The Truth About Camping with Kids


So, you’re thinking of taking your crew on a camping adventure? Well, grab your sense of humor (and a sturdy tent) because here comes a refresher for camping with kids! It will be intense, but also unforgettable!

First things first, pack all the essentials. I’m not talking about just food and water. I mean snacks—oodles of snacks. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who sees how quickly my child’s hunger can go from a soft inquiry of “Can I have a little snack?” to a full-blown meltdown. Nobody wants hangry kids camping. Our family likes to have an official Snack Meeting beforehand to discuss our favorite things. Each person gets to choose some fun snacks for the trip. Though I can’t find Shasta soda from my childhood memories for my kids, I could make sure we get black licorice that hardly anyone likes, just for fun. 

Tents and Campfires

Now, when it comes to pitching your tent, brace yourself for the chaos. My kids have the ability and energy to transform a simple task into an epic adventure. I’ve seen them using tent poles as lightsabers or claiming sleeping bags as their superhero capes. Follow one of my mottos, “Embrace the chaos” and hope you and your tent survive. Or at least hope there aren’t too many broken poles.

Campfires are a storied camping tradition, but with kids around, fire safety is critical. Camping gives you the chance to teach them the basics, like “fire is hot” and “marshmallows don’t enjoy being flung into the trees,” and “keep the sticks away from eyeballs.”  Also, just know that after S’mores, EVERYTHING will be sticky.

Two girls digging in the dirt while camping in a forest.

Let’s not forget about bathroom breaks in the wilderness. The struggle is real. Trying to convince a child that peeing behind a tree, or using a pungent, putrid, pit toilet is an acceptable alternative to a cozy porcelain throne is not a job for the weak. Hey, it builds character, right? And a strong bladder.

Sleeping Outside

Night, after the fire is out, can be the scariest part for kids, especially when the rustling leaves and otherworldly-sounding bugs come alive. We have the kids bring along a trusted stuffed animal to guard against any imaginary monsters and snuggle with. Just make sure it’s ready and ok with a little camping dirt that it’s sure to take home as a souvenir. 

Now, let’s talk sleeping. Kids have a knack for sleeping like starfish even in a sleeping bag and taking over every inch of the tent. No one wakes up in the same position they went to sleep in. It just won’t happen, so you might as well resign yourself to the fact that you’ll be cozying up to a tiny foot in the face at some point, night, or morning.

A tent and camp chairs are in a forest.

Finally, be prepared for the unexpected. Rainstorms, wild animals, flat tires, forgotten supplies — camping with kids is an always adventure full of surprises. Deep breaths and remember, it’s all part of the experience! 

It may not be a walk in the park (pun intended), but it’s an adventure that your family will remember and may even want to do again! And if all else fails, just remember: a little dirt never hurt anyone. Happy camping!


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