My husband and I have been camping for years, but we took a hiatus from outdoor adventure after our son was born. Last summer, when our son was two years old, we ventured back into the woods and have discovered that camping is a great activity for children and a fabulous way to build fun family memories.
Picking your life up and moving it to the woods is not without its challenges, however, and camping with young children can result in some ‘unique’ issues. There is no concierge to call upon when problems arise, but with a little planning you can head trouble off at the pass and enjoy your family getaway.
Safe, happy and comfortable is the name of the game, when planning and packing for your camping trip.
Be sure to include a first aid kit in your gear. Cuts, scrapes and bug bites are some of the inevitable pitfalls of fun in the great outdoors, so prepare yourself. You’ll want to have bandages, antiseptic, and calamine lotion (or some other product) to take the edge off a case of the itchies.
It’s also important to think about protection from bugs and the sun. Nothing will spoil a camping trip faster than a swarm of mosquitoes or a nasty sunburn. You can pack the usual sprays and lotions, but in addition to those, think about how the kids are dressed. A wide brimmed hat is a must and long sleeves and pants offer protection from both the sun and biting insects. Plan to spend time in the shade when the sun is at its strongest. Use mosquito coils, citronella candles and campfire smoke to chase the bugs away.
Pack enough clothing for the time you plan to be away…and then pack some more. A rain coat and boots are a good idea too. Murphy’s Law of Camping clearly states that the moment you have finished setting up your campsite, it will rain. This camping induced downpour will create puddles that your children will find irresistible, and it will create mud, which will get everywhere. None of this is a big deal, however, if the kids have plenty of clean, dry clothes to change into.
Bring along some basic cleaning supplies. Camping is a dirty, dusty, wet, muddy activity. That’s part of what makes it so awesome. But, it’s not just Mother Nature’s grime you have to think about. There is a very real possibility that your child will glue their face to their raincoat with marshmallow (and yes I’m speaking from experience). There is also the inexplicable propensity for children to vomit in the middle of the night, on camping trips. If you’re not equipped to deal with midnight puke, you won’t be a very happy camper, pardon the pun.
Sleeping in the great outdoors can be deeply restful, but for a little one, it may be a little creepy. Make bedtime easier by having your child’s security items (blankie, teddy bear) available. It’s also nice to give preschoolers (and older children for that matter) access to a flashlight. Nothing chases away the Boogie Man faster than flicking on a light. If the child has their own flashlight or lantern, they can comfort themselves as they fall asleep and won’t wear down your light in the process.
Perhaps most importantly, establish a safe sleeping environment for your child. This may take some thought and preparation, depending on the age of the child and the size of the tent, or trailer.
Children should sleep on or near the ground to prevent a nasty fall. Keep in mind that air mattresses are not recommended for young children because they lose air over night and may envelop the child and cause asphyxiation. Consider a foam pad or playpen for bedtime. Have layers of sleepwear or blankets on hand so the child can maintain a comfortable temperature overnight. In the cooler months, a knit cap may help the child sleep more comfortably. It can get surprisingly chilly through the night, even in the summer months.
It may sound like a lot of work, but by planning and organizing yourself ahead of time, you’ll be ready for whatever the wilderness throws at you. Camping is the perfect way to share your love of nature with your children and it provides plenty of opportunities to educate and experience new things together. – Jen R, Staff Writer