Backyard Camping Ideas For Kids
In the mood for pitching tents and building campfires? Travel no further than your own backyard! Here are seven tips for planning a memorable, fun family campout for your kids.
While older kids are probably ready for a real campsite, children 7 and under may not be prepared to rough it. By sticking close to home, your kids can feel safe and secure, be within walking distance of a bathroom, and still enjoy a wonderful family bonding experience. In fact, there’s no reason to limit your guest list to family: A backyard campout also makes for a terrific sleepover party or birthday celebration.
Before you run off to the local megastore to buy equipment, see what you already have in your house. Stephanie Ogozalek, an avid camper and a blogger at MommyPoppins.com, insists you won’t need a lot of equipment if you’re hitting the great outdoor patio. “Get a run-of-the-mill pop-up tent, sleeping bags or bedrolls, a backpack, and flashlights that’s really it,” she says.
And make sure the kids pack and bring everything they would need for a real overnight trip. This means pajamas, a change of clothes, can’t-live-without toys, a camera, books, etc. You can also include a compass, canteens, binoculars, drinks, snacks, and food to barbecue.
Make Your Toddler The Sous Chef
The cool thing about cooking over a campfire is that a lot of the cooking duties are kid friendly. In most cases when youre tent camping, you have limited utensils to prepare and cook food. What better time to teach and involve your kiddos in the process.
Midway through the trip our daughter asked if she could help with lunch, which was a total yes from us. We let her assemble her own pizza using the classic sandwich cooker . Its a great opportunity to talk about fire safety, cooking skills, and the added bonus of making them feel like a super big kid.
Make A List Check It Twice
There are plenty of checklists on the web that are designed specifically for camping trips with children . Download one, and then personalize it for your needs. A few days before you leave, tape it to the kitchen counter designate a space for stacking your gear, and check objects off as you add them to the pile. As you pack, have the kids read the list out loud and cross through the items as they go into a bag, and then the car.
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Practice Leaving No Trace
Or, one step further, leaving it better than you found it. Responsible camping means picking up whatever trash you find, whether its yours or not. It means not stacking rocks, breaking sticks, or wandering from paths. It means existing in nature in a way that is respectful.
Leave it better than you found it, take only pictures and leave only footprints. If you absolutely MUST paint rocks and leave them behind, please put them in spaces near the buildings like camp stores. I think the idea is cute but its gotten out of hand to the point its now litter. Pack it in and pack it out. My daughter is 2 ½ and she knows this so theres no excuse. The Dyrt camper Brandy.
Ideas 17 24 Of Delicious Camping Meals For Family
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Bring A Bouncer As A Fun Activity To Do Around Camp With Babies
Sometimes it helps to have the comforts of home brought to the campground when it comes to babies!
For us, having bouncers really helped keep the babies busy around camp!
Not only were they contained, but they had toys to play with and an area we could put snacks on to keep them even more occupied!
Survival Tips For Family Camping
1. Use a sling and a pack-n-play for infants. Being outside tends to calm even fussy babies down a lot, and being held by mom most of the time in a sling generally puts baby right to sleep. For 6-18-month-olds, consider a sheet or blanket on the ground as a place for all toys. Did you catch Megans article on Babywearing While Traveling this month?
2. Make your vehicle home base. Keeping your clothing in the back of a van allows you to access them while still standing up and without giving bugs one more chance to get in your tent.
3. Got a laundry bag? If you stuff the whole familys dirty laundry in one bag, it can be literally tossed in the laundry room ready for
the washing machine when you arrive home.
4. Accept dirt.Dirt happens. Wear your campin attitude the whole time youre in the woods and realize that youll never really feel shower-fresh clean until youre home again. Just enjoy the organic nature of it allliterally.
Ive compiled tips like these, checklists galore, and real food adaptations to traditional camping recipes in my new eBook, Real Food in the Big Woods: A Family Camping Handbook for the Unwoodsy. Whether youre a newbie camper or a veteran, I hope you find something to chew on.
Is family camping a tradition or wishful thinking for you? Whats your best tip to survive with little ones?
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Youve Pitched The Tent: Now What
Last year was our first adventure camping as a family beyond our backyard.
I was not prepared.
I quickly ran out of camping activities for kids. I had enough stuff you know, the sleeping bags, the swimming suits, the smores stuff, loads of bug spray
But I never considered having to entertain my children during our camping trip. Sure, they can find things to do and let imaginations soar, but that doesnt normally last an entire 12 hour day.
This year, as we prepare again for camping this summer, Im on my game.
Ive got lists of camping activities for kids to do when theres a lull in playtime.
What To Pack For Camping With A 4 Year Old
In addition to the gear for your campsite such as the tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and camp chairs, you can also bring other things to make sleeping enjoyable for kids. Add in some extra pillows and bring their favorite blankets too.
Dont forget stuffed animals or any other items that will give your child comfort and help them sleep at night. Toys, books, and other activities will prevent boredom and make sure young campers have an enjoyable experience.
First aid is absolutely essential and should include disinfectant, bandages, as well as sunscreen, bug spray, and tweezers for removing splinters.
For clothing, bring plenty of extras because the kids will get dirty. When the weather is cooler, pack layers so kids can be warm in the morning but can peel off warmer clothes as the day wears on.
Rainwear and boots should always be packed too in case of unpredictable weather. Having some extra socks on hand is always a good idea because they are small and wont take up much room but get dirty fast and make a huge difference when it comes to comfort.
To keep kids clean, bring some wipes and hand sanitizer. Extra kitchen towels will also come in handy for things that require more cleaning than a wipe can provide.
When it comes to meals, pack mugs, cups, plates, and bowls that wont break if they are dropped. Give your child their own mug and utensils that they are responsible for and will use for every meal.
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Matador Mini Pocket Blanket
Right: Photo from The Dyrt camper Stavros M.
Its not specifically kids camping gear, but little ones will love the way this blanket fits into its own teeny tiny carrying case. It wont weigh down your kids backpack, will come in handy for picnics, and comes with a pattern for easy repacking. Can you say stocking stuffer?
Wipes Arent Just For Poop
On that same topic, bring extra baby wipes. We bring a Costco sized bag of wipes separated into a few different containers. A small one for the hiking backpack. Some bigger ones for the tent , the kitchen supply tub, and the car.
The wipes are great for wiping off messy hands, runny noses, wiping down toys, and just general clean up.
Did I mention your kids will get dirty?
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Food And Snacks For 4 Year Olds While Camping
Spending a lot of time outside in the fresh air and sunshine is sure to result in an appetite for young kids while camping. Preparing meals on a campfire or portable camping stove can be time-consuming so its best to pack meals that are fast and easy.
Bring along a lot of snacks that you know your kids love so they can ward off hunger during the day and have something to eat while you make the main meal. Plan dishes that are kid-friendly or include familiar favorites.
One-pot dishes that include rice or pasta are easy to cook because you just dump all the ingredients into the pot and wait for it to cook. Make sure to let things cool off though because its hard to control the temperature when cooking over a fire and you dont want to burn any tongues.
Bringing pre-made meals that just have to be reheated is another simple way to keep everyone fed. Leftovers are also ideal when camping and many things can be even eaten cold.
Dont forget to pack drinks either. Its important to stay hydrated and make sure the kids have their own water bottle so they can drink whenever they get thirsty. You can also bring along juice boxes and other canned beverages that dont need to be refrigerated
Assign Some Simple Chores To Keep Younger Kids Busy Around Camp
Im talking SUPER toddler level such as help move firewood from one place to another!
Even if you dont actually need it moved, it really helps to involve them and make them feel like they are helping you rather than getting in the way!
Some other chore ideas include throwing trash away, gathering kindling or getting the toys out from wherever they are stored.
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Must Have When Camping With Kids: A Bath Station
If youre at a campsite without showers there will come a time that baby wipes just wont cut it
Bring a plastic baby bath for babies or an extra plastic tub for bigger kids that you can fill with water.
Warm bath tip: fill up the bin in the morning and let it sit out in the sun to warm up A fully-washed and clean baby and child often times leads to a better night of sleep!
For adults, a solar-heated shower bag will do the trick when you cant take it anymore and need to scrub off the dirt.
Toddler In Tent While Camping
There seems to be 2 schools of thought regarding camping with infants and toddlers. The first, fairly common response to the idea is one of trepidation, even dread . But other folks are much less horrified and have this advice: If you enjoy camping and nature, don’t be intimidated to bring infants and toddlers with you. Yes, it will be more challenging than it used to be, but isn’t life?
Of course, packing up the car and heading into the woods today is certainly not as difficult as it was even 10 years ago. Mobile phones make emergencies much less frightening and gear concepts like child backpacks and portable pack n’ play cribs make corralling the little ones a little less stressful.
Lori Schilling-Davis, a flight attendant with American Airlines, has been camping with her two children since they were 3 years and 10 months old. Logan is now 7, Delaney is 4, and she says she’s just reserved their favorite Lake Tahoe, NV, campsite for Logan’s camping birthday party .
Schilling-Davis says the hardest age for her was when the kids were crawling. “Take a pack n’ play,” she advises. “Otherwise it’s just dirt – they’re eating dirt, sniffing dirt up their noses.” She says the pack n’ play serves 2 purposes: a bed for sleeping and a playpen where they can watch what’s going on around camp.
Dr. Shubin, Schilling-Davis and Deitel passed on their wisdom for getting outdoors with young kids. Children will absorb your enthusiasm, so pack up the car and take a hike.
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Have A Plan To Stay Cool
This one hits the top spot for a reason. And you dont even have to be camping with toddlers for this to apply. This is for literally everyone going tent camping in the middle of the summer or lets just call it temperatures above 80 degrees. You need, need, need a way to stay cool. Whether thats a portable fan or a blow up pool or a lake front campsite. It doesnt matter. If there isnt room in your car, move something out to make room. Our campsite was in a wooded area with lots of shade so we thought wed be good. Turns out, we thought wrong. Full disclosure: recency bias may be playing a role here as all I can remember is the blazing heat.
We had planned on bringing our inflatable pool, but didnt have room so we left it behind. And that turned out to be our biggest regret of the trip. We actually had to leave one day early because we didnt want the kids to overheat. If you have a toddler or baby that naps during the day, bring a fan to put in the tent during the day because they get SO hot. We had to put our 1 year old in the stroller for nap time to walk around and create some breeze because we didnt have a fan. Plan ahead! And bring lots and lots of water!
Inno Family Bike Rack
Right: Photo from The Dyrt camper Joe R.
Whether your kids are riding balance bikes or have graduated to their first mountain bikes, INNO has a product for transporting your cycles or kids camping gear. The INH640 Aero can accommodate up to four bikes and is so simple to set up that even a child can use it literally!
Set Up Your New Home Before Dark
This probably sounds obvious, but we were up against the clock. It takes a couple hours to get a campsite totally set up and your car unloaded. We got to our site around 6PM and we had to scramble to get everything done before the sun set. Plus, inevitably some things will go wrong and you may need to account for a store run. Or you may still need to get firewood. Or your kids will run in all different directions and slow your progress. So plan extra time for things to come up and make sure you dont stress yourself out getting everything done before darkness hits.
One little bonus tip for you: think about the type of campground and specific site that will work best for your family. A lot of the state parks we looked at had pictures of the actual site number. That will help you gauge which have shade, a breeze, space, etc. Choose the best camping site to pitch your tent that will meet your needs and that of your toddlers.
And if you want to know a little more about our our tent setup we went with The North Face Wawona 6. We chose it for its size, the ceiling height, and the cool patio feature. Our video shows the full tour along with our first 2 days camping with our toddlers.
And dont forget to let us know how your trip goes! We are strong believers in getting kids outdoors as much as possible and would love to hear your stories!
The Toddler Camping Bed What Do Toddlers Sleep In When Camping
Mostly, this answer will depend on your camping set-up and your routines at home.
- Are you in a camper with beds?
- Does your toddler co-sleep at home?
- Is there room in the tent for a portable crib?
For us, all our toddlers slept either in my bed/sleeping bag with me, in a portable cot, or in their own sleeping bag right beside me.
When tenting, both the toddler and I would sleep on camping mattresses or, if tenting in luxury, our air mattress. Some tents will be big enough for a travel crib inside.
When camping in our trailer, the toddler would be put to sleep on the bed that we would share that night. I would use pillows and/or backpacks as a deterrent to keep the toddler from rolling off the bed until I could join them.
A portable bed side rail would also be a useful item to use when worried of toddlers rolling from beds in campers.
For babies and young toddlers I used a portable crib in the camper. It took up almost all the floor space and it was not convenient to move around or have in the trailer, but this was the safest option, I felt, for the little little ones. If I was tenting with a very young child, I would just go to sleep with them at the same time to make sure they didnt wake and wander.
Portable Cribs for Camping with Toddlers:
These are the two most common variety of travel cots families use for camping:
A few other interesting toddler camping bed options:
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