Camping is one of the best ways to get your kids active and interested in the outdoors. It’s also a great opportunity to bond as a family without the distractions of TV and other electronics. However, sleeping in a tent without water or electricity is a big step, especially for little ones. Sometimes families need to take baby steps before diving right into a tent camping excursion. Here are a few ideas to help ease your family into the camping scene.
Acclimate with Other Outdoor Activities
It would be difficult for anyone to jump right into camping with zero exposure to the outdoors, but it’s especially disorienting for children. If the end goal is camping, try day trips and smaller introductions to nature first.
For instance, hiking is a great way to foster a love of exploration and travel. Bike riding is another option for athletic kiddos. You can also try lowkey outdoor activities like skipping rocks and looking at wildflowers.
The important part is getting outside and into the wilderness. Create fun memories and cultivate an appreciation for nature in the whole family so that they are excited when they get the chance to spend more than a day in the outdoors.
Stay Close to Home for Round One
Before pitching a tent in the middle of a forest, pitch one in your backyard. Backyard camping is one of the best ways to do a test run before a real camping endeavor. You can make a plan, pack, set up, and sleep outside as if it was a real trip.
Even though you’re in your backyard, try to make camping as realistic as possible. Set up camp together, put away phones, stargaze, tell “campfire” stories around a lantern, and mimic a real trip to the best of your abilities. This is one of the best ways to test the waters and get your kids excited about the prospect of camping.
Doing a test run in the backyard is also an effective way to work out the kinks of your camping plan before fully committing. Did you realize you need more games or entertainment after the sun went down? Well now you can plan accordingly for the real thing.
You can also get a sense of what your kids like and dislike about camping so that you’re prepared to handle grievances later. And if before 8 pm you’ve already had multiple tantrums or mishaps; you can head back into the house. Sometimes it takes a few tries, so don’t give up your long-term camping goal after the first drop of a tear. Just try again next week.
Consider a Glamping Trip
Another great steppingstone to camping is glamour camping. Also referred to as glamping, this style of camping is a hybrid between staying in a tent and staying in a resort or hotel. Different glampsites have different amenities, such as heating, mattresses, Wi-Fi, and bathrooms, but the idea is the same. You get a bit closer to the outdoors without having to ditch all of the comforts of home. In other words, family glamping is a way to take your trip farther than the backyard without diving in headfirst.
A family glamping trip usually comes after backyard camping. That’s because when you camp in your backyard, you have the option to go back in the house if something happens. You’re also closer to home where your kids are more comfortable. Glamping, on the other hand, is farther from home and closer to nature. So, while it’s not as rugged as tent camping, it can give kids a feel for spending a night in the mountains.
Going Easy for Round One
When you think your family is ready for their first tent camping trip, feel free to have a go at it. Just remember to take it easy the first time. Make it fun, but also plan ahead to reduce the chance of unhappy campers. Here are some additional tips for families camping for the first time.
Avoid Busy Campgrounds
When you finally do make your way to the mountains for your family’s first camping trip, choose a less populated campsite. Bustling campgrounds can be overwhelming and confusing for kids who are camping for the first time. Picture it: Your parents transported you to the middle of a forest. You don’t know where you are. You don’t know why you’re here. And also, who are all these strangers? Talk about feeling disoriented.
Make the first trip a bit less disconcerting for your kids by selecting a relatively quiet set of campgrounds. That way, you can enjoy this trip with just your family.
Avoiding busy campsites is also a smart move if you have toddlers or youngins who are prone to crying. The last thing you want to worry about is disrupting fellow campers.
Of course, it’s a good idea to have a game plan and a few activities ready to prevent boredom, but also be attentive to what your kids want to do. Being too strict about bedtimes or your itinerary is just going to set you up for failure.
Instead, follow your kids’ lead. If they want to get muddy pulling worms from the ground, let them. If they want to spend three full hours making flower crowns, that’s fine (as long as they don’t pick the whole valley bare, of course). If you take them fishing and they decide they don’t like it enough to keep going, listen to them. Encourage the activities that your kids seem naturally drawn to and be okay with ditching the ones they hate.
Upgrade the Menu
Most kids don’t want to have the same dinner that they always have at home just in a new setting. So don’t leave them wondering why they travelled all the way to the mountains for more peas and carrots. This is your chance to have fun with a recipe you don’t always make and to have an extra treat or two after dinner. For example, have a barbecue for an authentic campsite dinner if that’s not a meal you typically cook at home.
Another way to make meals fun is to find foods that kids can help assemble. S’mores are a classic go-to. Helping them mix their own granola or build their own breakfast burritos can also be fun activities. Make meals unique and memorable so that the trip feels like a special occasion.
It’s never too early or late to enter the camping scene. Any family can give camping a try, even if they have little ones. Ease into your first family camping trip with these helpful tips to make it stress-free, fun, and memorable for parents and children alike.