Here in Colorado, we have beautiful grounds and outdoor activities providing unique and exciting experiences. We love to share these experiences with everyone, including our children. Bringing children into nature is essential to their future development as young men and women of the outdoors.
Hanging out with your kids is one of the most important things you can do for their first experiences in life, but it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly how to go about it. Here are some tips that will help you get a feel for how to successfully camp with your kids and spark their love for the outdoors and stewardship of the environment.
It is practice makes perfect
First and foremost, exercise in the backyard to keep the kids comfortable and safe, and to help you achieve what you might have forgotten to pack. Your fake camping trip should be an attempt to stay in the tent and play in the yard to make you feel comfortable being out of the house. The extra comfort comes from the light. Bring lanterns, headlamps, and glow sticks for added safety and fun. After the practice round, you are ready to start thinking about your family adventure.
Choose your location
When you plant the seed which will become a fun camping adventure, you should think about the location. Start by researching the area you are heading to so you know what activities are going on in the surrounding area and what conditions you will encounter.
If you’re a tech-savvy outdoor enthusiast, apps like All Trails and Mountain Project are great resources for defining kid-friendly camping. Also use local resources on the ground, such as the US Forest Service, which will have more intimate knowledge of an area and its available activities. Once you know where you are going and what activities are planned, you are ready to start packing.
Packaging is the key
Packing well can make or break a successful camping trip with kids. Remember to consider all possible weather conditions. Do you need to bring a rain fly? Additional bedding? Hand warmers?
Family camping is different from your weekend backcountry backpacking, and you’ll need to bring extra items for comfort and safety. Kids may also be interested in packing, so let them help you out as much as possible. Give them items to pack and have separate bins so they can help organize bedding, cooking, and activities for the day so you stay nice and organized.
Let children have a say in what foods you cook around the campfire or stove so they are sure to eat them. Kids sometimes think that food cooked on a fire is disgusting, so bringing a save option is never a bad idea; and of course, don’t forget the s’mores. The kitchen is also a good opportunity for a lesson in fire safety.
Keep the kids engaged
Now that you’ve packed the essentials, think about the entertainment. Kids don’t always want to sit around the fire and talk or tell stories, so plan for structured activities and unstructured outdoor play. Take them on adventures around the camp to arouse their curiosity and love of nature.
It is never a bad idea to bring field guides with you to identify any birds, plants, or animals you might encounter on the trail. Camping can be scary for children due to the sheer amount of strangers. Educate them about outdoor safety and what to do if you encounter large animals.
Now you have some tips for a memorable and successful family camping experience, but I encourage you to do more research on camping with kids to put your own family’s unique twist on learning to love the outdoors.
Josue Gonzalez is the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator for Walking Mountains. He loves doing outdoor activities with his children and plays the piano in his spare time.