Our guest blogger explores her top tips for camping with kids in this post. Lynelle has four kids and quite often takes the family camping in the dry season. She loves exploring the Top End and usually away from the popular camping spots! Have you been thinking about taking your kids camping but not sure how you’ll cope? It’s understandable to feel anxious before your first family camping trip but with a bit of planning, some practical tips and the willingness to give it a go, you’ll be ready for a great time together in the great outdoors.
Before you head out on the road, let’s consider the benefits of taking children camping.
- Quality family time,
- Opportunities to teach practical skills,
- A chance to enjoy nature,
- Working together as a team,
- Enjoying the simple things in life,
- And making memories that will last a lifetime.
My 5 top tips for camping with kids
1.Top Tips for camping with kids – Start small
If you haven’t been camping for a while, try going for one night to start with, then increase the length of time from there. With each trip you will feel more comfortable knowing what you need and what kind of camping your family likes.
Children are more likely to be content in the car if they’ve burnt off some energy, so try to leave when young children are due for their nap or once older children have had a good run around. For us this means leaving after lunch rather than first thing in the morning.
When loading up the car make sure that the important things are accessible. On one of my first camping trips with a baby the bottles and formula were packed in the boot of the car. It didn’t take long before bub was crying and we had to pull over. I don’t think I’ve ever made that mistake again.
2.Top Tips for camping with kids – Pack Light
Remember that the more you pack the more you have to unpack and clean when you get home, so resist the urge to be over prepared. Plan simple meals like sausages in bread or pasta and sauce, skip the bacon and eggs and just do cereal or toast for breakfast and let the kids wear the same clothes two days in a row (they’re just going to get dirty again anyway.)
Start writing a packing list a week before you go, so whenever you think of something it will be there to remind you. This will also help you to only pack the important things, not just whatever is in reach at the time.
These days our homes are filled with stuff and screens and we are busy all the time. If you are looking forward to some time away from these distractions then think twice before packing them in your bags.
If you still have babies or toddlers don’t forget the essentials: nappies, wipes, hand sanitiser, plastic bags and disposable gloves. Even if your children are older a packet of baby wipes can be used to clean hands and feet before bed if you are camping where there aren’t showers or a place to swim. For infants who are crawling you can take a plastic shell pool to use as a playpen, feeding area and bath (always under supervision.)
Also if you are feeling overwhelmed with the idea of going away for our camping trip! Why not try backyard camping first. It is a great fun! The kids wills till have a ball!
3. Top Tips for camping with kids – Let them play
When children play outdoors they are developing their hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, creativity and problem solving. According to the Early Years Learning Framework, natural environments “invite open ended interactions, spontaneity, risk taking, exploration, discovery and connection to nature.” So leave the devices at home and watch them learn as they explore. Answer their questions about anthills and animal tracks, let them get dirty, jump in puddles and climb trees. Teach them how to be safe in the bush – the importance of being sun smart, staying hydrated and looking out for each other.
Encounters with wildlife can be thrilling, but if you’re camping anywhere in northern Australia be careful around waters that crocodiles may inhabit. Some swimming areas will be closed during the wet season when water levels are high and there is an increased density of crocodiles inland. You can check the Northern Territory Government website for more details on these seasonal closures at http://nt.gov.au/emergency/community-safety/crocodile-safety-be-crocwise/where-you-can-swim
4. Top Tips for camping with kids – Coping Strategies
Let’s face it, not every moment of a camping trip is comfortable. If it’s not the kids causing the issues it may be the heat, mosquitoes or flies that you’re struggling with. Half the battle is having reasonable expectations and taking the good with the bad. Children can be unsettled overnight in a new environment, so never assume you’re going to get a great night’s sleep. If you do get woken enjoy the stars, the cuddles, and the time to reflect on the fun day you’ve had together.
Heat – if possible, drive in the heat of the day. When you’ve set up camp make sure you have shade, lots of water, and if possible, a place to swim. If you are camping in summer a battery operated camping fan can make a big difference if there’s no breeze overnight.
Mosquitoes – these can be especially vicious at dawn and dusk. Have an early dinner and the tents set up before sunset so if they do appear in plague proportions you can retreat to safety, or at least bundle the kids in there as required. Use repellent containing DEET (not recommended for infants under one) and mosquito coils. Having a fire can also help to keep these nasties at bay.
Flies – you can string corks on you hat, wear a fly net or try fly ointment, but personally I just settle for waving them away. On our last trip we put our twins in a tent with its nylon roof off under the shade of a tree to keep the flies off them.
5. Top Tips for camping with kids – Enjoy!
Though there may be moments of discomfort or frustration there will also be times of great enjoyment. Savour the change of pace and the chance to sit and relax and soak up your surroundings. String up a hammock, read a book, play with your children. Be staggered by the stars and the remarkable beauty around you. And when you’ve returned home don’t take too long before you get out there and do it again.
About our Guest blogger:
Lynelle Kendall is a Darwin local who has four children under five, including twins. She recently spent six nights camping with her family and was still smiling at the end of it. She writes stories and poems for children and the occasional guest blog.