Camping with your kids can be a lot of fun and create long lasting memories.
Leave the computer, phone and electronics at home and really get into the feel of the wild. (Bring your phone but if you can turn it off. Make a goal to be really present on your camping vacation, the world will wait.)
I highly recommend planning a camping trip for at least two days or more. The first day of camping can be a little hectic getting camp all set up and established. It takes about two days before your regular day to day routine starts to wear away and you start to really relax and tune into nature. By the second and third day you are really feeling the peace that can come with getting away from all the daily distractions. Be present with your children during your camping trip. Use this opportunity to teach them about the wildlife that surrounds them. The native plants, the animals, the trees. Also encourage a little quiet time to hear the birds, smell the wild smells and have a little down time.
My boys are now grown. They are ages 19 and 23. We camped all the time when they were little. In Montana there's many open spaces to camp out. One of my favorites still is Hidden Lake. Yep it's hidden so mostly only locals know about it. You can head out on a Monday and have the whole lake and campground with a porta potty to yourself! Love it! Even though they are grown now they still love to camp. They both even got jobs this summer working for the Montana Conservation Corp taking care of the forests and trails.
Above: Josh and Tony prepping for their first
Montana Conservation Corp Hitch.
Below: Canoeing at Hidden Lake in 2006
Here's some tricks we used to make camping easier
*First things first, explain what camping is to your kids and how you are all going to have so much fun together! Talk about the wildlife and the rules of camp. (Staying in eye shot, making noise so bears hear you, not wiping your dirty hands on your clothes so you don't smell like dinner, exploring together, stay away from the fire rings, water safety, being respectful of other campers, etc.)
* Create a list of items you will need every time and laminate it. Before every camping trip pull it out to remind yourself what you'll need. (tent, sleeping bags, pillows, clothes, cooking supplies, food, toilet paper, toys, coats, shorts for swimming, camp stove, lantern, flash lights, crank radio, etc)
* Keep your nonperishable items you only use for camping in a tucker tote in the garage, storage or camper to save prep time on your next trip.
*Bug Spray- Target has a really good non toxic bug spray. My oldest son just tried it out recently and said it works great.
* Baby wipes are a must. They make for easy clean up for you, the kids, the table. You'll find many uses for them. They have biodegradable wipes in the camping section at most stores that sell camping equipment.
*Bring books, crayons, coloring books, bug net, bug holder, cars, journals, pens and paper. Age appropriate items. Remember leave the electronics at home, this is a time to explore, play, reconnect and learn about nature. Plan on exploring the woods around the campground together as a family.
Hands-On Nature: Information and Activities for Exploring the Environment with Children
Bring wildflower books to identify wildflowers. Animal track books to identify animal tracks and scat ( animal poo). Collect pine cones for the nightly fire. They add a nice smell to the fire. Wildflowers, pine needles, odds and ends you find can be dried and brought home to make note cards, bookmarks to remember your camping trip or to be used for gifts. This is one of my favorite camping books: Scats and Tracks of North America: A Field Guide to the Signs of Nearly 150 Wildlife Species (Scats and Tracks Series)
*Bring smore material. Marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. You can buy marshmallow roasters or make some out of sticks.
*If you don't have a porta potty available creating a central bathroom makes it easier for everyone. You can get a toilet seat or use a big branch to sit on. Dig a big hole for waste to go into and wrap a tarp around a few trees to create a private space. Place camp shovel next to your latrine and give everyone instructions to toss dirt in the hole after they use the restroom.
*You can create a shower space the same way. Wrap a tarp around a few trees, hanging a solar powered shower bag, tie a rope between two trees to hang wet clothes and towels on and remember to bring bungee cords they come in real handy! Solar Shower Pvc Solar Shower 5 Gallon
*You'll need to bring a saw and hatchet for campfires or gather campfire wood to bring with you.
(Bring some newspaper, matches or a lighter for easy fire start up)
Contain the Flame: Outdoor Fire Safety (How to Be Safe!)
*Check the weather forecast ahead of time and plan accordingly. Play it safe get yourself one of these
Etón American Red Cross ARCFR160R Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger (Red)
*Bring a camera or video camera to document your trip for memories, your next Christmas card or scrap booking. (or blog, lol)
*First aid kit. Include homeopathic tablets, Arnica for pain, Ledum for puncture wounds Ok for your pets too.
*Bringing your dog: Leash, food, water, treats, collapsible water/food bowls. Blanket to lay on, tie out if your dog is unable to run loose due to campground restrictions.
Cooking while camping: If you have a camper to cook in great! If you don't, you need to do a little preplanning. A small folding table can come in real handy when your trying to cook in the wild.
Items to remember to bring. Camp stove, grate to go over fire,(the grate over your barbecue at home works real good), pans (cast iron can be placed directly over fire but require scrubbing for clean up) paper towels, pot holders, camp plates, cups, silver ware, knife, spices, Utensils for cooking, small container of dish soap, bucket or large bowl to wash dishes in, dish rags, coffee cups.
If you like your morning coffee don't forget your camping coffee pot and coffee. To make it simple you can bring instant coffee.
Simple food ideas:
- Instant coffee, hot chocolate, instant breakfasts, instant oatmeal, dried soups
- Bring lots of water (for cooking, clean up and drinking)
- Cut up fruit and vegetables ahead of time.
- Bring lots of ice, keep perishables cold at all times. If you are near cold water you can place your cooler at the edge of the water to help keep cool. Dry ice works really well too! Follow directions carefully.
- Milk, juice
- Dried foods: nuts, pretzels, popcorn, chips, dried fruit, granola bars, jerky, etc.
- Prepare meat ahead of time. Fresh meat can be placed in containers with marinating sauce so all you have to do is place it on the grill at dinner time. If your going to be camping for two days or more. Freeze your meat ahead of time so it can thaw in the cooler. This will help it to stay fresh longer.
- In the camping supply section you can buy a plastic egg holder if you wish to have eggs for breakfast.
- You can place cut up vegetables, spices, little bit of butter, slice of onion in foil so it's ready for the grill. Potatoes cook great this way.
- Place fish, butter, lemon juice, spices, onion in foil ready for the grill. Place foil meals in a container in your cooler to keep out water from melted ice.
- Get creative, plan what your kids will eat. Prep time at home makes life so much easier on your camping trip.
- Left over dinners prior to your camping trip can be frozen and thawed and heated up during your trip.
- Keep it simple, your there to have a fun time not work your butt off!
Handy Wild Flower books:
The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers: Western Region
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers--E: Eastern Region - Revised Edition
Be aware of what wildlife dangers are in your area, always respect mother nature.
I'd love to hear about your camping memories and tips! Please share.
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Written by: Carol Lawrence
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