Camping with Kids: 4 Tips to Make It Easy and Fun

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Image via Tracy Jensen

Have you been thinking about camping with your kids? What are you waiting for? Camping can be an affordable and fun way to hit the road as a family.

Heading out with young kids doesn't have to be a big undertaking. Here are a few tips to make your family camp out a success:

1. Know your kids and their limits.

Sleep: If your kids are like mine, they turn into walking train wrecks when they are overtired. Being outside all day, hiking, and sleeping in a tent wear them out in a different way than their day-to-day routine, so for right now, I plan for two days of camping with one night. The kids get to experience sleeping in a tent and the campfire without a three-day recovery period afterwards.

If your kids are in school or daycare, plan to come back on Saturday night so they have two nights in their beds and a quiet day Sunday before heading back into a busy week.

Routine: If your kids thrive best under a stricter routine, consider bypassing the tent and starting with a cabin to ease your family into the great outdoors. You can hold onto nap time and that evening bath, and still get plenty of time to explore.

2. Do a test run.

Sleeping in a tent can be an overwhelming new experience. Ease the kids into it ahead of time. Check out some great stories about camping, show them pictures of the grounds on the computer, or let them create their personal packing list.

Consider putting the tent up in the living room, or sleep in the back yard for the night. There's no better way to know what gear you absolutely need to have. For my kids, the battery-operated sound machine is their must-have. It keeps their home bedtime routine intact, blocks out some of the neighboring campfire chatter, and scores us all extra sleep.

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3. Bring entertainment.

Little legs can only do so much hiking, so make sure you have some activities up your sleeve to keep the kids busy. We sometimes bring an extra tent just for toys and games. We also bring simple crafts like picture frame sets, glow in the dark bracelets, and print out activity packets.

Got a playgroup? Bring friends on this adventure. Let the kids put together a play about the wildlife, set up a game of flashlight tag, and learn campfire songs.

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Bonus: Camping is a great opportunity for zone parenting, too. Know in advance which parents – and kids – tend to wake up earliest and where the kids can congregate early!

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4. Have a backup plan.

With kids in tow, your goal should be to build a love of the outdoors versus sticking it out at all costs. What will you do when weather, illness, or other issues arise? Know where you can easily get to a warm, dry bed if needed, and where you can find a doctor.

If your kids are crying in snowsuits because that October morning was just a tad too cold and no one can remove their gloves long enough to grasp their food, perhaps it is time to pack up … not that I have ever been in that situation.

What are you waiting for? Whether in your backyard or at a state park, there are great memories to be made! Do you camp with your family? Share your tips with us!

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Camping with Kids: 4 Tips to Make It Easy and Fun

Tracy Jensen is a writer, marketer, mother, fundraiser, marathoner, and music lover. A working, single mom of two kids ages six and five, she is notorious for doing things the hard way. In addition to writing for EverydayFamily, she survives suburban exile by blogging about life’s foibles at It Builds Character. She can be found at night ignoring the dishes and playing on Twitter. ... More

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