Kids camping. Great in theory, right? It can be a ton of fun, but is also a lot of work for parents.
I am not an experienced camper. Sure, I went on camping trips as a child, but my parents did all the planning and all the work. I never camped as an adult until I had children of my own. My kids really wanted to go camping and I wanted them to have that experience. My husband had never camped before in his entire life. To ease my family into the whole camping thing, I rented a cottage at Branbury State Park a couple years ago. That trip went well, so we jumped into camping in a lean-to and tent. Last year, we went to Grand Isle State Park and this year we went to Lake Carmi State Park. I highly recommend camping in any of Vermont’s wonderful state parks! Taking kids camping can be a bit of a challenge, but with a little planning, it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone. Here are my tips on what to bring when camping with kids.
Bring food that doesn’t require cooking.
When camping with kids, everyone knows to pack classic camp food, such as hot dogs and marshmallows. However, your children will be starving when you reach the campsite, especially if the drive was longer. Children won’t wait patiently for you to unpack all your supplies and start a fire. I bought my kids a gigantic box of Lucky Charms for a special treat and they both loved it! We all had a tasty cereal snack right after we arrived. Cereal required minimal effort on my part and the kids were happy. My kids and I also usually get to the campsite early, right after check-in time and then my husband arrives later in the evening after he finishes his work day. To make life easier, he picked up two pizzas on the way to the campgrounds. My entire hungry family happily ate the pizza and then there was not such a rush to get the fire going for s’mores.
Buy baby wipes even if your children are out of diapers.
When kids camp, they get extremely messy. S’mores alone will end with sticky, marshmallow-covered children. Add the food-related messes to the dirt from spending all day outside and you will be left with gross kids that resemble wild animals. Using napkins or paper towels on this sort of mess does not work at all. Also, your kids will be too busy playing and exploring to walk to the bathroom to use soap and water. Baby wipes will remove even the stickiest of messes without running water. Pack them first so you won’t forget them!
Bring a hammer or mallet for your tent stakes.
My family has forgotten to bring a hammer or mallet for the past two years. It’s very entertaining to watch my husband pounding down tent stakes with a piece of firewood! However, it’s not very effective and also results in a lot of bent tent stakes. I refuse to even try because I don’t want any splinters. Each year, we keep saying that we should just put a hammer or mallet in the bag with the tent. It’s a great plan if you actually follow through with it. Save yourself a headache (or a splinter) and go put a hammer or mallet in your tent bag right now.
Pack some quiet activities.
When camping with kids, everyone knows to plan for all the usual activities. Kids love swimming, riding their bikes, and playing on playgrounds. These activities are all great, but not at the crack of dawn, which is when my children awake each morning. Seriously, one morning we were all up before 5 am, which is definitely still during quiet hours. I brought my kids’ summer reading books they received from school. I also brought along our family’s favorite board games. At home, I’m often too busy with housework or cooking to stop and play games, but those aren’t problems while I’m camping! Coloring books with colored pencils are another quiet option. Just don’t bring crayons because they will melt in your car when you forget to unpack them at the end of your trip!
Bring your Venture Vermont checklist!
The Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge is a program run by the Vermont State Parks. Your family downloads a checklist of family-friendly activities and chooses which ones to complete. When you earn 250 points, you mail in your scorecards and receive VIP coins that allow you free day access to any state park for the next year. These activities are a great way to get your kids outdoors. I turn to my checklist whenever I hear my children utter the dreaded phrase, “I’m bored.” During one weekend of camping, my family earned about half the points we needed for the entire summer.
To keep track of all your supplies, make a camping checklist! What do you pack when camping with kids?