I remember as a kid I had grandiose expectations of what camping would be. Like I didn’t realize just how many bugs would be around me the first time I went or the time I had high hopes to kayak and it didn’t happen. Since a lot of time and effort goes into making family camping trips happen, it’s also important that our kids have fun while camping.
This doesn’t mean catering to their every whim or packing it full of activities. It means setting appropriate expectations while also involving them in the planning process.
How to make sure kids have fun on a camping trip
The two biggest ways to ensure a smooth camping trip are to set appropriate expectations and come prepared.
While often camping with kids is meant to be a fun adventure, expectations sometimes fall short for both kids and parents. Furthermore, nothing brings a camping trip to a quick halt than kids with nothing to do or kids not feeling like they’re adequately involved in the process, so it is important to approach these outings well prepared.
Get some feedback from your children.
Before you set off, let your children tell you what they are most looking forward to. Do they want to swim? Hike? Watch for birds? Go kayaking? Getting an idea of what they consider fun is important and a great way to plan activities that appeal to them. Eah person gets to plan or choose their top priority
Give them a few of their own camping essentials.
Giving kids a few of their own essentials can help them feel more involved and can help fights from happening later. Give each child their own flashlight and other small supplies such as a bag of trail mix, a compass, or their own camp blanket. This way kids have their own “stuff” and you don’t have to worry about playing referee.
It also means that they have the responsibility of keeping track of their own belongings.
Pack kid friendly snacks and meals.
Keep your kids tastes in mind when planning what food items to take. Don’t forget plenty of kid friendly options like trail mix, nuts, fruit (fruit kababs can be fun) dry cereal, crackers, and other finger foods. Kids will love to help grilling, but bring options; you can always grill corn, baked potatoes, or even make tin foil packet meals with all of their favorites.
Be realistic about electronics.
Do your kids like to fall asleep listening to music?
Do they like watching a little television before bed?
No rule says you have to completely nix these things just because you’re spending time in nature. You can still allow for 30 minutes each evening of Ipods or Ipads to help wind them down and get them comfortable. After that, you can always read books together or look at the stars!
Plus, even my husband and I have been known to use GPS as a tool while in the wilderness. So further setting expectations of both when and how technology will be used is important.
Give them fun chores.
It takes a little work keeping a campsite together. Give kids some simple chores such as fetching water, sweeping the tent floor, making the beds, or setting up the picnic table for meal times. They will enjoy helping and feeling included.
Take advantage of campground activities.
See what type of activities the campground offers and take advantage of them. This might mean free guided hikes, a nature center, hayrides, or other park planned events. Get a schedule when you arrive so you can participate.
Allow for down time.
Not every moment of your trip needs to be planned. Make sure there is plenty of time to relax, be lazy, take a nap, read a book, or do some other quiet activity. This way kids don’t feel overwhelmed and get some down time if they need it.
Grab our Family Camping packing list!
It’s completely free and is two full pages, with extra space to write to help you and your family fill up the car with everything you’ll need to have a safe, healthy, and fun time while enjoying the great outdoors. Simply click on the cropped image preview below and a pop-up will ask you where you want your PDF download sent as well as weekly news.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!