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Camping with the Kids

by the Camping and Education Foundation

Camping as a single adult or as a couple requires planning, but when you’re ready to take your children on their first camping trip, it’s a whole new adventure. Not only do you need more supplies, you also have to keep the kids occupied, how to convince them to go to the bathroom in the woods (not easy for newcomers) and how to teach them to respect nature while staying safe. Suddenly, camping can go from a relaxing getaway to nonstop turmoil.

The Camping & Education Foundation has been introducing kids to their first wilderness experiences for over 90 years at Camp Kooch-i-ching. Parents planning a first camping trip with kids can benefit from those decades of experiencing what can go wrong and how to plan ahead by following these tips:


Test-drive your campsite. If you have never camped at the location you’re planning to taking the kids, plan a trip without the kids to get the lay of the land. You’ll be able to plan the best place to pitch the tent, identify a good source of firewood nearby and have a better idea what to pack and what jobs will need to be done when you and the kids arrive.


Keep it simple and short. For the first time out, don’t plan an elaborate four-day trip. A simple overnight with two full days to spend investigating your campsite is enough to start. Kids will get a taste for how much fun camping can be, but they will not have time to get bored and you won’t have to spend as much time planning logistics.


Plan easy meals. Most of your time on this trip will be spent keeping an eye on the kids and keeping them entertained. So, it’s important that mealtime be simple and quick. Do meal prep at home. Make burgers into patties, pre-cut any fruits or vegetables and don’t forget the ingredients for S’Mores.

Also, be sure to pack wipes for messy hands and extra trash bags for garbage and recycling material.


Put the kids in charge. When you get to camp, there will be a lot of work for adults -- unloading the vehicle, pitching the tent or setting up the camper and just getting organized. Be sure to assign the kids jobs as well so they feel like they’re part of the experience. Let them unroll sleeping bags and set up the sleeping area inside the tent or camper, collect wood, and clean up any trash in the area.


Have a backup bathroom. If you thought potty training was hard, try convincing your kid to use a rock or tree trunk and a hole as a toilet. In case this idea fails, head to your local camping supply store and pick up some bio bags and a bucket. In the middle of the night you’ll be glad you did.

Good luck.