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Family Camping
June 27, 2012 2:23 pm | by

This week is National Camping Week and to celebrate, our family went camping last weekend for the first time since we’ve become parents. I love being outdoors and since my husband and I both work in tech-related fields, it’s very difficult for us to completely disconnect and take a break as long as there is cell service available. There’s nothing quite like going deep into the woods to render your smartphone useless.

At first, our kids seemed to be annoyed at the amount of effort required to do anything, especially the hike to the outhouse. There was a great deal of whining out of the older ones. But slowly, they began to enjoy the process, the relaxing pace and most importantly, the beauty of their surroundings. When they whined they were bored, I offered a frisbee, the option of a game of tag or “I Spy”. I was surprised at how quickly they adapted and even began to thrive outside their normal surroundings. Soon, they were inventing their own games and inviting children from nearby campsites to join in.

Camping not only encouraged creativity in the children, but also brought some amazing teachable moments. We talked about why we were using washable plates though other campers chose to use paper. We talked a lot about enjoying nature while leaving as little of an imprint on it as possible, so that others could enjoy it in the future too. It’s amazing how even young children can grasp these concepts and the thoughtful comments they added to these conversations.

Our first camping trip was part of an amazing event where all our gear was provided for us, along with help and instruction from camping experts. All we had to do was show up with the kids, clothes and sunscreen. I still forgot pillows, but we managed to survive without them. In my opinion, the worst part of camping is getting there with everyone and all the stuff. The younger your children are, the more stuff that is required. The hard part is keeping it simple, making sure you have all the basics and nothing more.

While we were blessed to have this amazing experience and now feel empowered to do it again, I really regret that we didn’t start camping with our children sooner. If I had it to do over, I would have started with simple overnight campouts in our backyard.

I recently learned you can often find camping gear at thrift stores, which is a great way to not only reuse, but save money too. A wise friend suggested getting a large, clear plastic tub to store camping gear. That way you can fill in the gaps of the little necessities over time and everything is easily accessible for the next camping trip, or even an emergency situation. A backyard campout is a great way to help you determine what you truly need and what you can do without. If it’s a necessity, you can always run back inside to grab it. If you don’t have a backyard, consider a nearby state park or campgrounds for your first outing, somewhere an hour or less from home if possible.

The key is to just get out there and try it. One of the beautiful things about camping is that it never goes exactly as expected, and there’s usually some sort of obstacle to overcome. It’s a great lesson for young children that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Do you camp with your little ones? What do you enjoy most about the experience? Do you have tips to share with beginning campers? Share with us in the comments below.

About the Author

Heather is mom to four, born within 40 months (single, twins, single). She writes transparently about her chaotic household to encourage others through the twists and turns of parenting.



  • La Familia Crespo said...
    June 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    My hubby and I LOVE camping and being a conservation biologist I LOVE the outdoors. We took our daughter on her first camping trip when she was almost 3 and took her again when she was almost 4. We plan to make this a yearly family vacation. My daughter LOVED every min of it. She is like her mom and loves the outdoors and exploring and going on “adventures” as she calls it. We always make sure to bring things to keep her entertained while we cook or clean up, such as coloring books, her Tag reader, cards, board games, etc. We’ll probably be taking our little one when he’s only a few months old since we want to make sure to get another trip in before the end of the yr.

  • Rachel Frederick said...
    June 27, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    This was so great to read! Our family is going camping next month with our 10 year old and 1.5 year old. Does anyone reading this have any tips for camping with toddlers? We’re a little nervous about that part.

    • Heather said...
      June 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      Hi Rachel, I think the key for toddlers is to be prepared for them to get tired. It’s amazing how quickly they wear out when playing outside, so be sure to have plenty of snacks, be prepared for more naps or quiet time, and just be prepared to sit and enjoy the time quietly when they get a bit tired. Take along some quiet play things, books, a small toy or two, etc. Did I mention snacks? When toddlers are super active they need more food, more often. Be sure to take plenty of age appropriate foods along with you.

      Also, don’t forget a great first aid kit, depending on the terrain and how confident a walker your little one is. They love to explore, but if it’s rocky or hilly (like we have here in MO), be prepared for those bumps and scrapes.

      Hope you guys have as much fun on your trip as we had!

  • Beth said...
    June 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    We took both of our kids for the first time when they were about 10-12 weeks old. They just love looking at trees and we don’t have to pack food for them at that point! This last time my son was just over two and he hiked for a mile with no whining 🙂 Starting them young works!

    I was not at all prepared for the disgusting, grimy mess a two-year-old would become. I barely recognized him by the end of the second day! We had to go into town and find a public pool and a shower when washing in the river didn’t cut it anymore 🙂

  • Anonymous said...
    June 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    My husband and I love to camp/backpack. This weekend marks our first camping trip with our 4 month old. I am so excited to get him started at a young age. It is a great way to interact with your family/friends without the use of a keyboard or phone. Plus, once you have your gear, it’s cheap!