Growing up going camping with my Dad forced him to learn these tip the hard way. Hopefully, some of my experience can be passed on to you.
Making camping fun with kids is really important. If camping isn’t fun to them, then they won’t want to go with you and that really nice camper you bought might go to waste. These fifteen tips are great for keeping your children occupied and having fun so that they will want to come back.
Tip #1: Take it Easy
For most people that go camping, there is a goal in mind. Some people take their camper to that awesome hiking/fishing spot, while others are out there to go boating. If there is anything I can remember hating about going with my dad in a camper, it’s that I hated being pushed out of bed in the morning! Let your kids sleep in or get up when they want. This is a vacation, after all!
I know that you want to get up and go adventuring, but if you force your kids to do things with your enthusiasm, it might kill any chance of them having their own excitement for the outdoors.
Let your kids choose their adventure. If you want the trip to be about you then you should drop the kids off at the grandparents and go alone! This trip is as much for them as it is for them, and therefore they deserve to choose in part what you do each day.
If you go into this with an easy going attitude then it’s going to be a lot more fun for you and your children.
Besides, those first few hours alone with your friends or significant other can be a really great time to recharge your batteries so that you can handle the insanity that comes with kids.
Tip #2: Kick ’em Out!
If you have a camper, then chances are you value comfort. Your children don’t go camping to be comfortable(most of the time), and might want a little bit of adventure. That means they might prefer a tent.
Present your child with the option of having a tent, and see how they react. Do not force them into it, but see if they would prefer to experience camping the way that most people do.
If they say yes, this is a great time to teach them how to set up a tent. Let them choose their spot, and then help them figure out whichever tent you can pull out of the basement or attic.
Many people buy an RV because they don’t want to sleep outside, but being outside is so special to children. You wouldn’t want to deprive them of the reason why having an RV is so awesome right?!?
Have them enjoy the great outdoors like you probably did when you were younger.
Tip #3: Let Them Choose Most of Their Gear
One of the coolest parts of camping for kids is all of the cool stuff they get to bring. Let your child participate in the shopping process by showing them different options and letting them choose. When they get to pick their own gear, they will be excited to use it.
The more you involve them in the planning process the more you can be sure that they will enjoy themselves. If you were to just hand them a bunch of old camping gear and then go they might feel as if this trip is not for them. Your child should never feel like a burden. O
That being said, you need to control what they bring and don’t bring. I am actually an Eagle Scout and growing up, my leaders always had a packing list. I think its a great idea to have a packing list and give it to your older children.
Find the things on the list that they do not have and then go out shopping with them. This prep work will help a lot.
Tip #4: Bring Another Family With You
Chances are your kids have friends. When kids are off snipe hunting, they are not bothering you. Most children do not enjoy playing by themselves, or at least enjoy playing with their friends a lot more. When they are with their friends, they will feel a lot more inclined to go explore the surrounding area.
The easiest way to get your children’s friends there is to invite their parents on the campout with you. With more people, you need more planning, but the advantage here is that you now have some extra eyes here to watch the kids.
The best memories I have of camping are not the trips where I went
If you have a big enough camper, you can even take tip number three and allow the adults from the other family to enjoy the comforts of your trailer/RV. Kick the kids out!
Tip #5: Have Every Meal Planned, but Have Plenty of Snacks
Most families have a meal plan when they go camping, and there is a reason for it. If you go camping without a plan, you might end up paying for it literally. You might get too much food and have to throw away most of it, or you might not have enough and need to go into town in the middle of your trip.
Don’t make the mistake of buying too little, it makes everybody unhappy. It’s better to have too much than not enough.
One of my favorite part of camping is the food. I love almost all classic camper food, and I bet your kids do too. Here is a list of great camping meals/snacks to keep your child busy:
- Red-vines (or Twizzlers if you are into that)
- Toaster strudels over the fire using one of these bad boys (seriously you need to try this)
- Dutch oven anything. Seriously I feel like anything is good in a dutch oven.
- Weenies over the fire
- S’mores (I know this is a given but it deserves to be put here)
- Starbursts over the fire
- Pizza – a neat trick is to buy the pre-made dough or tortillas, and then make your pizza upside down in a pan over a skillet. This only works with lots of pepperonis, but it is oh so good
- PB&J is always a staple for me on camping trips
- easy to eat fruit like oranges or grapes.
Don’t forget to bring lots of water. More water than you expect you will ever need. You will want to fill your entire RV’s tank, and then have enough to drink and cook with. Give a rough estimate on how many gallons you will need and then double it.
Tip #6: Try Not to Shoot Your Kids’ Ideas Down
If your child asks you if they can “catch a fish for dinner”, then who are you to tell them no? Slap a stick in their hand and tell them to go for it. If they want to catch crawdads, support them by catching some with them and then show them how to boil and eat them.
Seriously, cooking the catch of the day is awesome and should be denied of any kid.
If your kid asks if they can sleep in a hammock, then get one for them. Really there isn’t much that can kill them when you are in the great outdoors, and we are living in the safest era of all mankind. Your kids are going to be okay! Let them figure things out on their own.
If they want to build a fort in the forest, then help them make it so that they could sleep in it! If they want to try and kill a rabbit so that they can eat, then find a recipe for rabbit.
There have been studies that children do much better in environments that they can manipulate. There is even evidence that says children are more likely to get injured on a playground than in the woods. If you don’t believe me, go do a quick search on “adventure playgrounds” and how they help children develop.
Chances are your child can really enjoy themselves in nature, they just need the choice to do so.
If you give your child plenty of access to doing what they want, they will be much better for it and they will not be bugging you.
Tip #7: Bring Plenty of Activities
With the accessibility we all have to new games through a magical service called Amazon, you have no excuse to not get plenty of games and activities.
There are so many card games, camping games, and other great stuff to keep your child busy out there. The key is to get them off their phones, so try to get them plenty of stuff to do.
Here are some of my favorites:
- The Great Dalmuti – This is a great card game that I always played with my buddies way too late on camping trips. If you have played the game “president” or “scum” then you will enjoy The Great Dalmuti.
- Hearts – This is such an awesome game, and will generate hours of fun. This is great for people with an RV because they can play this game way into the night. Check out the video below to understand how to play.
- Spikeball – There is a reason this game is popular. It is so easy to pick up and tons of fun to play with any crowd.
- Frisbee – Playing ultimate frisbee in the forest is so much fun. You can try and play ultimate frisbee or just passing it back and forth. There are so many different ways to have fun with a frisbee. I especially reccomend a game of frisbee golf!
Find something your family loves to do at home, and then do that in the woods or in your RV. If your kids like to make videos, bring a camera and go on a Steve Erwin style expedition, or if your kids like to make things, then bring some crafting supplies where they can use things from nature.
Every kid is different and you just need to discover their niche.
Tip #8: Never Forget the Essentials
The worst thing you can do to your child is to let them get sunburn. You will feel terrible if you go camping and you neglected to slather that life-saving ointment to your kids, and they can barely move because of it. Don’t be that parent!
Bring plenty of bug repellent as well as spray on sunscreen. We are luck enough to live in a day and age where sunscreen can be applied with an aerosol can. Very convenient.
I remember one particular trip with my father where we forgot to pack some chap stick. It was a week long trip, and I have never been so uncomfortable. You cant eat, sleep, or do anything without being bothered by your lips.
The first gas station we saw on the way home we ran inside and broke open a package of chap stick before even paying for it!
Don’t ruin your child’s awesome trip by letting them go without the essentials. Here is a start to the list:
- Sunscreen – Seriously, this is so important. Don’t forget, please.
- Bug Spray – bug bites are not fun, so be prepared
- Chapstick – this is important for your sanity just as much as your children
- Pillows – People tend to forget these on trips, but they are important
- Baby wipes – these are so awesome for cleaning little hands. If you are going on a particularly long trip, these are great for showers.
- Hats/sunglasses – Some sun is great but too much can cause headaches.
- So much water – Seriously, force water down your children’s throats if possible. I remember getting altitude sickness when I was at scout camp, and waking my scout leader in the early morning was not something I wanted to do, and all he did was slap a water bottle in my hand and all was well.
Tip #9: Bring a First-Aid Kit
I know this could have gone in the essential items section, but people brush this off. I cannot stress how many times a first aid kit has come in handy.
There should be no question in your mind that you have a fantastic first aid kit. This thing should be packed with so many random goodies that you could fix just about any minor injury.
An important part about a first aid kit is having the knowledge to use it. Although RV camping is usually pretty safe, the activities you are going to be doing may not be, and therefore you need to know how to wrap an ankle, clean a cut, and kiss a boo boo.
There are plenty of pre-made kits out there like this one, but the best way is to buy a small one and then supplement it with the things you think you will use most. Honestly, your first aid kit should be 90% hydrogen peroxide and band-aids!
Tip #10: Give Your Children Jobs to Do
Camping can end up being a lot of work for those that are in charge.
Depending on what makes you stressed, it’s usually a great idea to give specific jobs to each kid. One of your older children might be in charge of keeping the fire going and having a good supply of firewood, while a younger child might be in charge of picking trash up.
I always recommend putting each child in charge of at least one meal. This lets them learn how to make decisions and how to clean up. Of course, you will need to do most of the work for a lot of your kids but the fact that they are involved is important. Ask them what they want to make and then make it!
When your children are in charge of something, it helps them feel like they are a part of the experience and therefore will feel responsible for making everything work.
Tip #11: Bring Glow Sticks
It can be hard to track down your kids at night, especially in a crowded campground. One of the biggest favors you can do yourself is to buy a bunch of glow sticks so that you can see your kids at a distance.
I have never met a kid that doesn’t think glow sticks are cool. There is so much that they can do with them! They will use them in ways that you do not expect, and really let their creativity flow.
Your children will love them as well, and therefore this tip is simple but effective.
Tip #12: Bring Some Things That are Familiar
For young children, camping can be scary and difficult, especially if they have never done it. The best thing you can do for them is to give them the things that they have at home while mixing in some special items.
For example; bring their normal pajamas on your trip along with their usual stuffed animals, but they will be sleeping in a cool sleeping bag that they hopefully chose.
The idea is to give as many comforts of home so that the rest just feels like an extension of the norm. Your kids thrive on consistency, so make as much stuff consistent with home as you can.
If your children are younger than 12, then I wouldn’t let them stay up past their normal bedtime. They need that sleep to let them function normally during the day, otherwise, they will pester you.
Tip #13: If Your Kids Have Devices, Let Them Bring Them
Sure, let them bring devices. The key part is not letting them charge them! As their devices die they will be forced to do new things.
Every parent knows how nice it is to have an iPad in the backseat while you are on a long drive. Don’t start your trip off badly by taking that away from yourself. The only person to lose that battle is you.
Tip #14: Go to a Place that Has Full Hookups
It is so much more fun to have an RV when you can use it how it was meant to be used. They have a bathroom, shower, and sink for a reason. Find a campground that lets you hook up to the water, power, and sewage.
Your children will be much
Do yourself a favor and park in a place that has hookups, you will thank me.
Tip #15: Your Children Want to be Around You, Let Them
Normally, children love attention from their parents and will do just about anything to be around you. That means that if you are going fishing, they will want to come too!
Get some mini fishing rods so that they can participate. Teach them to catch minnows for life bait, or something else that will entertain them while you are there. Anything to let them be around you without stressing you out.
How much do RV’s cost to rent? Around $130 per night, and then more depending on how far you drive it. Prices can vary depending on your state, or the popularity of the location. An additional 30 cents a mile is not unheard of for an RV.
How many people can fit in an RV? A normal motorhome can fit 4-5 people, while the larger models can fit up to 8. Some floor plans allow more sleeping arrangements than others and might require a tent for some other people to have beds.