You’re keen for a family adventure. You’re determined to ditch the mod-cons and camp under the stars with your children. Camping is an amazing bonding opportunity and a lot of fun, but it's also a recipe of disaster if you don’t go prepared when you have kids in tow. Here I give you some helpful tips for a fun weekend getaway in the wild.
PREPARE FOR NIGHTTIME
If your littles aren’t used to sleeping under the stars, it can be a big adjustment from a cozy bed. So, do a trial night on a blow-up mattress at home before doing the real thing so they can get sed to the feeling. Maybe even set up the tent in the backyard and do a trial run one night so they can venture into the unfamiliar in a familiar environment. A headlamp and/or torch is an essential night-time camping tool and a portable nightlight is also a good idea for young ones who are camping for the first time or get spooked by nature noises at night. If you’re a bit nervous about night-time wandering, you can tie a glow stick around your child’s wrist so you can easily spot them if they stray from the tent in search of the bathroom. A whistle is another good idea. Make sure they wear it during the day if they are exploring independently and place it next to them at night in case they need to get your attention quickly if you’re sleeping in another tent.
BRING SOME OUTDOOR TOYS
Although nature should be entertainment enough, we all know kids tend to get bored if they don’t have a few toys to play with. Rather than carting your entire toy collection to the wildness, take a curated selection that will enhance their outdoor experience. Some ideas include, binoculars, compass, bug catching kit, flower press kit, magnifying glass, card games, colouring books. It goes without saying, that a bucket and spade never goes astray on any outdoor adventure. If you’re keen to get the kids into some nature play, also take a few baskets so they can forage for leaves, seeds, berries and flowers, and potentially do some crafting.
PACK APPROPRIATE & ADEQUATE CLOTHING
There is nothing worse than being in the wildness, cold and shivering because you didn’t check the weather forecast and are dressed in a summer t-shirt. And while adventures are all about getting a bit grubby, running out of clean clothes is a real hassle when you don’t have a washing machine handy to throw on a load. Speaking of dirty laundry, pack a dirty laundry tub and tell the kids to throw anything dirty in there if they’re covered in muck so that you don’t end up with a backpack full of smelly clothes. One clever camping hack is to dress your kids in the clothes they’re going to wear the next day so they can jump straight out of the tent and start adventuring without dirtying their pj’s. It also means less packing for you!
TEACH YOUR KIDS SOME CAMPGROUND RULES
Like any other social environment, camping grounds have certain etiquette regulations that kids should be aware of. While these differ from place to place, some basics include the following:
- Don’t run through other people’s camp sites. Walk around them and tell your kids to do the same.
- Be quiet in the morning. Not everyone is an early bird and wants to wake to the sound of squealing children.
- While it’s great to make friends with other campers, it’s not polite to invite yourself into another family’s meal times (unless you’ve been asked) or use up their supplies.
- Pick up your rubbish! Most campsites will have bins nearby, but it’s a good idea to equip kids with a backpack that they can carry with them and stash trash if need be.
- Store food in closed/locked containers, preferably in the car so the neighbouring wildlife doesn’t have a party in your child’s tent.
There are obviously other guidelines you may wish to enforce, but these basic rules are a good foundation for polite family camping.
INVOLVE YOUR CHILDREN
From packing their knapsacks to setting up the tent, the best way to get kids excited about camping is to get them involved in the process from the get-go. Take them shopping for camping supplies including tent, sleeping bag, first aid kit, air mattress and all the other odds and ends (hello mosquito repellent!) that make sleeping under the stars more comfortable. When you arrive at the campsite, get them to help you set up camp. Even if they are young, they can help hang a tarp or hammer in a peg. Allocate age-appropriate tasks – getting younger ones to help organize the sleeping quarters or create a makeshift kitchen, while older ones collect firewood or help inflate air beds.
SET UP A HAND & FOOT WASHING STATION
The outdoors is well…dirty. And your tent and sleeping bags will be too if you don’t set up a washing station. Pack some old tubs and towels so that the kids can rinse off when entering the tent. If there’s not a water supply close by, you’ll need to pack that too. And no matter how old your kids are, wet wipes are a camping mother’s best friend when you’re dealing with dirty little fingers and grubby bodies.