Camping with kids is a great way to teach them all kinds of things about nature, safety and survival; in addition, the memories made around a campfire can last forever. Besides the tent, a few necessities are needed when camping with children, along with a few fun things. Before setting out on your first adventure, do a trial run with a backyard camp-out or participate in a camping seminar offered through many states' park programs.
Sleeping and Clothes
Depending on how experienced your child is with the outdoors and how old she is, the sleeping arrangements should be as comfortable as possible to ensure she gets a good night's sleep. You don't have to deck out the tent with air mattresses and home comforts -- after all, camping is about roughing it. However, a newbie to the camping scene might be uncomfortable with just a sleeping bag. Bring a foam mat and her favorite pillow to ease the bumpiness of the ground. Keep the temperatures in mind, too; a warm summer's night could be too hot for a sleeping bag so bring a few sheets or a lighter-weight blanket. The temperature also plays into clothing. Pack her several different layers because children can get cold much quicker than adults. The layers should be easy to take off and put on; think a t-shirt, light-weight hooded sweatshirt and jacket.
Even if you're staying at a camping resort, the opportunities for exploring will abound. Have a small backpack for him filled with kid-sized binoculars and a child-friendly field guide to help him learn about the nature around him. The backpack can double as a holder for a water bottle during a family hike through the trails or paths at the campground. If collecting is allowed, pack a plastic jar for collecting leaves or a bug jar -- just remember to let the bugs go before you leave!
Let's face it, children are prone to scraped knees and boo-boos, especially when camping. A travel-size first-aid kit is a must for kids and adults alike, particularly if you're camping in a primitive area or you'll be exploring state or national parks, or you plan on day-packing. The first-aid kit should contain bandages, antiseptic spray and antibiotic cream. A whistle for children age 4 and older is also a great idea if you plan on hiking. In general, the call for help or distress with a whistle is three blows. When hiking, always have her wear her backpack and make sure a bottle of water is inside. If you're camping with more than one child, make sure each child has her own flashlight -- the flashlight will come in handy for fun, as well.
Fun and Cooking Adventures
Cooking over a campfire delights children and adults alike, and the cooking can be a fun experience for children. Bring hot dog sticks to roast your favorite dogs and marshmallows over the fire; a pudgie-pie maker is also a great idea. Use the flashlights at night to explore around the campsite and see which creatures come out at night; you can also have fun with shadow puppets on the wall of the tent.
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