Well, guess that wouldn’t be a crisis, as you’d get to enjoy a day trip to somewhere beautiful and have a short drive home!
  2. Keep it short:  Make your first camping trip a simple one night adventure.  It’ll give you an idea of what future, longer trips will be like, and also give you a (relatively) painless way to learn from the experience.  You’ll find out if your tent is large enough for your family,  if your sleeping pads are comfortable, and if your sleeping bags will keep you warm enough.  You’ll also learn never to go camping without the mosquito repellent or the sunscreen, two things that you can survive one night without, but not two!
  3. Make mealtime easy:  I know for many, the cooking over the campfire or on the Coleman is what makes camping fun.  But here’s a radical idea… why not skip cooking altogether?  If you’re heading out for a simple, overnight trip, it’s super easy to either pack food that you prepared at home, pick up some take-out from the market on the way out, or bring items that can simply be cup up and served.  Think pasta salad, a fresh-tossed vegetable salad, a vegetable platter with hummus dip, a fruit salad or cut fruit, a cheese with french bread, or sandwiches.  For breakfast, consider bagels and cream cheese, cereal, or fruit and yogurt.  Ensure the food you take stays fresh and safe by packing everything in a large cooler full of ice.  Of course, if you’re a coffee or tea drinker, you’re going to need to haul the Coleman out to at least boil water!
  4. Simplify:  Camping does require a lot of stuff, but not as much as you might think.  Skip bringing a ton of toys for your child.  My boy has been completely entertained for a couple days of camping with the sticks he found in the camp site, a shovel and bucket, a dump truck, a ball or two, and his bike (or Skuut bike when younger).  There’s something about riding bikes at a campground that kids love!  And keep activities simple, too.  This isn’t the time to plan a lot of sightseeing activities or a long hike.  Hang out at the campsite, lazily explore trails near and around the campground, or find a pretty location to have a picnic.
  5. Seriously consider sleep and potty needs:  Still in diapers?  Pack extra, and you can’t have enough wipes with you while camping.  They’ll come in handy not just for diapering needs, but also for cleaning dirty little bodies and wiping up sticky spills.  Using a toilet?  They might not want to use the one at the campground.  I recommend bringing along the training potty, even if your child isn’t using it anymore.  As for sleep, it’s pretty tough to get those much-needed naps in when trying to put your child to sleep in a bright tent.  Tents also tend to get pretty hot during the day, adding to discomfort.  Consider alternate sleeping arrangements.  Can your child nap in the car on the way to the campground, or on the way home?  Each child is different, and what works for one may not work for another.  Consider your own child, and work around their specific needs.  Same goes for nighttime sleep.  It’s tough for a child to fall asleep in a tent when it’s still light out.  But if your child isn’t getting enough sleep, he or she may be crankier than normal, perhaps putting a strain on the enjoyment of the outing.

Once you’ve survived that first camp trip with your kids, you’ll have the confidence to do more on your next outing.  For that one, plan fun meals, head out for several nights, and explore farther from home!

Have fun!

For more “camping with kids” suggestions, especially about gear and safety, check out these articles!

105 Comments

  1. Zoe Campos says:

    Thank you for reminding me that I don’t need to bring lots of toys for my child. We’re thinking of taking them to a nearby RV campground if we can find one so they can experience a good night outdoors with their parents and your tips will be really useful. I’ll also try to come up with activities that can keep them occupied and amused without a lot of toys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope find a campground – getting outdoors is so important these days. Toys that are great to take along to an RV campground are a frisbee, balls to throw or kick around, and bikes. Whatever gets them running around outside. 😃 Have fun!

      Like

  2. Lora says:

    Thanks for the great info! Kids are never too young to start camping. I still remember my first camping trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda says:

      You’re welcome! 🙂

      Like

  3. Alexandra says:

    Hi, Linda:)) just came across your blog… love what you are doing here:)) I have two boys, I will be stopping by quite often for advice:)))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda says:

      Thanks, Alexandra! Hope you find the information useful. 🙂

      Like

  4. Great tips, Linda! I wrote about first time camping with a baby, too. Looks like we came to the same conclusions! http://adventurousparents.com/2013/06/09/10-tips-for-camping-with-a-baby/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re much braver than me! We never did try camping with our son when he was a baby. 🙂

      Like

  5. Shannon Dodge says:

    May I add a tip? If your child usually sleeps without the light on, don’t choose a full moon night for your camping trip. We learned this one the hard way! We’re hoping our second family camping trip doesn’t involve so much explanation of why we don’t read books and play at 2am…

    Thanks for a great article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true! You can schedule your trip around the schedule of the moon. The hardest part of summer camping with our son when he was small was that he simply couldn’t go to sleep because it was still light out! Normally, he was such a good sleeper, but he’d become so overtired after a couple days from reduced amount of sleep. But there’s nothing we can do about the sunlight. 🙂

      Like

  6. a9k1 says:

    great advice! I’ve been camping with mine a few times, but now as they are soon turning three and one year, and summer is approaching I am seriously planning on spending more time in a tent:-) I will definitely opt for a hassle free meal:-) thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found it helpful! We still like to bring along prepared food sometimes, depending on where we’re camping… it really helps take some of the hassle away. Of course, other times, cooking outdoors is part of the fun!

      Like

  7. 1annecasey says:

    Awesome advice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found it useful!

      Like

  8. Good reference. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thanks, and you’re welcome. 🙂

      Like

  9. I always wanted to go camping with my 7 year old. Now I am all the more convince to do it soon. Great, practical tips. Thanks. Have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have fun when you go!

      Like

  10. jmlight says:

    I love that people take their kids camping – it teaches them to love the outdoors and feel a connection to it. My Aunt and Uncle took 8 from three families camping in an old green army tent, no floor! of course this was YEARS AGO! It gave me a life long love of the outdoors. Our camping trips (yes, they took us more than once!) give us a lot to remember and laugh about at family gatherings 30 years later.

    Great Blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      What a great story! I love that your camping trips with your aunt and uncle provided you with your love of nature today. Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  11. Camping with the kids is the absolute best. Love your post. Thank you for liking my pics at yvettemaubusson. Much appreciate it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Just got to find ways to keep the little ones outside, and enjoying it. No child left out of the woods.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Cristi M. says:

    I’ve been nominated you for another award the “Super Sweet Blogger Award”.You are free to accept or not.Greetings ! Cristi.
    http://cristimoise.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/super-sweet-blogger-award/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you so much!

      Like

  14. Cher says:

    I nominated your blog for the new Reality Blog and Lovely Blog Awards! Congratulations! This is a “no rules Award” and you can find the details here at http://www.authenticphotography.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/long-overdue/. Decide what you would like to do based on time and other considerations as there are no rules.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you so much! I’ll head over to your blog now to check it out.

      Like

  15. blinkpack says:

    Josh here from the BlinkPack blog. We have a happy three-year-old camper, but about a year ago, camping with him was pretty much a disaster. It seems that language development has much to do with the success of camping with young children. If they wake up scared or disoriented in the middle of the night, lack of language skills can mean a lot of screaming and crying — not exactly good form for camping around others. Wishing you all the best in your camping and blogging adventures. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      So true. My son freaks out in the dark in unknown places (he has some monster fears). At two, I’d go to bed with him and stay by his side all night. Later, when he was better at sleeping through the night, I was able to head back out to the campfire with my husband.

      Like

  16. Lissa Rabon says:

    first time camping was with my parents and they might have considered it a disaster but we had a blast and are still laughing and talking about it into our 50’s!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Sounds like a success to me!

      Like

  17. Jane L. says:

    Great article and very timely with fall break coming up. I’ll be sharing this with friends. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. ..beautiful photos, great tips…and just a damn good read! carry on….please!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you so much! Will do.

      Like

  19. Thanks for visiting my blog.Camping is always fun with kids.Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  20. Anthropogen says:

    Some of my fondest childhood memories are of family camping trips, often chaotic, but never long enough… I wish you many fantastic trips in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      It was always sad when a camping trip came to an end. My son feels the same way!

      Like

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you so much! And congratulations… your blog is truly lovely. 🙂

      Like

  21. Lu says:

    Make mealtime easy and keep it short…I am there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Me, too! I’d rather be playing!

      Like

  22. Thanks so much for liking my post! Your post is great – we just went hiking with the kids yesterday (only brought a few crackers with me – terrible, I know) and talked about going camping. We’re still a bit intimidated by it, but once we muster up the courage to try it for the first time, I’ll refer back to your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Glad you found it helpful! Enjoy!!

      Like

  23. Hello! 🙂 You have been nominated for the Super Sweet Blogging Award. For the details, visit: http://lotustarotblossom.com/2012/08/22/super-sweet-blogging-award/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you so much! I’ll go check it out now.

      Like

  24. hemouse says:

    Thank you for your article,I hope one day I could take action to have a camp trip

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      You’re welcome. If you hope, I’m sure it’ll come true.

      Like

  25. I am giving you the Reader Appreciation Award. If you want to accept look at the details on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you! I’ll head over and check it out!

      Like

  26. bigsmileu1 says:

    I am honored to nominate you for The Sisterhood of the World Award! Please pick-up your award at http://www.grandmothermusings.com . Copy and Paste the Award to your blog and follow the rules of acceptance. I wish you many blessings. Congratulations!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Congratulations and thank you!. I’ll head over to check it out.

      Like

  27. nutsfortreasure says:

    Do not forget the FIRST AID KIT!!!! Man my baby is 60 hehe and I need a Drug Store from now on! lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Lol.. I made the assumption some things were a given. 🙂

      Like

      1. nutsfortreasure says:

        🙂 me too he is allergicc to bees refuses his PEN and then I suffer it will never happen AGAIN! lol

        Like

  28. Andy says:

    Great tips. Camping as a family is one of our favorite things to do and it only gets more fun as they get older. I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Tips like this help make that happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      I loved it as a kid, and it’s fun to see my son loving it, too. One of these days, we’ll get him out backpacking with us!

      Like

  29. These are great suggestions. Growing up we camped all the time. I don’t know how my parents did it with 6 kids all in one station wagon…We lived on Long Island, but we went everywhere from Canada and Maine down as far as Williamsburg, Virginia.
    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      I hope you have fond memories of those trips! We’d do annual three week cross-state camp trips when I was a kid, too, but in a less crowded station wagon.

      Like

  30. Good tips, especially about staying local (at first) and keeping it simple. I always made sure my son knew we were on a great adventure, too, so expectations of everything being the same as at home were not part of the deal. Have fun!
    Eleanor

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      We, too, call many of our nature outings “adventures”, especially camping and hiking. You never know what you’ll discover or experience! Thanks, Eleanor!

      Like

  31. Arjuna says:

    Dear Fellow Blogger,
    I am nominating you for the ‘A Thought-provoking Blog’ award. Congratulations!
    Please go to my blog for details:
    http://thewondrousdharma.com/2012/06/28/a-thought-provoking-blog/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Arjuna – This one slipped by me while I was in Yosemite without internet access. I just noticed it! Thank you so much for passing along the award!

      Like

  32. Alyssa says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I voted for you today and I will everyday until the voting closes! Good Luck! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you, Alyssa!!

      Like

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you, Ann!

      Like

  33. Dear fellow blogger,
    I have nominated you for the Reader Appreciation Award. If you choose to accept the reward, please click the link for information on how to do so. If you prefer not to receive awards, please accept the appreciation anyway.
    http://restinginawareness.com/2012/06/13/reader-appreciation-award/
    ~ Paul

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you, Paul!

      Like

  34. We RV a lot now…wish we had done more when our children were younger…Good for you…nature is a great teacher, I think..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      We do wish we could have a camper van or a small trailer. It would make many trips much easier. We have our eyes out!

      Like

  35. These are great tips! 🙂 And perfect timing, as we are looking this week to book a camping trip for this summer. We are right on the same page about the one night! My kids are 3 and 5, and though we did take them “camping” once, it was only in our backyard. A test run, if you will. Tons of fun, we did s’mores and puppet shows, but we had all the amenities within a few feet (read: bathroom). I especially like your take on the food — better to just enjoy the experience than to worry about the vaulted campfire meals! Save that for when the kids are older.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      I hope you and your family have a wonderful camping experience! I think it’s a great idea to do a test run in the backyard, too. I used to love camping in the backyard as a child when friends would stay the night (obviously older than our five-year-olds)! My parents would sleep inside as normal, so we’d be on a total adventure!

      Like

  36. Whitney Rains says:

    I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Congrats!

    http://aserendipitoushappenstance.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/blog-awards-and-my-recent-absence/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thank you so much! Congrats to you, too!!

      Like

  37. Great tips, I am planning some overnight trips with my wife and kid, so these are just in time! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      You’re welcome. Have fun on your outings!

      Like

  38. Alex Jones says:

    Personally, if you were to write a book based on everything I have so far read in your blog. it would quickly become a best seller.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Thanks! Now where do I get that contract?

      Like

      1. Alex Jones says:

        I did a quick scan of the internet, one publisher:
        http://www.newsociety.com/Submissions

        Like

        1. A Nature Mom says:

          I like the editorial objectives if this publisher!

          Like

  39. Any tips on how to keep the snoring dad from waking the whole campground?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      HaHaHa… Sorry… no tips for that one, either 🙂

      Like

  40. Hiking Mama says:

    Great tips! I wish we had done things more similar to numbers 1 and 3 on our first family camping trip several years ago 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Angela says:

    Great summary! I’m a big fan of premade meals. The potty seat is also a big hit, which I discovered when I was pregnant and needed to pee every 30 minutes (not fun!). Have any tips about how to deal with crying babies at midnight/2am/4am? Can’t nurse all night because he’ll expect it when we get back from camping. It was okay when he was a newborn, but now he’s 9 months. I guess I just gotta put my tent between a lot of trees?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      LOL… Can’t help you with the screaming baby bit! But I agree that the potty is also useful at times for adults in need. I once read about a runner who kept hers in her van for pre-event emergencies when there are 50 people in the bathroom line and the race is due to begin in five minutes.

      Like

  42. thirdeyemom says:

    Great tips! We have been doing mini-camping trips for the last two summers at a nearby regional park. We book it for one night and usually my older son stays with my husband overnight while my daughter and I spend the entire day there and drive home. We incorporate all your tips above! I’m not sure when we will all four sleep a night in a tent. We would need a much bigger tent but someday we will! Here in MN, we also have “rustic cabins” you can rent for a night which are minimally furnished (usually only with beds and no electricity) where you can sleep a family. I would love to try that! Great post! I love the Bay Area. It would be an amazing place to live! 🙂 nicole

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Creative way to keep everyone happy, but still allow your older son some quality camping time with his dad! There are a few places around here that have rustic cabins, too, that I’ve heard great things about. Enjoy your mini camp trips this summer!

      Like

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      They are purely from experience. I hope they help others!

      Like

      1. I believe they will! For instance, the cooking…thank you for giving first time campers permission *not to cook*! Sometimes, if we eliminate something–even if we think it’s essential to the experience–the whole experience is less stressful and more enjoyable. 😉

        Like

  43. averagechildhood says:

    Great advice! Hoping for our first camp-out this year – we will keep this in mind!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Nature Mom says:

      Have a great time!!

      Like

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