Camping is a fun activity for families and friends to spend time together outdoors. However, if you have children, camping may not be exciting for them initially.
While some younger children and teens love to camp, others may be wary of the experience. From fear of the dark to worries about animals or a lack of electricity, there are many reasons kids might not want to camp.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make camping fun for kids.
Whether you are taking a family trip or sending your child off to sleepaway camp, you can help them face their fears and enjoy the experience.
Keep reading for the top tips on how to make camping fun for kids.
Practice at Home
If you have a toddler or young child, camping may seem like a confusing experience. Leaving home can be nerve-wracking for small children, so it is important to prepare them as much as possible.
Camping toys are a great way to introduce your child to the great outdoors without leaving your house. From pretend fire pits to outdoor gear, your child may fall in love with camping simply by playing with these types of toys.
You can also practice camping at home before you actually venture outside.
Set up a tent in your living room so your toddler gets used to sleeping in the smaller space and away from their own bed. You can also set your TV or speakers to play outdoor sounds so they become familiar with the sounds of camping.
When they are feeling braver, try setting up your tent outside for a backyard campout. The more times you practice at home, the more comfortable they will feel in an actual camp setting.
Watch Videos or Movies on Camping
Making camping fun for kids involves making camping entertaining. Instead of a chore or something to be concerned about, you can get your children excited about camping by watching movies or TV shows.
Look for shows that feature adventure or time spent outside. When you finally make your way to your actual campsite, you can recreate your child’s favorite scenes.
Pack Your Gear
Camping with kids requires a lot more gear than camping with adults.
From toys and games to bath supplies and extra clothes, your packing list will be considerably longer.
Children may have concerns about camping simply because they are away from the comforts of home. Packing their favorite toys, comfortable clothes, pillows and blankets, and other necessities that they’re familiar with can help them feel more at ease.
If your child is going camping with friends or a camping group, make sure they have a sturdy pack to carry their gear.
Older children need to be able to comfortably carry all of their supplies without their backpack getting too heavy or uncomfortable.
Encourage Your Kids to Help You Pack
Involving your children in the packing process can help build their excitement for camping.
If they are old enough, they can select which toys they want to bring, which pillows or blankets they prefer, and even which outfits they want to wear.
Make a checklist and ask your child to find as many items as they can. You may have to switch out some of the shoes or shirts they pick for more practical options, but packing can give your child a feeling of control.
Face Their Fears Together
While camping may make some kids jump for joy, others may not be as thrilled by the idea.
Many kids, and some adults, are afraid of the dark. Others may be worried about wild animals or strangers. Even teenagers who have been camping before may not be very excited.
In some cases, what seems like a bad attitude could actually be fear. Teens or older children may complain about wanting their phone or video games when they are really worried about being disconnected from others.
Instead of glossing over a child’s concerns, help them face their fears together. Reassurance is key for children of all ages.
For small children, help them understand that you will be with them the entire time or a trusted adult will be easily accessible.
Bring extra lamps or flashlights as well as extra batteries to ensure they can always find a light when they need it.
For older children, teach them the benefits of disconnecting for a while or spending time focused on family and friends instead of electronics. It may also be a good idea to pack extra phone chargers so the trip is not a chore.
Provide Safety Rules
Rules and fun may not go hand in hand on the surface.
However, having a fun time camping is difficult when you get hurt or feel unsafe. Before you go camping, demonstrate the camping gear to your kids.
Make sure they know to stay away from tent poles or cooking equipment, and teach them how to find help if they need it.
Once you arrive at your campsite, explore the area with your children, pointing out where it is safe for them to play and where they should not venture on their own. When kids have clearly defined boundaries, they may feel more safe and secure.
Play Camping Games
Games are a great way to get your kids involved in camping and make the experience more fun.
Design nature scavenger hunts and keep them busy looking for flowers, trees, squirrels, and birds.
Outdoor games like ring toss or bean bag toss often come in portable containers. Other games like flashlight tag and I Spy require little or no supplies.
You can even encourage your children to make up their own game. Maybe they will want to play pretend park ranger or act like their favorite animal.
Pick the Right Menu
Kids are notoriously picky eaters. Make sure you are stocked with their favorite snacks to keep them happy and comfortable for the duration of your camping trip.
Packing baggies with fruit and vegetables, cheese sticks, or crackers can help them keep their energy up with long days outside.
For meals, fun campfire cookouts may encourage your child to try new foods. Eating off of special camping dishes or straight out of a tinfoil wrapper can put a fun twist on classic foods.
Bring Camping Toys
If your child has camping toys at home, bring them on your trip!
They can enjoy bird watching through their set of child’s binoculars, play flashlight tag with an LED headlamp, or explore their surroundings with a compass.
Bringing familiar toys from home can make your child feel more comfortable in a new place, and buying special toys for your camping trip can help build excitement for the experience.
Kids of all ages can be involved with building and maintaining your campsite.
Make your child feel like an integral part of your camping trip by assigning them a job. From collecting sticks for the fire to helping make dinner, you can pick the jobs you know your child will enjoy.
Camping chores are a surprisingly fun way to teach your child about responsibility and make them feel even more included on your camping trip.
Plan Plenty of Activities
Planning more activities than you need is better than being left with a bored child on a camping trip. Plan for a variety of activities, both in nature and at your campsite, so that you have a range of options.
The weather, your child’s mood, and countless other factors can make some activities impossible. Having plenty of options ensures there is always something to do.
Bring supplies for fishing, hiking, coloring, swimming…anything that may interest your child during your trip.
Learn Something New
Learning a new skill, like how to fish or how to read a compass, can make a camping trip even more memorable.
Children learn and absorb information very quickly, and picking up a new skill can add a sense of accomplishment to camping.
You can pass on a skill you already know well or you can take the time to learn something new alongside your child. If they are old enough, ask for their opinion on what they would like to learn about nature.
From squirrels and birds to fish and bugs, there is no shortage of animals to safely observe while camping.
Look for information online or in books to share with your child on local wildlife, create a scavenger hunt or Bingo game to see how many animals you can spot, or simply sit back and watch animals in their natural habitat.
Just make sure your child knows not to touch wild animals and how to keep their distance and stay safe around them.
Have a Back-up Plan
On a camping trip, anything can happen. From unexpected storms to faulty equipment, problems can arise throughout the trip.
Having a back-up plan is important, especially if you are camping with children.
Map out where the nearest hotel is or how long it will take to get back home. Bring extra gear in case something breaks, and locate the nearest grocery store for extra supplies.
Also, be sure you know how to get in touch with park rangers or local authorities. It’s always easier to have fun camping if safety comes first.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to make camping fun for kids. With a little bit of planning and imagination, you can ensure that your next camping trip will be lots of fun for the whole family!