First posted HERE, August 17, 2006
I realize camping season is winding down, but after attending my family camping trip this year (where I believe there were about 12 kids under the age of 5), I thought I would pass on some of the tips and tricks my family has come up with during our many years of camping experience. Camping with children (babies included!) is never easy, but you can do it! It’ll be great fun!
Camping Clothes – Do not bring any clothing for your child that you don’t mind seeing COVERED in DIRT. Their clothing should allow them (or allow you to allow them) to “be at one” with nature (ie: roll around in dirt for a few days). I would suggest starting a “Camping clothes” box during the year. Throw in all the clothes that are too stained, ripped, or ugly to wear in public. These kinds of things make perfect camping attire. You can even throw them away at the end of the trip if need be.
Another good source for camping clothes are children’s consignment stores like this one. This year I picked up some warm pajamas ($2) and sweats ($3) for the kids–things that are very hard to find in the off-season.
For Crawlers – At the same consignment store, I picked up a baby backpack ($20) this year. This backpack, didn’t just come in handy, it was a LIFESAVER. Pumpkin is 11 months old and not walking yet. It freed up my hands to cook, clean, play games and she was happy as a clam (where did that saying come from anyway?) perched up there overseeing all the fun. If you are going to invest in a backpack, make sure it has a “kickstand”. It makes it a ton easier to load and unload I was also able to use the backpack as a high chair for mealtimes because it could stand up by itself.
Another thing that helped with the crawler is bringing the Pack’n'Play. I set it up as soon as we got there and she played in it while I put up the tent. Then I moved it into the tent and it served as her bed for naps and nighttime.
Little Girls Hair – I learned a new trick this year: Spend the first afternoon giving them multi-elastic ponytails. Let me see if I can explain it. It is sort of like french braids but you secure each section of hair with an elastic. I think I remember these kinds of “do’s” being popluar in the early 90′s, but they are also great for camping. It keeps hair out the face, it keeps the hair relatively clean, and it stays in for the entire trip. It was so great to not have to worry about brushing dirty rat nests out of a screaming little princess’ hair every morning.
Playing – This year I brought an old play tent I picked up at Ikea a few years back sort of like this one. In past years, people have brought other play tents and even teepees. They are always a hit with the kids and it also helps keep them out of the family tent (where they usually track in a ton of dirt and pop air mattresses — did I mention we are not the “roughing it” kinds of campers?)
Nature Activities – There are a ton of fun nature activites you can do while camping. I think scavenger hunts are the easiest and most fun. You can find more ideas here.
Eating – For smaller children these hook chairs work great if your camping site has a picnic table.
Sleeping – Small blowup rafts make great beds for small babies. We use the Pack and Play for our older baby (but you’ll need a larger tent). And Princess (age 3) sleeps in a ready bed. This bed is also great for sleepovers.
Tap lights are perfect for camping. They give off a quick and easy not-too-bright light– perfect to change a late night poopy diaper in the tent.
Keeping Children Clean – When you’re camping, I believe kids should be able to get as dirty as the want during the day. But, I do like to give them a good wipe down before they go to bed. You can tear through a ton of baby wipes this way, so pack accordingly.
If you want to give them a bath midway through your trip, pack some of your stuff in a large plastic bin then use it as a bathtub.
Camp Clean Up – The year we left the campsite the cleanesst was the year my mom made Garbage Grabbers. They were simple sock puppets with a story attached to them about loving to eat garbage. On the last day of camp, every kid put on their Garbage Grabber and had great fun finding every little piece of trash to “eat”.
Now please add your own tips and tricks if you have ‘em. I am always looking for more–especially if you are an experienced beach camper. I really want to get into that.