A Day in the Life of the Happy Camper

With a little preparation, camping with young children is a rewarding experience

This is a guest post from Licia at The Happy Campers, a Tumblr blog about family camping. See my information page if you are interested in guest-posting, here on CampingBlogger.

Let’s face it- there is nothing more daunting than going camping with children under the age of five. On first blush you might think: “Total chaos!” However, if you plan your day accordingly and have brainstormed enough activities, a successful outing will ensue. Camping with children under the age of five is different than camping with the six year old plus category.

Playing around the campsite

The under five kids still need the adult population to be the entertainment committee. Make no mistake, there will be some down time, but the majority of your day will be taken up with the best parts of being outside: hiking, exploring and, most importantly, introducing the little ones to the beauty of the great outdoors.

To help organize the general bedlam that can occur when camping with children here is a general timeline that we follow:

6 am: Wake-up: First light is the alarm that has no snooze button.

6:30am Emerge from the tent and begin setting up breakfast: Get the kids involved, even if it means the little ones are in a child carrier as you cook. This will help you keep an eye on them and they will feel included in the process.

7:30am Eat Breakfast and Clean Up: Clean up can be a lengthy process, washing, drying and putting the dishes away is always more fun as a group effort.

8am Wash up for the day and apply sunscreen and bug repellant: Sunscreen and bug repellant application will ensure that the campers remain happy!

8:30am Choose and begin a morning activity: Whether it is hiking, fishing, animal watching or discovering the local flora and fauna this will engage everyone and is a great learning experience for both children and adults alike.

11am Head back to camp and begin setting up lunch: Again, food prep takes time and is one of the best parts of camping, having everyone participate in the food prep process makes for a smoother meal time experience.

Playing in the campground by the lake12pm Eat lunch.

12:30pm Clean up lunch and take a break: This is a good time for napping or getting the kids to play under the shade or in a tent. Have the kids relax. Remember they have been up since dawn so they will be exhausted. Even if they don’t nap it is a good idea to have some down time as to avoid meltdowns in the late afternoon.

2:00pm Snack and afternoon activity: This activity may need to be a bit more low key than the morning outing due to energy levels and weather. Having a few options thought out ahead of time will get you over the “hump” of the afternoon.

4:00pm Head back to camp and start preparing dinner.

5:00pm Dinner.

5:30pm Clean up dinner and start campfire: This is a great time to talk about fire safety. Even the smallest kids will understand the basics of “Hot” and “Careful”.

6:30pm Campfire activities: Time to get out the s’mores ingredients and cook up some marshmallows! Also, this is a great time to get the kids on your lap and talk about the day’s activities and what they liked best about their adventures.

9:30pm Bed: Trust me when I say: you will be exhausted.

In my experience, the more you can get the kids moving the better. During the activity hours I highly recommend going on hikes or walking around and exploring the campground. Sometimes that takes a bit of motivation but once they get out they are always happy to keep going. I am always amazed at the ideas my three year old comes up with when we are out and about in the wilderness. Everything is exciting and new to him and often times we take the same hike over and over so that he can re-discover the items we found the day before.

In the end, camping with children is always a good time (even with a mishap here and there). Just remember: the more organized you can make your day the better it will go and the happier both the kids and adults will be!

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10 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of the Happy Camper

  1. I love camping with our children. You’re right about everything needing to be planned and being exhausted. The last couple of nights we’ve camped Hubby and I have both been in bed by 9pm!

    It is fantastic to introduce them to the wonders of nature though.

  2. I have been camping with my 2 boys since both were in diapers. I looked at your schedule for the day and our schedule has not changed hardly at all and my boys are 9 & 11. I am usually the first one up at 6 AM so I can have a little personal time and get a work out in before all the sleeping beauties wake up.

    I usually ask my boys what they want to do and provide them with 2 or 3 options. We were staying near the coast in Oregon on a lake and my boys caught a lot of trout. The following day, I asked them if they wanted to fish again and both of them chose to go swimming at the tiny beach on the lake. Kids have a much different idea about fun that adults. I explain to them that my fun is watching and hanging out with them.

  3. I love to camp and often go with the guys from the church. This summer was the first time I took my family camping at a state park in Helen Ga. We have a three year old and a fifteen year old. and They slept in a tent for the first time. It was a challenge because they missed the comforts of home but after a while they settled down. Walking to the bathroom with a flashlight and knowing that the occasional visit from a black bear is possible kept my 3 year old in check until day two when she felt comfortable and wanted to venture off on her own. It was refreshing to see my children enjoy something other than electronics for a change. Yes younger kids are a bit of a challenge but it is worth it.

  4. i took my 1 and a half out camping for his first time and i say, i think i had more fun then he did because all of the things he was seeing for the first time, and the ewwing and awing he was doing was just amazing. I enjoyed every minute of it even the cranky times when it was time for bed. Ty for the great post I will apply that to our next outing.

  5. It is funny that you mention all of those meals. I have two teenage daughters and normally we all don’t wake up till around 11 or 12 and we don’t eat “breakfast” until about 1ish, then we don’t eat supper until around 10 so you could say that meals aren’t very much fun around here. I get what your going at though, it truely is fun showing children the wilderness 🙂

  6. Camping with young kids can be a challange. But it is also one of the most rewarding times. You will not be able to do what you are used to doing when you go camping. Also be flexible with you kids normal routines (naping, eating). Just keep it fun. These are the moments parents live for.

  7. Thanks for this great post! I love the idea of already having a schedule planned out with set activity times. Our daughter is 7 months old, and we plan on beginning to take her camping and hiking this spring. I can’t wait for her to discover it all!