The crackle of the bonfire, the cool breeze of the night, the warm sun of the day, the silence of the woods, you can experience all of these sensations in the calming presence of nature. For all those who step foot in the outdoors, the wild brings about a small nirvana. When you bring kids along, they take part in the experience, warming their young spirits. At the same time though, it can be a bit tougher to think through everything when you have children, but it is not impossible. The journey just takes a bit more planning.
In this article, the Complete Camping with Kids Checklist – Activities, Benefits, and Tips, you will learn why you should you go camping with kids in the first place, the complete checklist for a good time, general tips for the camping parent, and some activities they will be sure to enjoy. Let’s jump right on into it.
What are the Benefits of Camping with Kids?
Why even go camping with kids in the first place? What are the benefits? Kids are smelly and dirty enough as it is already and you want to take them camping? Do not worry. There are quite a number of upsides to taking them on a camping trip. Your future self will pat you on the back for such the memorable and formative experience you gave to your kids.
1. Teach Your Kids Basic Survival Skills
One of the reasons to take your kids out on a camping trip is that they learn basic survival skills. We’re not talking Bear Grylls level of survival, but the most rudimentary. Locating yourself on a map with a compass, starting a campfire, knowing which plants to eat and those to avoid, and how to pack a backpack are just some things they will learn.
2. Develop Their Creativity
Unlike life at home, you will not have all your tools, supplies, amenities, and necessities on your camping trip. Some things will just be left behind. To make due, people adapt. Kids are quick learners who will be fast to pick up on the ques. Life is a bit different in the wild. If we want to cook or play, you have to use what you already have.
3. Foster a Respect for Nature at a Young Age
Mother Nature needs our help. The young are our best shot at addressing climate change, dramatic weather events, the global pollution epidemic, and over consumption. Every time I have been outdoors, I have always been taken aback by the sheer magnitude of beauty in nature. Trees older than me tower overhead and streams wear down the rocks in their banks. It is magnificent.
A kid who camps will foster that respect. When you camp, you have to take care of all the trash and waste you generate. Each step on the forest floor leaves a mark. It reminds any camper of the impact they have on the world by just seeing how much trash can be generated in such a short amount of time.
4. Build Self Confidence – It’s Unknown Terrain
A camping trip is no walk in the park. You are on your own and far away from the comforts of the city. You have to make do with what you got. In nature, you realize how much you have to care of yourself. In any national park, there will be new sights and sounds to become accustomed to. You learn situational awareness, where to step and what to listen for. Nature furthers your child’s conscientiousness.
5. Understand the Maxim – Less is More
When you are on a backpacking trip, you realize just how little you need to get by, tossing off nonessentials like a monkey throwing away banana peels. You trim the fat and get to the meat of what you need. Leave that phone at home; you can use your imagination. Toss the toys in cupboard; you can get creative. The simplicity enables complexity, removing the shackles of modern life.
6. Create Lifelong Memories, Give them Something to Look Back On
Growing up, I never had the fond memories of camping with my Dad. Instead, I had to pick up fossils off the ground in Kenya to get the same thrill. When you take your kids on camping trip, they will experience swimming in the lake, star gazing up at the night sky, wondering what to do with all the free time, hiking through the dark woods, and warming up by the bonfire. Looking back on their camping trip, they will smile, relishing in the wonderful memories.
7. Remove the Technology and Watch them Get Used to It
Since I am online a lot for work and school, I do not get too many opportunities for a digital free vacation. The world has become very interconnected, consuming our time and distracting our attention. You and your kids need a break from all the technology. When you disconnect, you have to become present. For your kids, they become present, taking in each moment one breath at a time.
8. It’s an Educational Experience
There is quite a lot to learn outdoors. Geology, geography, history, botany, zoology, and much, much more can be absorbed outside. On any given trip, you can understand how those mountains were uplifted, that tree adapted for survival in this climate, why that deer is chewing off the bark, and how that fern provides food. In many places, the Natives lived off the land for millennium, adapting, surviving, and thriving in the process; what were they like though? For those who seek the outdoors, there is more than meets the eye.
The Checklist – Santa Checks His List Twice and so Should You
Here it is, the complete item checklist. If you want to download a PDF copy of the checklist, check it out by clicking on the following link, Family Camping Gear Checklist. It’s all on one easy to use page.
Camping Items, Make Sure to Bring the Tent!
- Sleeping bags
- Air mattress/sleeping pad
- Tent footprint
- Tent canopy
- Headlamps and flashlights
- Camp table
- Clothesline with clips
Kitchen Gear, Leave the Fridge at Home
- Trash bags
- Food storage containers
- Coffee maker
- Table cloth
- Paper towels
- Sponge, dishcloth, and towel
- Paring knife
- Aluminum foil
- Cups and mugs
- Electric stovetop
- Reuseable water bottles
- Roasting sticks
- Stove fuel
- Utensils, plates, and bowls
- Pots and pans
- Biodegradeable soap
Clothing, Remember that Rain Gear
- Long underwear
- Boots or shoes
- Quick drying pants
- Moisture wicking underwear
- Moisture wicking t-shirts
Toiletries, Wear Deodorant to Stop the Smell
- First-aid kit
- Personal medications
- Insect repellent
- Hand sanitizer
- Quick dry towel
Repair Items, Sometimes Things Break
- Mallet or hammer
- Duct tape
- Small broom and dustpan
- Saw or axe
- Pad/mattress repair kit
- Tent repair kit
Other, the Catch All Category of Items
- Maps and area information
- Campsite reservation confirmation
General Tips to Have a Good Time
If you want to have a safe, memorable, and fun time camping, then you need some general tips of advice to ensure everyone, from youngest to oldest of your litter, is well taken care of.
Set up camp while you still have light. One of the most common mistakes of beginner campers is waiting until dark to set up camp. You are going to lose much-needed gear in the darkness. And when you have whimpering kids nearby, it is no fun. Get to your campsite before sunset to ensure an easy start to your camping trip.
Follow the at home routine for young kids. Toddlers can be quite fussy. I know that I was that way and my nieces were no different. Make sure they follow the home eating and sleeping schedule so they are not grumpy. It will make the camping trip much easier, so you can focus on the joys of camping.
Pack clothes for all kinds of weather. As my Aunt Helen told me, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” It may be raining outside; but so long as everyone is wrapped up nice and warm, the night won’t be so bad. A happy camper is warm and dry.
Keep things simple on night one. The less you have to worry about on night one, the smoother it is to ease into the camping trip. Focus on a handful of must dos and then sit back in your chair with a warm mug of cocoa around the bonfire. Life doesn’t have to be complicated for you to enjoy it.
Hide the devices and keep them stowed away. A big reason to camp is to get away from technology. Kids these days have no idea what life was like before everywhere internet and instant messaging. A break is in order. When you disconnect, you reassess and re energize, self reflecting about what really matters.
Take it slow at first. For many kids, a camping trip is a big deal. If you have first time camper kids, a tent in the backyard one night will be your best bet for them before working up to a few days. As you practice setting up and sleeping in your backyard tent, keep a notepad ready for gear you will need on your full-blown camping trip. Once you are ready to go to a camp grounds, keep the comforts of civilizations nearby, but not too close; it will ease you and the kids into the swing of real camping, so you don’t rough it your first time around.
Plan, plan ahead. At times, I can be quite the procrastinator, putting things off until the last minute, but not with camping though. If I want to go toa fun, refreshing campground, those reservations fill up fast. Start planning your trip six to nine months in advance to give yourself plenty of time.
REI, a great place to rent all the gear you need, if this is your first time or whether you cannot afford that piece of gear you desperately need, there is an option for you, REI. It has everything you need for your camping trip with the kids and it will save you money.
Food, a happy camper is a full camper. When I used to wrestle, I could not eat a lot of food because I had to make weight. At times, I could get quite angry and heated if I was not careful. Unless your kid has to make weight, they do not have to worry too much about what they eat. Otherwise, make sure your little ones have nutritious, healthy food to pacify and energize them. Hanger is a real thing. Food anger can get the best of anyone.
The Top 5 Activities Any Kid will be sure to Love
In a previous article, I wrote about camping activities for children. Needless to say, there are a lot of games and activities to keep them busy. I won’t list the over twenty different ways you can keep them busy, but give you my top five favorites. If you want more options, then check out the article.
1. Camping Trip – How Many Pieces of Gear Can You Bring?
Gather everyone in a circle. One player starts by saying, “I’m going on a camping trip and I’m bringing [an item you would bring on a camping trip].” The next player uses the last letter of the just mentioned item to come up with another item you would bring on a camping trip. No item can be repeated. It goes on like this until only player remains standing. May the best Outdoor Adventurer win!
2. Ladder Toss, I Hope You’ve got Good Aim!
If you have great aim, then this is an excellent one for you. This game involves throwing two balls tied together, also known as bolas, at a ladder. The top bar is worth one point, the middle two points, and the bottom three points. The team who scores the most wins.
3. Spike Ball, Get Them Up and Moving
In this game of up to four players, participants start standing around a small trampoline. One player throws a spike ball at the trampoline. Each player gets a turn to spike the ball. You have to get out of the way for those whose turn it is. If you miss your chance to spike the ball on your turn, you are out of the game. This game requires a lot of energy and hand eye coordination. Toss up the ball and spike it down!
4. Ninja, Release Your Inner Warrior
All the players start standing in a circle facing inward. All the players bow with their hands in prayer. Then everyone jumps back and assumes a fighting stance. Your forearms are the key to your success. Moving in a clockwise fashion, each player gets a chance to karate chop another player. If you get hit between the forearm and finger tips, you lose that arm. If you lose both, you have lost. Fuel the fire in your belly and play ninja!
5. Campfire Stories, Captivate Your Audience
One of the best activities a child will be sure to love is a good campfire story. No matter your age, race, gender, or identity, everyone appreciates a mesmerizing story. Kids especially enjoy them. Tell them ghost stories. Tell them about the time you met that character of a man. Tell them a long, clean joke. Use your creative imagination. When you tell a splendid story, you will keep your kids talking all night long and awaiting the next day’s adventure.
Final Thoughts and Words
Excellent! You are now all ready to take your kids on a camping adventure. They will feel the breeze caress their cheek, the trees cool them down, and the hills energize them. From learning to make a campfire to playing games with only their imagination, the kids will be sure to have a memorable experience. They will develop a respect for nature that will be with them for decades to come. Pack your gear, load up the kids, and set forth on a fantastic endeavor. You will have a magical time.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, please comment below and remember to share the article if you liked it. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!