Joanna Anastasia

Camping

Lazy moms guide to camping with kids

What to pack, how to prepare, and all the tips you need for a fun family camping! ( even if it's your first time camping with kids!)

Here is the truth, I don’t really like camping all that much, and that’s exactly why I have prepared this guide to camping with kids! Because I learned that by making it simpler and more comfortable, I start to mind less bugs and public bathrooms and appreciate more forest hikes, and canoeing on the lake.

And I just love how kids are running around happily and how our family is reconnecting together over the campfire! Also, I truly believe that camping is great for kids development (I wrote all about that here) so even though I’d feel better in the hotel by the sea, we will keep camping!

There are a couple of things that you can do, to make camping easier and more comfortable, even with little kids around, and even if you’re not sure where to start.

1. Take just the right things.

If you’re a Pinterest junky like I am, then you’ve probably seen these super long “essentials only” lists of things you need when you go camping. Do they overwhelm you? Because they sure did overwhelm me. Until we actually went camping, and found out that we’re all good without a folding table (there was a picnic table!) and without a big box of outdoor toys ( kids did play, even more than ever, using their imagination and a minimum of toys).

Because let’s face it, what’s relaxing about camping is simplifying life, and not spending hours upon arrival on setting things up!

That’s why I’ve prepared you a list that you can print out:

Here's what you REALLY need when camping with kids - the absolute minimum, and all that really is needed

So my advice, is take only the essentials. Sleeping gear, cooking gear, folding chairs for the campfire, a minimum of clothes and food. Ok, I’ll admit that I like to add the French press coffee machine and some pretty plates and a quilt, but that’s just my glamping essentials!

2. Consider ready-to-camp set up.

That’s the easiest of camping options, as you don’t have to set things up, and so your preparation is so much easier. I especially recommend this option for camping newbies and families with babies! We went to one of these ready to camp places when Lili was two years old and Rose was three months old, and it was one of the best vacations we ever had as a family!

Camping with kids

3. Camper or tent, which one is for you?

Camper set up is so much easier, and gives you place to eat and cook when it rains, but is considerably more pricey then all the tent gear.

Tent gives you more of an outdoorsy feel, and is much cheaper, but more time-consuming to set up.

I say, try both ( you can rent a camper for a weekend, and there’s always that one friend who has a tent to lent!) before investing in either of them!

Camping with kids

We decided that since we don’t go camping every weekend, the investment in a big camper wouldn’t make sense for us. Instead we started camping with a very large tent, that was just enough for our camping trips during the summer. And lately we got an old pop up tent- it gives a bit more of a glamping feel but without braking the bank.

Camping with kids

3. Tent camping preparations and what to do a week before:

Set up your tent in your backyard. You need to see if the tent is all good! And I reccomend running a trail night with the kids in the backyard. That means checking if your mattresses aren’t pierced, and if you’re warm enough in your sleeping-bags. I admit that it’s usually my hubby sleeping in the backyard with our older one not me, but it does get everyone exited!

Check if you have enough fuel for your camp stove, if you have batteries and first aid kit is well packed.

4. Tent camping must haves.

Good quality mattresses and sleeping bags are really a necessity! And for some extra comfort I like camping with my own pillow and real bedding. Of course, if you’d like to be sure that the rain won’t ruin your stay a canopy is a good buy, but I never used it, and we where just fine! Also, folding chairs, and if there’s no picnic table provided on your camping ground, then a folding table! ( see my full list above for what to pack for details).

Camping with kids

5. Make cooking easier: prepare a meal plan, and have some meals pre-prepared!

Really do make a detailed meal plan. Bake some muffins ahead for easy breakfast, and bring ready-made salsa, dips and pasta souse. What I also do, is opt for easy preparation, like fajita or tacos, hot dogs or pasta! I make sure to have lots of snacks, s’mores box and some drinks for adults!

Also, camping is much better with bacon and eggs for breakfast, and good coffee!

Camping with kids

6. Activities.

As much as hiking, kayaking and chilling around the camping ground is fun, it’s not as fun if it rains, and that’s why we always camp close to attractions like a zoo, pick up farm, or just close enough to the city. That way when there’s a rainy day head, we’re not stuck in the tent!

7. Let the kids be kids.

You don’t need to prepare them extra activities and they really don’t need all the toys. Bring a couple if their favourites ( max 4 per child) and let them get dirty and wild, let them explore the nature and make use of their imagination.

Camping with kids

And lastly, enjoy yourself. Camping with kids is all about reconnecting, unplugging and relaxing, so just let the kids be dirty, eat all the s’mores you want and enjoy the nature!

Why you should go camping with kids

Here are ten important reasons why it's so important to go camping with kids, even if you don't really feel like it !

Believe it or not, I’m no camping lover. I’m a city girl, who loves her comfort and hates bugs and public washrooms. Between you and me, my definition of perfect family vacation is in the hotel by the sea! Why then I state that you should go camping with kids ? Because I believe that sometimes comfort is less important, especially when it comes to raising smart and sensitive children! And going camping will help you achieving that goal, here is how :

1. Reconnecting with each other.
When there is no distraction like house to clean, emails to be checked or a tv show to watch, we can actually concentrate on each other. I think it’s especially important for our children, that are born in the internet era to learn how to slow down and appreciate the presence of the close ones.

2. Respecting the resources.
When you have to get the water for cooking and washing the dishes in a pot that you carry all the way to your camp site, it makes you more careful when you use it. You don’t waste water when you know you need to go get it yourself. It’s also a great opportunity to talk to older kids about how many people in the world live with out fresh water at home, and how many children are responsible for fetching the water every day.

3. Learning to play with anything that’s not a toy.
Honestly I was tempted to buy a bunch of dollar store toys to keep my two and a half year old busy. But I decided to take only 3 of her stuffed animals and see if I can encourage her to play with natural elements found on the camp site. And guess what. On the first day she was turning around not really sure what to do. On the second she was playing alone with sticks pretending that they are her dolls, and that rocks where the food. Success!

4. Understanding the nature.
It’s great to show to kids the real habitat of animals, to watch birds and bugs going on with there lives, to teach your child to respect them all. In national parks you are asked not to pick any branches or flowers, and that’s a great opportunity to explain the delicate balance in nature that we tend too often to break.

5. Fighting your fears.
The fear of the dark woods, the fear of spiders or the fear of bugs. By being exposed to all of the above your children are less likely to develop these fears, as they will consider them as a normal part if everyday life.

6. Learning a healthy lifestyle.
I assume that while at camping you don’t eat fast food, but you cook simple dishes and you walk or bike. There is no TV or video games. I dare you to leave your iPad at home. Hike and enjoy the nature. Let city kids learn to spend all day outside. It will pay back in the future.

7. Being grateful for what we have.
It’s great to realize how comfortable our life is.
At home we have hot water, we have heating, comfortable beds, toilets, toys and many objects that make our lives easier. But in the end we can do without all of the objects that surround us in our everyday lives. Camping is a great reminder of that.