I just got back from camping last week with my wife and daughter.  It was great except for the bears, coyotes and southern California wildfires.

Not that I’m complaining at all, but it was probably not the best camping trip ever.  It did however have some very valuable lessons learned which I thought I would pass along here based on my personal experience and some of the web sites I’ve read after the fact…

Don’t camp alone

Contrary to what we’d like to believe, our child does not want to spend days on end with us in the wilderness.  We went up a day early, and all my daughter could talk about was when her friends would get there.  I was probably asked about 50 times, “When are my friends going to be here?”

Having other children (and adults) at the campsite definitely helps with keeping all the kids busy and allows us a little down time to sit, relax, and enjoy nature.

Take the necessary equipment
  • Extra clothing and shoes, because dirt accumulates rapidly.
  • Warm clothing–it may get chilly especially in the evening so dress in layers.
  • Insect repellent–consider time-release formulas .
  • Sunscreen–they’ll be outside all day.
  • First aid kit–for those little accidents.
  • Familiar bedtime items–pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, dolls etc
  • Flashlight so they have something to help relieve nighttime fears.
  • Glow sticks — they are fun and they help keep track of the kids at night.
  • Snacks — all this activity is going to make them hungry
  • Drinks — avoid dehydration due to heat and activity level
Experience outdoor activities with your kids
  • Get them familiar with the outdoors in order to eliminate their fears
  • Teach them about safety and to respect nature
  • Teach outdoor skills and outdoor ethics
  • Camp chores are actually fun for kids. They love collecting firewood, filling water containers, hammering in tent stacks, camp cooking etc.
  • Take a small day hike in the woods at a local park 
  • Visit a nature center
  • Take an evening walk
  • Go on a picnic
  • Read related books
Make your travel fun
  • Don’t travel a great distance–stop frequently
  • Make your trips short — maybe two or three nights
  • Take toys and activities to keep them busy
  • Play car games–license plates, sign abc’s, singing etc
  • Take plenty of snacks
  • Build their excitement and anticipation