Camping with kids can be very intimidating. What gear do you need? How do you get everyone to sleep on the ground? What about bears, or the dark? These are definitely hurdles, but they don’t have to prevent you and your family from experiencing the amazing benefits of camping with kids!
You may be totally new to camping with kids, or you may be seasoned campers looking for affirmation for why you should camp more often! Either way, your family will benefit by spending time together camping.
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Before our daughter was born, my husband and I determined we were not going to be like many of our friends. Once they had babies, it seemed like they didn’t do fun things anymore. Their excuses sounded like it was too difficult to pack the baby, the diaper bag, the car seat, the stroller, the portable crib, and all the other things, so it was just easier to stay home.
With this mindset firmly in hand, we took a road trip and went camping when our second baby was a mere 5 days old! She slept in a suitcase beside our bed on the floor of the tent and we had a less than restful family vacation, but it set the stage for years of family memories! I’m not going to tell you it was easy or every moment was full of happiness and joy, but looking back at our memories, we have forgotten the struggles and sleeplessness for all of us in a cabin with a new baby!
Preparing for a camping trip isn’t necessarily a piece of cake to prepare for. You have to pack all the gear, make sure you have warm enough clothes and bedding, food, bug spray, a first aid kit, and some toys. Phew! Is it really worth it? Are the benefits of camping with family really worth the effort and planning?
Absolutely, yes! In between the lines of this article, you will see the memories that my kids have from our family camping trips over the years. These are the things they remember and talk about when we reminisce! Your kids will have similar stories – even if everything doesn’t go as planned! 🙂
7 Benefits of Camping With Your Kids
Camping with family provides the backdrop for building relationships and making memories. Whether you love to sleep on the ground in a tent or stay in a cabin in the woods or by the lake, camping with kids should be on your list of things to do, and here’s why.
● Camping with Kids Builds Relationships
The first and foremost benefit of camping with your kids is simply to spend time together. Getting away from home to go on an adventure together allows for anticipation, planning, and preparing for a special time together. When you take the time to plan for a camping trip, you are also making a commitment to spend time together, away from the hustle and bustle of life.
Remember the time when we camped at the Tetons and the bear came through camp during breakfast? Dad took the hot frying pan with pancakes off the stove and we all jumped in the car. When the bear left, we found out that the frying pan had melted through the floor mat in the car!
Making the most of camping with your kids may require some intentional planning to set aside the busyness of work and the stress of daily life so that you can enjoy the time together. If you choose a camping location that doesn’t have phone coverage and wi-fi, you may find it easier to really focus on your time together rather than being distracted by texts, email, and phone calls.
● Family Camping and Fresh Air
Fresh air and sunshine work together to help a person feel happier and less stressed. Clean mountain air (or beach air, or forest air) also seems to work up an appetite as well as help you sleep better at night. It also helps to clean your lungs and brings clarity of thinking.
Remember when we climbed Mt. St. Helens and we got so sunburned even though we put sunscreen on so many times?
Plan your trip around things you enjoy doing as a family. If you like to swim or canoe, plan your trip to a lake. If you like to hike or backpack, well then, you might want to check out some trails close to a campsite. If your kids are old enough to help plan, make sure to include them in choosing what activities or places they would enjoy.
The more they are invested in the camping trip, the more fun you will have together! This is one of benefits of camping with family. You can all work together to plan your fun camping trip and all the outdoor activities you will enjoy together.
● Camping with Kids Under the Stars
There is something amazing about looking at the stars in the dark of a campground. So often, you don’t even notice the vastness of the heavens and the beauty of the stars when you are at home because you are usually inside when it’s dark or if you live in town, there are too many lights to see the stars very well.
Camping often provides the opportunity to be outside in the dark, away from light pollution where the stars seem brighter and closer. Taking time to look, really look at the stars is such an awesome experience
Depending on where you are camping, there are often ranger talks or evening activities that the campground hosts. These ranger programs range from nature talks, history of the area, and if you’re lucky, an evening of star gazing. Even if there isn’t a planned program for gazing at the heavens, you can create your own special time.
Remember when we camped at Rocky Mountain National Park and the astronomy club brought all their telescopes up to the mountain so we could look at the stars, planets, and the International Space Station?
Find a dark, safe, spot, and take a few minutes to let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Look for the constellations that you know, or get a constellation app on your phone to help you identify the stars. This is the perfect time to reflect on God with your kids and remind them about how big God is, and yet He cares for them!
Remember when we were so cold in the tent but we wanted to watch the stars? We stuck our heads out under the tent flap and watched the shooting stars in Death Valley?
Spending time outside can also help to regulate your sleeping schedule as the sunlight and darkness help to even out your natural rest and awake times.
Researcher, Kenneth Wright, has been studying the impact of camping and sleep and has found that often with only a few days of camping, your body will naturally shift toward waking when it’s light and going to sleep when it’s dark which can help reduce cases of insomnia and sleep deprivation.
The natural light and darkness of the outdoors help your body reset its natural sleep cycle. You can read more about this study here.
Get your camping with kids checklist below along with this great camping themed activity bundle. All printable and ready to go!
● What’s on the Menu When Camping with Kids?
Being outside in the fresh air just makes a person hungry and seems to make everything taste better. Cooking over the fire or on a Coleman stove is another adventure that most families don’t experience at home. We have had several bonding experiences that revolved around food. If you are planning to camp for several days, be sure to make a menu and pack carefully so you have all the items you’ll need.
Remember when it was so cold and we all sat in the tent while Dad cooked the spaghetti in the rain? Then, when it was done, he handed it to us through the tent door and it all slid off the plate on the tent floor?
Think about your family’s mainstays. Perhaps that is mac and cheese and hot dogs. Those are great camping menu items! There are lots of easy meals that you can eat while camping with kids. Pasta, soup, sandwiches, burritos, taco salad, pancakes, hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, etc. Basically, whatever you cook on the stove at home could also be cooked over a camp stove. It might take a little longer, but it will taste good because you are hungry!
● Playing Together as a Family
Taking time to plan a camping trip and spend time together provides opportunities to play and laugh together. Whether it’s swimming, playing in the water, geocaching, building a fort out of driftwood, hiking, flying a kite on the beach, horseback riding or riding bikes together, these times create a bond together with your family.
These together times are the stuff that makes memories and memories are what build a strong relationship even when your children grow older and times are tough. These memories will be an anchor to tether their hearts to yours.
Remember when we built that huge fort out of driftwood on the beach in Washington? That was so much fun!
Even when things don’t go as planned or there is an unexpected event, the memories will still be there. Gary Smalley, family relationship expert, found in a study of healthy families that the one thing they had in common was camping. Because camping brings a family together through shared experiences.
RELATED: Family Vacations with Jr. Rangers
● Sleeping (on the ground) in a Tent
Tent camping is definitely a bonding opportunity! Whether you’ve all snuggled down for the night and then the youngest remembers they need to go to the bathroom (3 miles across the campground – again!). Or you hear something walking around the outside of your tent. The rain starts to fall on the top of the tent, you have a sharp rock right underneath your hip, or the list goes on…
Listening to the quiet sounds of the night and the quiet (hopefully) snoring of your family members helps to put life into perspective. Somehow, life seems to slow down in these quiet night times. It takes bravery to sleep outside listening to sounds that are unfamiliar. It takes persistence to go to sleep in a new place, and it creates another bond when you’ve survived the night and the sun comes up and the birds start singing.
Remember when we went on the canoe trip and Dad thought he heard a mountain lion during the night? He got up and started a huge campfire to scare it away and then realized he had just heard the sound of the wood falling in the fire when he was asleep.
● Family Memories from Camping with Kids
These are things of memories! Family bonding times can come from shared difficulties, shared fear (of the bear on the way to the bathroom), or shared happy memories. The key here is to share these times together as a family.
If you sat around our campfire for very long, you would hear many more stories in addition to the ones between the lines above. Our children love to go camping to this day. Even though we’ve been cold at night, the food stuck to the bottom of the pot, the frying pan burned a hole in the floor mat, we ate breakfast with a bear and so many other stories, these memories built relationships. Relationships are built over shared experiences, not over texting or sitting next to each other on the couch on your own device.
Remember when we went to 7 different National Parks in two weeks? Mesa Verde was my favorite!
These are some of the reasons to plan a camping trip with kids! These are years of memories and even now, after camping with our kids for over 20 years. They still want to know where we are going next because they love these memories as much as we do. The benefits of camping with kids will last far beyond the actual event.
Why Should You Go Camping with Kids Now?
Even though the thought of going camping with kids might seem intimidating, the benefits of camping with family are great! Camping with children provides the perfect backdrop for lots of memories, good food, playing together, shared experiences, fresh air, and good sleep. The memories you create together may be reminders of challenges (setting up a tent), bravery (sleeping in a tent in the dark), or sitting around the fire telling or reading stories, but they will be memories that bind your family together.
If you need a good camping with kids checklist, you can get one here in this amazing bundle of camping themed road trip activities, packing list and vacation journal. Add a little extra fun to your trip!
I’d love to hear about your favorite camping with family memory! Drop a comment below.
You may also like these Biblical parenting links…
- Tips for Sitting in Church with Kids
- Bedtime Prayers – Creating an Evening Routine
- 52 Memory Verses for Kids to Memorize
- Family Worship Ideas with Kids
- Morning Prayers for Families
- Teaching Kids to Pray
- 9 Powerful Prayers for Your Daughter
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