It seems pretty daunting to bring young children out hiking or camping, what with all the dirty dirty faces, eating hot dogs for days, fire pits, not to mention the bugs… And WHERE do you go that is suitably beautiful but NOT Everest for Kids (aka Camel’s Hump)?
Thankfully I’ve done the dirty work for you.
I’ve taken my kids (5 and 7) on countless hiking and camping trips. We took Wells camping when he was 2 months old and lived to tell the tale.
I grew up car camping and love that my family loves it too. So the following are my tips and tricks for Outdoor Adventuring with your offspring.
1. Reasonable Expectations
Start small. A two night camping trip is a great starting point. We love the Vermont State Parks (they have a great cancellation policy).Pick somewhere close enough that if you have to bail out at any point you are close to home. It’s okay to pack it in. Really after 2 hours in pouring down rain right at dinner time and you really really would rather sleep in a nice warm bed and not a wet sleeping bag? Go home. Bribe the kids (or partner) with ice cream and go home.
2. Be Flexible
If you’re halfway up a mountain trail when your little ones legs give out and he wants to go home? Turn around. You got outside, you had fun and if you turn around now you’ll have that positive memory. Not the memory of wrestling a screaming toddler up the mountain. Pro Tip: Ice cream on the way home gets them down the mountain toot sweet.
3. Less Really is More
Once we realized that the only toy getting played with was the light saber we stopped packing them (toys. not light sabers those are a staple). The nature (read dirt) is really all around you. My urban boys are always surprised at how much fun they have exploring our camp site and the surrounding area. I’m always surprised at how much of the great outdoors we bring home with us.
4. Be Prepared
Check the weather and then ignore the sun icon and assume it will rain. You don’t want to break down camp in the pouring rain without a rain coat. If you’re going for a hike pack matches, and a non-cotton layer for every member of your party. First aid kit is a must. Do tick checks and wear bug spray with Deet (spray it on clothes and shoes to reduce skin exposer). I know it’s scary but Lyme disease is too.
5. Make it Fun
A glow stick, a new head lamp, or the coin operated showers (really I don’t understand it but my boys ADORE those showers) pulled out at just the right moment could save your sanity.
6. Turn it into a Romantic Date Night
ou’ll tuck your little cherubs into their soft cozy sleeping bags. After telling them to go to sleep and reminding them that you’ll be right outside and finally taking the last kid to the tree to pee and moving the zipper to the top so that THEY STAY IN THE TENT. It will be quiet, the fire will be roaring and sitting by the fire enjoying a nice cocktail chatting with you partner is the perfect way to end an evening.
7. Try Try Again
They say it takes a kid 3 tries to like a new food. It takes (at least) 3 times to get the hang of camping. Once a summer for the next 3 years and you too with start booking camping trips in January. You might get extra crazy and think about a week long trip. Added bonus? The kid(s) will grow up thinking they camped and enjoyed nature as a kid. I’ll chalk that up as a WIN!
Written by: Rachel Shelley
Rachel Shelley is a Vermonter born and raised. When she’s not forcing her family to enjoy the outdoors she can be found binge watching Netflix and eating jelly beans.
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I’m a single mother of 2 children ages 3 & 7. I just took the kiddos camping at lake elmore park last weekend…it was Great! I think it would be so fun to meet other moms with kids to camp with…anyone interested?
Thanks for these tips Rachel!