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camping with kiddos

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Camping is one of the first things my family does when the weather warms up. We love to pack up for the weekend and spend a few days away from all the hustle and bustle; fishing, swimming, cooking out and just spending time together. But, camping with kiddos (and two younger ones) can easily turn into a hassle if you’re not fully prepared. My kids are 7 and 3 and they’ve both been camping since they were tiny. So, we’ve figured out a few tips and tricks to make camping with kiddos a little easier and a lot more fun!

This sounds obvious, but make sure to keep them hydrated!

This is the number one rule of camping, period. Bring plenty of water. Even at fancy campgrounds, they usually don’t have access to clean, running water. So, be sure to pack plenty of coolers full of ice and drink for everyone. We invested in a few stainless steel water bottles for our kiddos. They were a lifesaver. They keep drinks good and cold for up to 12 hours. You’re wasting less, because nobody wants to drink a hot drink on a hot day, and it’s an easy way to make sure they always have something cold. A hot, thirsty kid is a miserable kid, not to mention the health risks of letting them get dehydrated.

Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen.

Again, this one is fairly obvious, but it’s easily forgotten. Make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and reapply it regularly. A sunburn is miserable for anyone, much less a child. They’re painful and uncomfortable, but a sunburn is easily avoidable with the right precautions. As well as liberal amounts of sunscreen, make sure to pack them a hat and some protective clothing for the extra hot hours of the day. The sun’s rays are at their most potent between 10am and 2pm. So, if possible, try to keep them in a shady spot during that time and be extra diligent about sunscreen.

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Make sure they have something to do

While mom and dad’s main goal may be to kick back in a hammock and relax, most kids aren’t going to do that. So to ensure that you can get the most relaxation out of your trip, be sure to bring things that will keep your kiddo’s entertained. We don’t bring electronics (aside from our cell phones for obvious safety reasons) because our kids are bordering on an iPad addiction as it is. But, we make sure to pack plenty of beach/sand toys, fishing poles and things like coloring books and crayons or little activity packs, which you can pick up at the Dollar Store for a little bit of nothing. No one will be able to have a good time if your kids are hollering, “I’m so bored!” every 20 seconds.

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Find some fun recipes

Depending on how long you’ll be camping, hotdogs over a fire can get old quick. So I always try to scour google or Pinterest for some fun and easy campfire recipes. Most recently we made banana split s’mores over the fire, and they were SO easy! You just split a banana down the middle, stuff it with some mini marshmallows and a little chocolate, wrap it in foil and stick it over your fire or grill. They were delicious, easy to pack and make and something different that the kids really enjoyed! Just make sure that you have a safe way to store your food for the duration of your trip.

Pack them their own tent

Naturally, both of my kids end up balled up in the big tent with mom and dad by the time bedtime rolls around. But, we found little kid tents on sale at Wal-Mart and picked one out for each kid, and boy, were they a hit. It helped them feel like they had a bit of their own space, gave them a place to chill out in some shade when the day got too hot, and it was a great place for them to store all of their things when they weren’t using them. Will they sleep in them all night? If they’re anything like my two, probably not. But, it was definitely extra fun for them to have their own little hide outs.

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Make sure you bring play clothes

I’ll never forget, one of the first times we took our little one’s camping, I had dressed in these cute little matching outfits. They were so adorable, with little fish and a tent on them that said “gone camping”. I also spent most of the first day stressing myself to the limit because they ruined the brand new, and not-so-cheap outfits about 30 seconds after they bailed out of the car. I have no idea why I thought that would be a good idea in the first place. But I learned my lesson quickly and I will never do that again. Kids will get messy on a camping trip and they will do so quickly. Pack the junk play clothes, you know, the ones that are hiding in the back of their closet or dresser because they’re covered in stains, and don’t worry about them looking “cute”. They’re already cute! And you’ll be very thankful that you didn’t ruin a high-dollar outfit over a camping trip.

Bring a dang light!

This was another one of those things that I didn’t even think about when I first tried to bring my kid’s along with me. Most kids are scared of the dark. That’s just the way it is. That fear will only get worse when you’re sitting in the middle of the woods, or just outside in general. There’s all kinds of funky sounds going on and it can easily freak a kiddo out if they can’t see. Heck, it can freak me out sometimes! To say the least, I made a late night trip to Wal-Mart that night to invest in a few cheap, battery powered lanterns. We’ve also got a few cheap, little headlamps so the kids can have a hand free light with them wherever they go.

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Bug Spray!

This is another one of those things like sunscreen. Important, but easy to forget! No matter how fancy the campgrounds, there will be bugs and ticks and mosquitos that can make for a crummy time if someone winds up bit. So, make sure that bug spray is one of the first things to go in the bag, right behind the sunscreen. It also wouldn’t hurt to throw in a tube of hydrocortisone cream or some calamine lotion for the occasional, inevitable bug bite. No one wants their trip ruined because of terrible itchiness!

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Don’t forget to have lots of fun!

Taking a couple of little kids anywhere can be stressful, much less trying to take them somewhere that doesn’t have electricity or running water. But just remember why you’re going in the first place. Ditch the phones and tablets and spend some good quality time with your family. Even if your kiddos are a little on the whiney side at first (which has happened with mine more than once), so long as you’ve got all the necessities, they’ll get over it! Encourage them to get out and play, have a good time and catch up on some much needed relaxation!

Happy Camping!

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