Summer is finally here and my family is psyched to get outside for some camping adventures. This is my first summer camping with my young daughter- we spend the last year scoping out REI garage sale deals and local craigslist offerings to upgrade our gear to fit our new addition. It is no secret that kids love the outdoors, so some tips and tricks that make camping with kiddos a little easier.

cute kid in canoe

Safety First!

  1. Make a Hand Washing Station. We always have loads of baby wipes on hand but that leads to lots of extra garbage, and some messes demand a good rinse- especially mud and dirt! We use a 5 Gallon water carrier that is set aside specifically for washing- we keep a separate one for drinking water. Even with a bucket or basin to catch the water the area under the spout will get wet and muddy throughout the day. Keep it far enough away from where the kids play to avoid a Woodstock situation.
  2. Foam Floor Tiles and Waterproof Blankets make a good barrier between the kids and the dirt. If you are car camping, it is nice to bring something along that helps you keep the kids clean for a moment between washing them up and feeding them some delicious campfire meals. Added bonus- when the kids drop their cookies and goldfish crackers on the mats, the dog will eat them up without also eating dirt. This can prevent the unfortunate situation of cleaning up muddy dog barf in the middle of the night (speaking from experience here), so another win-win.

    baby eating cracker by lake

    Snacks by the water

  3. Speaking of Snacks, Bring a TON. Our kids at so many snacks on our last trip. Something about running around in the woods must whet the appetite, and I admit that I am also guilty of munching on the cookies that I brought “for the baby” while I waited for my husband to make dinner. Keep the meals as simple as possible- it is harder to cook around a fire when you have a little one to keep away from said fire, so we did a lot of sandwiches and add-hot-water style meals instead of the skillet meals we cooked up in our pre-baby days.
  4. And lots of extra clothes, too! Our kids decided to take an unplanned dip in the lake while we watched the dads head out for some fishing, so it was great to have lots of extra clothes on hand. We also discovered that the large family tent is not as warm and cozy as the smaller tent we used before, so it was nice to have some extra layers for chilly nights.
  5. An Extra Tent for a Play Area is awesome, especially if you run into rainy weather. Now that we have a family tent (REI Kingdom 6) we just set up the old 2 person tent for a pay area/baby corral. We like to keep our main tent closed up until bedtime and use the spare tent for changing clothes and letting the kids run in and out of it without worrying about the mess. This is also a great way to keep track of smaller toys, preventing you from suffering a foot injury when you step on a wayward toy in the middle of the night while you are fumbling for your camp shoes!
  6. Anti-bug Sunscreen is a Lifesaver– we love to camp by water so we can bring our canoe, but that means we are contending with serious mosquitoes. The adults use DEET (just make sure to wash your hands after applying) but I’m less liberal with the heavy duty bug spray on the kiddos. I like to spray my daughter’s hat before I put it on her, but other than that I rely on a kid’s sunscreen/bug repellant combo that seems to work really well. Or maybe the bugs just prefer the big people!
  7. Safety First. I’m not going to lie, camping with kids can be stressful. It is a very different experience from the carefree, relaxing adventures we used to enjoy while knocking back beers and not worrying about anyone trying to touch the fire or poke their eye out with a twig. Taking some precautions can help ease the stress- keep your first aid kit stocked and remember to bring child-specific things like kid’s ibuprofen and kid’s Benadryl.
Baby and dog in tent

Enjoying the empty tent before mom kicks us out.

Camping with kids can be a challenge but it is also so much fun. We are looking forward to many years of family fun out in the woods, and we hope that you can use some of these tips for your own adventures!

Do you have your own family camping tips? Tell us in the comments!