by Sarah Shaffer
To quickly sum up a disastorous first camping trip…when our daughter was a one year old we tried camping for the first time. She cried the entire night about every fifteen minutes. Horrified and stuck in camp slots about five feet from other campers, my husband and I packed up our tent, gear and at 4 a.m. hit the road before daylight. Mostly, before the other campers could glare at us in the morning light.
So, flash forward to now, my family unit was finally brave enough to attempt camping again. It was fabulous and went splendid! We had one cry session in the middle of the night due to our critter rolling out of her sleeping bag and peeing through her diaper, but not something a change of pants and positioning her back in her sleeping bag couldn’t fix.
To help out parents with young kids, here are some tactics I learned that could potentially help your sanity during those first camping experiences.
1. Bring some sort of night light for the tent (see picture on the right). We used the Kinderglo moon light which worked great. There are different color option settings and it can be on a timer so it doesn’t have to glow all night. It also could hook to a backpack or be carried around camp easily by a toddler. Price is $24 on the website, but a bomb proof light and can last for years. Or hang a headlamp at the top of your tent, although if you are doing a multi-night camping trip this could be a problem for saving the batteries.
2. I suggest if you have one child, camp with friends who have kids around the same age. That way all the parents actually get a few free minutes while the kids play together, which makes the camping experience so much more relaxing for parent’s sake.
3. Bring a toy of sorts. We brought a balance bike along with some books to read in the tent before bed. Both of which got used tremendously and the books doubled as potty time books as well, at our potty training toilet spot next to camp.
4. Food options, as many parents know good snacks and dinners matter. To make things easier, prep your food before you leave for your trip and bring a big cooler full of ice so you can throw things like string cheese, yogurt, grapes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in.
5. Sleep in comfort. We brought a queen sized air bed (YES!) along with our pillows, sleeping bags, and extra blankets. It was plush! We also were able to fit a full sized cot in our tent so one of us could sleep completely alone…it was awesome.
6. Buy an obnoxiously large tent! Our’s is Bear Grylls as seen here. It not only fit a queen sized giant airmattress but a full sized cot, dog, two adults and one child along with room under the cot for the dog or extra storage (see pictures).
7. Expect your vehicle to be stuffed with stuff! When camping with kids don’t expect to go superlight or have some sort of goal. Expect to bring things not of necessity, but of comfort and learn as you go.
8. Bring a portable potty training toilet along with you if your kids are younger.
9. Toilet paper, wipes, hand sanitizer and paper towels are a must.
10. A water jug is super helpful and you can fill it up before you leave the house, so you have drinkable water from the get go. Here is the one we purchased before our trip. http://www.coleman.com/5-gallon-water-carrier/5620B718G.html
11. Extra clothes mostly for the kid(s) but also for the parents. Underwear, bottoms and underwear (did I say that twice) I cannot stress this enough. Kids have accidents, bring a bunch of clothes and diapers if needed.
Remember that kids and adults alike are out there to experience nature. Let your kids romp in the dirt, mud, touch leaves, look at the stars, play with rocks. On our camp outing we made dirt castles along with bouquets of flowers, which we wrapped using grasses and gave to our camping friends. We discovered frogs which the kids had fun touching and looked for fish in the river. Remember to be a kid again, for your sake and for your children as they will appreciate that side of you as well.