By Robert Nickell
The quintessential outdoor trip for every family is the camping trip. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a total newbie, you’re going to want to take a tip or two from me, because camping with kids can be complicated, but it’s definitely worth it.
— BE KID FRIENDLY: Plan ahead and research your destination prior to going. If you’re camping with a small child, you likely don’t want to camp in a destination near cliffs, cacti or poison ivy. Additionally, you’re going to want to have games, toys and activities that you brought along just for your child. Overall, make the trip child-friendly. If you have to drive a far distance to make it to the camping location, you probably want to stop by any kid-friendly roadside attraction or activity you can all enjoy along the way. Remember, everything changes once you have children, and you’re going to need to modify the way you used to camp, too.
— HAVE AN ADVENTURE: Kids love adventure (as do most dads!). An adventure can be as small as collecting pinecones, drawing a picture in the sand, building something out of rocks and sticks, going for a hike, etc. Have fun as you go, and treasure the moments of adventure and exploration with your child. Being outdoors and playing in the dirt can be both wholesome and educational. Give your child time to do their thing — learning about trees, plants, flowers and all of nature’s beauty along the way.
— BE PREPARED: Bottom line: you’re going to want to be prepared for anything, and everything. Bring extra diapers, extra clothes, plenty of warm items and comfort items, too. Have books and soothing toys squirreled away in case your child has a hard time and needs some comfort from home. I suggest going all out and loading your car full of everything you could possibly need. If you do that, chances are you’ll be prepared for every event.
— TAKE BABY STEPS: Camp in the backyard a few times before actually heading out on a “real” camping trip. I also think it’s important to begin your first “real” camping trip in a campground, so you’ll have some amenities and you’ll likely be close to a town should something go wrong — fingers crossed they won’t. You can build up to a larger multiple night campout in a more secluded location after you develop your child’s camping skills in the yard and at a campground. Trust me when I say learning to camp is an art, and you don’t want to rush it.
— BE A TEACHER: Use every opportunity you get to teach your child about something. While camping, you might be able to teach your child how to fish, how to tie special knots, how to set up a tent, how to name a species of bird, etc. The things you teach your child while camping are sure to stick with them as they reflect on the memories in their later years.
— DON’T PUSH IT: Camping just isn’t for everyone, and I totally get that. So my last tip is not to push it too hard. If your child isn’t enjoying camping, don’t force them to go. Give it a year and try again. Build a special fort in the living room instead and have a family movie night and a slumber party. Everybody is different, and we certainly need to respect that and appreciate each person’s individuality.
Enjoy every moment and treasure the entire journey, because, let’s face it, sometimes the journey can be the greatest adventure, and your kids may even remember the journey better than they’ll remember the destination.
Happy camping and happy parenting!