This is a guest post by Stephanie Trementozzi at Always Outdoors. If you would like to guest post on CampingBlogger, please see the guidelines here.
Winter is almost two thirds over and now is a good time to start thinking about camping and hiking again. Family camping is a great activity for strengthening family bonds and for creating memories that will entertain family members for a lifetime.
Our culture is experiencing an obesity epidemic and children are not spared. Camping and hiking are a great way to combat expanding waistlines. Many children living in urban settings have not had the opportunity to experience the world of nature that is found in the great outdoors. Camping is an educational experience for them as well as for all children.
Here are six tips that will help you in your family camping adventure.
- Choose your campground to fit your family’s interests. Do you have swimmers or fishermen in the family? Then pick a campground that is close to a lake or a stream. If you are camping in an area that has a lot of sand, try to find a campground that has showers. Do you have bikers? Look for areas that have paved trails or roads. Are there nature trails nearby? These are great for learning about plants and trees. Do they have a Ranger Program or a Nature Center? Kids love these activities.
- Do a gear check before you pack. Especially check hiking boots or shoes. Children’s feet grow quickly and they may have outgrown their shoe size over the winter. For that matter, they may have outgrown their clothes too. Choose clothes that can be layered. That way they will be ready for any changes in temperature. Let your children have a part in choosing and packing their own clothes. If you have small children, encourage them to bring a special stuffed animal or blanket that will help them sleep well at night. Your older children can be enlisted in planning the family menu. Perhaps they could be responsible for cooking the meal they choose.
- Safety is something that should always be on your mind. Teach your small children to stay within sight around the campsite and on the trail. Give them a whistle to wear that they can blow if they should get lost. Teach them campfire safety. Show them what poisonous plants look like. Teach them to respect wildlife. Make sure they understand that food left outside or in the tent can and will attract animals. Talk to them about poisonous snakes and other critters that could be harmful to them.
- Plan ahead and have a variety of games and crafts to keep your children occupied while they are at the campsite. Bring plenty of crayons and magic markers. Encourage them to draw what they see around them. If they are older, have them write a journal of their activities. Take plenty of pictures and when you get home, make a scrapbook combining the pictures and journal writings. My family did this over twenty years ago, when we took a six week trip across the United States. We still bring out the scrapbooks when we get together. We have many laughs over the telling of the story that happened many years ago.
- Be prepared to teach your children, each at their own level. Buy some nature guide books that are written for children. They can have fun identifying animals, birds and trees. Lie out under the stars at night and look at the night sky. You will be amazed at the number of stars you can see when you don’t have the ambient light of populated areas spoiling your view. When you hike, go slow and let your children explore as they go along. Children are tactile learners. Let them enjoy the feel of the moss, lichen and tree bark. Plan short hikes to destinations like a stream, or waterfall and then let them play there. Big panoramic vistas don’t appeal to children like they do to adults.
- Gently teach your children Leave No Trace Principles. Teach them how to behave in camp and to minimize their impact on the environment. Teach them to leave things where they found them. “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.” Teach them by example how to be quiet at the campground. No loud music or yelling or shouting is allowed. Be considerate of others around you. If a particular campsite is loud, point it out to your children so they can understand why it’s important to be quiet in a campground.
A little preparation is all it takes to ensure an enjoyable family camping trip. And don’t worry if something does go wrong. Everyone working together to fix it is just another great memory.
Stephanie Trementozzi lives in Culpeper, Virginia and enjoys hiking in the Shenandoah National Park. She is the publisher of her own website, www.always-outdoors.com, which contains articles on outdoor activities and products.
You’re right about selecting a campground that offers something for everyone in the family. Canoeing is always a safe water sport for all ages. Any park which has a historic site is fun and interesting to hear the story told by park rangers. They’re always very informative. State parks always have some event going on so make sure you keep up with their local event schedules.
Enjoyed reading your 6 tips and all the comments. The tip I would like to share relates to the second tip on checking camping gear. Let the children see you pitch the tent at home. Maybe they could help if old enough. This will really get them excited about everything.
that is really a good post, i and my husband are planning a family trip to the mountain nearby our home. i hope we will enjoy a good time. thanks for the sharing.
Anyone been winter camping with the kids?
I have been camping with my sons and friends for years in Northern California. We started when they were young and still love it even as older teens. These tips are really helpful and make me anxious to get rolling on a new camping season! We found some great new backpacks at Sunrise Camping Gear
Great advice. What this is all about is sharing and teaching family and social values. Try getting your kids involved in a scouting program of some kind at an early age. Good for them and good for our country.
I will have to take my niece and nephews camping this summer, they have never been, they are 5 and 10 years old. I am an avid nature and landscape photographer so will have them tagging along this time round. Kids love to go on adventures, and it is just about time that they should enjoy the great outdoors more. These tips will help me out !.
Camping out at the beach is great fun! There are beach shelters also and tents of all different kinds. Always have your portable grills ready and the many different items you need to bring along such as a survival kit, searchlights, compasses and things like that!
A great way to enjoy camping is also to make sure you have a great tent! There are many good tents to choose from these days, that are fun and spacious, with windows and rooms.
Wonderful tips for camping that everyone should follow. Thanks!
Great tips, thanks! We just started camping with our baby, and have found that although we have to lower our expectations, camping is just as fun and enjoyable if not more so! Kids and babies love the outdoors, and it really is a cheap and memorable family vacation.
Our kids love camping. It started with a father and sons outing with our church. Since then they have been hooked on sleeping outside under the stars. The kids even like breaking out the tent and sleeping outside in it. This serves a dual purpose: 1) I get to make sure that our gear is ready to go camping, and 2) the younger kids get used to sleeping in the tent.
Another thing that really helped was giving our kids the appropriate size sleeping bags for Christmas one year. Many children’s sleeping bags found in department stores are really for sleepovers and not sleeping outdoors. Our kids having quality sleeping bags has allowed them to stay warm even when the temperatures have dipped below freezing.
Great Camping Tips! One other important thing every camper should have is a camping checklist. You can find a complete camping checklist along with a variety of camping advice and tips at camping checklist
These tips are very helpful. This article “Tips When Choosing a Camping Destination” discusses the importance of getting the entire family involved in the process of choosing your family camping destination. This is where you can find it if you’re interested.
These are amazing tips. Thanks for sharing!
National Wildlife Federation
I am going over my gear list for a hike-thru trip when winter breaks. It won’t be a two thousand mile hike or anything but it will be about 2 weeks or so. I am thinking somewhere in northern Wisconsin. Anybody got a good place around Illinois for a long hiking trip?
One of the places on my “bucket list” is Land Between The Lakes. I do not know much about it, but it looks like a great place for some hiking & backpacking. I hope to check it out, someday.
Roy, I spent two weeks @ Land Between the Lakes way back in October 1988. Beautiful spot. Lots of hiking opportunities, fields of Bison etc. Don’t know about area State Parks but would be worth checking Tennesse & Kentucky State Park websites. Back then we got intel from maps (what looked interesting), no internet to make our search as it would be today.
A great primer for families that are new to camping or a little rusty. I really like how your tips involve everyone in the family to participate in the trip. I think anyone who gets out there exploring and enjoying the outdoors will want to return again and again.
I especially like the “Winter is almost two thirds over” (gives me hope 😉 ), but folks have to remember that winter camping can be a fantastic experience as well, in other words why wait? Get out there now.