Tips for Camping with Kids

Family camping trips are an ideal way to instill a love of the great outdoors in your children. With the right gear, camping with toddlers and older kids can be a simple, fun escape from the everyday hustle. Use these tips from us at Pottery Barn Kids on your next outdoor excursion, and get ready for some excitement!

Tips for Camping

Aim Close and Short 

Sometimes you want to travel a long way to see new sights. However, kids might want to spend a little less time in the car. If this is your first trip camping with kids, plan for short trips at first – even just for one night. This also helps ease kids into the fun of camping, leaving them wanting more. Aim for a campsite that’s close to the house. Look for one that offers on-site or nearby recreation such as hiking, fishing or boating. That way, your kids will associate camping with fun right off the bat. Pack plenty of snacks and activities for the car just as you would with any family vacation. This makes the process of getting there enjoyable for everyone.

Plan Some Fun Dinners

Campfires are ideal for cooking some unusual and fun family meals. Roasted marshmallows are a classic, but they aren’t the only foods you can toast on a fork. Pack some containers of small, kid-friendly chunks of bread, pineapple, pre-cooked chicken and hot dogs. The kids can toast them over a fire using a long toasting fork. Working with small or pre-cooked pieces means food is ready for munching in no time. You can also use foil packets of marinated meat and veggies tossed on the fire to wow your kids with easy campfire cooking. Just be sure to make it clear that only adults can remove these ultra-hot foil packets from the fire. And, make sure they cool off before letting the kids dig in!

Gather Kid-Friendly Sleeping Gear

Kids who are used to the outdoors may not mind a thin backpacking mattress. Novice campers will probably prefer something thicker and more comfortable, like an inflatable camping mattress you can blow up using a car-charger adaptable pump. And while kids’ sleeping bags are usually sufficiently warm for indoor sleepovers, nighttime can get surprisingly chilly. Bring extra blankets for everyone to use. Pack warm pajamas and socks just in case.

Nightlights are another great way to make the sleeping space more comfortable. Choose rechargeable LED lights in fun shapes or solar-powered string lights to bring kid-friendly colors into the tent. Even if your children don’t ordinarily sleep with a nightlight, having this option available may provide some comfort in an uncertain situation.

Maintain a Sense of Routine

Vacation is a great time to forget about your everyday cares. However, kids tend to thrive on routine, especially when they’re in a new situation. To preserve a familiar, comfortable routine, think about things like when and where the kids will brush their teeth. These routine tasks are easy even if you aren’t camping at a site with a full bathroom. Teach your kids how to brush without running water by demonstrating yourself. Have them repeat at normal morning and evening brushing times. Any other routine daily tasks, like taking medications and changing into fresh clothes, help to normalize the camping experience and make it more comfortable.

The Great Ghost Story Question

There’s something about sleeping outside that amplifies spookiness. While this can be deliciously fun for older kids and adults, not all young children will be so excited. That’s not to say that ghost stories should absolutely be off limits. However, you may want to be sensitive if you aren’t sure how the youngest campers in your group will react. When you know your children will get uncomfortably scared by ghost stories or if you don’t know how they’ll react, wait until they’re cozily tucked into their sleeping bags to start spinning spooky yarns. If you know they’re unlikely to feel uncomfortable after hearing a scary story, you can include them in the campfire fun. Keep the stories mild and short on details.