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Today we’re talking camping again! But first, don’t forget to enter to win a free custom made just for you necklace! I’m up to 219 Pinterest followers and the give away will end when I hit 250, so enter and share with your friends!
Okay, let’s get back to camping, shall we? Since sharing my camping packing list with you, we have visited and returned from The Grand Canyon as well as spent a night camping in the middle of the Uintah mountains with some cousins. With those two trips using my list under my belt, I had to make a couple of modifications. Like adding a mallet so we don’t have to use rocks to drive our tent stakes in next time (oops!) and deleting the sewing kit, which I didn’t even put in the tub anyway. Who sews when they’re camping? Certainly not me – that’s what the duct tape and bungi cords are for, right? If they can’t fix it, it can wait until you get home, I say.
Now that you’ve got a list ready to go, I want to share some tips and tricks for making a camping trip with kids more enjoyable for everyone.
First, let’s start with packing, shall we?
*Start with a packing list.
You can make your own, or you’re welcome to use mine and modify it for your own needs, but use one. It makes it so much less likely that you will forget something important. Like a mallet. To drive in your tent stakes. But DON’T cross anything off that list until it is actually packed! Not even if you intend on going to grab that lantern right after you tie your 4 year old’s shoe for her because we all know that when you’re done with that and then cleaning up the milk your toddler spilled and answering your 7 year old’s question about why he has to pack a pair of underwear for every single day of the trip, you’re going to look at your list and see the lantern crossed off and move on to the next thing and then you’ll be lanternless in the woods. So just…cross things off as they get packed, okay?
*Pack clothes by the day.
I do this by laying out a pair of pants folded in half, and then the shirt half folded on top, and then socks and underwear on top of the shirt and rolling them all together in one bundle. I’ve seen others put each day’s outfit in a ziplock bag or folded together another way. The reason for this is that it keeps kids from digging through the bag looking for their clothes or a certain shirt. Just grab a bundle and you’re good to go.
*Buy a foldable laundry basket or 2 from the dollar store.
I found this tip on these great wide internets and I tell you what, it’s genius. All the dirty clothes go in the laundry hamper and the bag(s) have only clean clothes
*Pre-soap some sponges.
I bought a 6-pack of those cheap yellow sponges with the green scrubby part on top and cut them all in half. I squirted dishsoap on each one and let them dry in the sun before packing them in a ziplock bag together. We didn’t have to pack any extra dishsoap and worry about it opening or leaking and doing dishes was a breeze to just grab a sponge and go. Used sponges went in to a new bag and were rinsed/resoaped when we came home so they’re ready to go again for the next trip.
*Make sure to pack a flower book or a bird book or a bug book or whatever floats your boat.
It is great fun (and shh! even educational!) for the kids to be able to observe and identify the things they find in nature.
When you get to camp…
*Set up first!
No ifs, ands, or buts, set up camp as soon as you get to your site. Get the work out of the way so you’re not hurrying to get that tent up and find everyone’s sleeping bags come bedtime. This is my #1 camping rule.
*Clearly set boundaries around camp.
Take some time to set boundaries for your kids around your campsite so they know where they can and cannot safely play.
Food…I only have two things to say about food
*Plan simple meals.
You don’t want to spend your whole day cooking and cleaning up. Roast hot dogs. Foil dinners. One or two dutch oven dinners if you’re so inclined. Whatever floats your boat, but keep it simple so you can enjoy your trip.
*Make Banana Boats.
Everybody has s’mores camping, which are great and delicious and a must. But we’ve added a new must to the food list – oh the goodness of a banana, sliced down the center, stuffed with yummy things like chocolate chips and mini marshmallows and peanut butter chips and then wrapped in foil and cooked on the hot coals of a campfire! Divine! Some other great things to stuff inside would be those little caramel bits or nuts or toffee bits or even little mint chips. Just typing this makes me want one. Mmmmmmmm.
Other tips for happy camping…
*Bring things for the kids to do.
My camping list includes a tub of kid-friendly activities. I didn’t include everything on the list, but used it as good place for ideas. One thing I put in there that they didn’t really care for was the cut up pool noodles. Just not their thing, I guess. What surprised me was how much my 2 year old loved the beads and pipe cleaners. He spent so much time just stringing them. So figure out what your kids would enjoy and bring it along for them so they can entertain themselves while you’re cooking or just relaxing around the campsite.
*Don’t be afraid of the dirt.
I mean, you’re camping in it. They’re going to get dirty. Let them. If you can just relax about it, they’ll be happier and so will you.
*But since they’re so dirty: no shoes in the tent!
This is my #2 rule, right behind setting up when you get there. Bring along a carpet remnant or something for outside the tent door where people can sit and take off their shoes.
*Wet wipes are your friend.
Bring them. And bring lots.
*Bring along some surprises.
I brought along glow bracelets for each night of our Grand Canyon trip. What kid doesn’t love a glow stick? We also had treats/snacks that we don’t usually have. Know what makes your kids happy and surprise them with it!
*Enjoy and explore nature together.
That’s why you’re camping, isn’t it? So stop and watch the water skeeter flit across the pond. Break open the flower book and figure out what that pretty purple and yellow one is called. Spend a moment in awe of the big beautiful clouds. It’s good for you.
*Participate in a Junior Ranger Program.
Most (if not all) state and national parks have junior ranger programs for the kids. They learn a lot about a lot and if you have a kid like one of mine, they’ll just eat it up. So if you’re camping in a park, do it!
*Have kids carry their own packs.
If you’re going to do any hiking, there’s no reason for you to haul around water and snacks for everyone else. Have a way for kids to carry things themselves. It gives them control and responsibility, which is good for everyone.
*Watch a sunset together.
They’re beautiful and awe inspiring. What other reason do you need?
*On at least one of your camping trips each summer, take a family picture outside.
You could ask a stranger to take it or bring a tripod and use your camera’s timer, but take one. You’re all going to be dirty and gross, but do it anyway. In all its imperfections, it will be a picture you love, I promise.
And last but not least:
Things are not going to go the way you planned. The 3 year old and the 2 year old are going to whine on every hike and want Dad and only Dad to carry them or hold their hands. Somebody’s going to get hurt. The dutch oven meal isn’t going to cook as fast as you hoped. The toddler won’t sleep at night. It will rain and be too cold or not rain and be too hot. Just roll with it. Nature is unpredictable and that’s what makes it amazing so take things as they come and enjoy your trip!