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Simple & Fun Not to Be Missed Tips for Family Camping with Young Kids

Family camping is quite an experience, especially when it involves young children.  However, a top parenting goal for me, in general, is to create & to instill in my children a sense of awe & wonder for the world. In other words, camping as a family even with small kids is a part of instilling that love for the natural world.

Camping with kids doesn’t have to be difficult but more often than not, it is.  I won’t lie to you. We have cut camping trips short. In other words, we have had many sleepless nights in our family tent & lots of tears camping with our three young sons.

You know what, though?

We keep going. The experience is worth it. The experiences – good and bad – make life.

Related Resource: Detailed Camping Gear Checklist

Family Camping with Young Kids

Preparing children with skills and a proper mindset will lead them in the right direction of not only having fun but of actually building confidence while having the adventure. Feeling capable goes a long way in a young child.

This simple yet powerful fact goes hand-in-hand with the family camping with kids tips I’m sharing below.

Tips for Family Camping with Kids

Get Organized and Prepare Well for Camping with Kids

Camping with Kids Checklist

First, you have to prepare your family camping gear, organize your gear, and then prepare more than you would normally have to if you were camping with older children. A great way to get organized is with a camping with kids checklist.

The Best Family Camping Tents

The Best Family Camping Tents

This Coleman 8 Person Family Tent is high quality & spacious, it has all the bells & whistles a family might need on a camping trip. It is waterproof and water resistant and has room for three queen sized airbeds.  Plus, it is easy to set up and offers a divider for privacy if you need it.

The Best Family Camping Tents
The Core 9 Person Extended Dome Family Tent is also a good choice for families. It is quite spacious and offers a few useful features such as a lantern hook and a gear lock. In addition, the venting system and water resistant technology are effective.

Other Key Items for Your Camping Adventure

Bug Net for movement and the pure joy of chasing critters, beautiful butterflies and unique moths

Bug House to create a temporary home for the critters we met during our weekend only to be released within a few hours

Camping_With_Kids_Binoculars

Magnifying Glass & Binoculars to more closely examine the insects and animals we shared space with over the weekend

Flashlight for a sensory walk during dusk and the darker hours

Kid-Sized Camping Chairs for resting, reading, and contemplating. So, while you’re grabbing your family tent, don’t forget to pick up a kid folding chair (with a carrying bag is the best way to go) so that you can relax outside the tent.

Crayons & Drawing Pad for our journals and nature rubbings

Related Read: My No Fail Trick to Getting Kids to Behave in the Car
Bug_Up_Close

We love our Petzl headlamps!

Children’s Books about Camping

Children's Books about Family Camping

One popular and effective way we prepare for camping with kids is with children’s books about camping. Over the years, I have researched and reviewed both good and not so good children’s books on the topic.

books about camping with kids

Generally, books have always been a big part of getting outdoors to connect with nature. There is something about a book that grounds a person. So, naturally, we use books as a way to introduce our children to the idea of camping. We want to inspire them and ignite their excitement and desire to be and to learn in the outdoor classroom.

Children's Books about Family Camping
When We Go Camping is perhaps my favorite. The illustrations are gorgeous and there is a rhythm to the whole book of which I want to be a part. This book truly connects a child to nature and to wildlife. There is a lot of learning within its pages. Your child will certainly be engaged in learning more after reading this book.

S is for S'mores - Teach Kids about Family Camping
S Is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet is a sweet book introducing young children to the language of camping. Yes, that language includes “Smores”.


Fred and Ted Go Camping is Peter Eastman at his best. Weaves in opposites and the idea that different approaches to doing things may just work out all right. This book is a lot of fun.

Toasting Marshmallows by the Camp Fire

Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems is a must-have book of simple yet lovely poems. The book will leave you and your children with a lot of happiness. I enjoy how the author integrates sights and sounds of camping truly bringing the experience alive for kids and adults.

More Books to Learn about the Outdoors

Children's Books for Family Camping - Garden Wigglers

Children's Books for Family Camping - Wiggling Worms at Work

Children's Books for Family Camping - Ants

Children's Books for Family Camping - Frogs

Children's Books for Family CAmping - Wonderful Worms

A few additional books worth noting include Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser, Garden Wigglers: Earthworms in Your Backyard by Nancy Loewen and Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer for worms. Plus, National Geographic Readers: Ants and National Geographic Readers: Frogs! are also great first readers to prepare your children for all the goodness of the outdoors.

Rachel Carson Quote

Tips for Family Camping with Young Kids

Below you will find four family camping tips that help prepare children for the trip. This post highlights the truly enjoyable part of preparing a child for a weekend in the “wilderness” – INDOOR CAMPING! Kids generally love building forts and playing in tents. Indoor camping simply adds more structure and creates a pretend play activity.e

We are fortunate to have Melissa & Doug sponsor our summer camping adventures by supplying us with some fabulous kid’s camping gear, especially the gear to get us ready and prepared to go on our journey.

#1: Practice Camping Indoors

Tips for Family Camping with Kids

The Invitation: Asking kids to “set up camp” indoors is not a stretch. In fact, I didn’t even have to ask my boys to do anything, they did it themselves. They led me to set up the tent, put batteries in their flashlights and help them zip their alligator sleeping bags. They were so thrilled to set up camp indoors that the practicing part was all play.

Tips for Family Camping with Kids

#2: Get the Kids Involved

We focused on Practical Life Skills like zipping up their alligator sleeping bags, turning on their bumblebee flashlights in the light and the dark and helping to set up the turtle tent.

Tips for Family Camping with Kids

#3: Take time to learn about the area’s botany and zoology

We talked about critters like ants and worms, creatures like deer and plants that we may find on our adventures this summer. We explored life cycles of various critters, wriggled like worms and caterpillars in our Happy Giddy Tunnel and read many books (see above) on the topic.

Tips for Family Camping with Kids
And of course, we practiced sleeping in our tents.

#4: Make Camping Fun with Activities

Nature is the best teacher for our children. Rachel Carson says it well in her quote below. There is a lot of truth in her words and, given her status as a naturalist extraordinaire, one might infer that she was thinking from the perspective of being outdoors.

Children learn valuable skills simply by being and by exploring the natural environment around them. Skills, such as problem-solving, science, social & emotional skills, that we parents often demand of our young children have the opportunity to develop naturally if we allow them the space to do so.

Rachel Carson Quote about Play

There are no iPads or iPhones allowed on our adventures. {GASP!} There will be exploring, observing, telling stories and reading. So we prepared for Outdoor Activities by introducing our Family Nature Journal, going on a Nature Walk where we search for colors and a Listening Walk. We also decorated a Treasure Box to carry with us on our hikes.

Camping with kids is tricky enough without having to worry about entertaining the little scientists. So, consider these activities on your next trip:

Star Gazing

I love this idea from Stacy at Kids Stuff World for stargazing indoors using a strainer and a flashlight. My boys were totally into this activity. We also took some time to learn about the constellations and read some of the lovely myths that take place in the sky.

Reading & Singing

Aren’t books and songs so great? A few of our favorites camping books are included in this post on Children’s Books for Camping with Kids. I love singing and I especially love singing with my boys. My husband, well, he isn’t so much into the singing but he is highly entertained by our singalongs.

A few of our favorites songs include She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain, Down by the Station, Orca Whale, The More We Get Together, Ring Around the Rosies, Ants Go Marching, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, You are my Sunshine and Mr. Sun. I could go on but hopefully, that inspired you a bit.

Camping with Kids

Rock Collecting

Collect different shapes, sizes, textures, and colors. Turn it into a sorting and sensory activity

Wooden Sculpture

Gather pieces of wood from the beach or the forest and build away. Watch your toddler’s imagination go wild building forts and bridges

Scavenger Hunt

If you’re organized, prepare a sheet ahead of time with all sorts of critters, plants, and sights to gather in the hunt. If not, no big deal, the ‘real-time’ scavenger is popular in our household

Water Play

If you’re near a river, lake or ocean, this sensory activity is a given. Before you leave for your trip, gather a few water play essentials such as cups for pouring, basters for squirting, syringes and squeeze and spray bottles

Sand Writing

Another activity right at your camping doorstep so grab a stick and draw pictures, shapes, and your ABCs. Watch your little one go crazy in the dry and, oh yes, wet sand (mud is a toddler’s best friend = lots of spare clothes).

Wildflowers Learning with Kids in Nature

#5 – Get Organized

I found this camping with kids checklist and was on my way. Don’t feel like you need to follow this list or any other list but you should make a checklist. It is particularly important to get organized and plan well when you’re camping with kids.

#6 – Planning for Food

When you are towing a toddler along for the ride, the task of food becomes even a bit more daunting. All and all, I think we did well with our picky toddler.

Breakfast

  • Pre-made pancake mix (our favorite is Stonewall Kitchen, you’ll need eggs and milk)
  • Blueberries (pack in a separate Tupperware)
  • Cheerios (pack in a separate Tupperware)
  • Egg Scramble with peppers and onion
  • Milk
  • Apple Juice

Lunch

  • Pasta
  • Tomato sauce (we made our own simple sauce and packed it in a medium-sized jar)
  • Baby carrots
  • Pirates Booty
  • Ham and salami sandwiches
  • Grilled Cheese

Dinner

  • Hot dogs
  • Spinach salad
  • Annie’s Mac and Cheese
  • Steak

Dessert

  • S’mores (duh)

Snacks

  • Apples
  • Pirates Booty
  • Cashews
  • Clif Z bars
  • Fruit leather
  • Trail Mix
  • Ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)

As I mentioned above, I highly recommend a huge cooler and three separate large storage containers to hold your dry goods, sleeping gear, and kitchen gear. Oh, also a bin for cleaning and dish clothes. Dr. Bronners is always key!

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