For years camping has been a favourite summertime ritual for many families. But how about camping with small children?
Throw children into the mix, and the dynamics of a camping trip change. It certainly wouldn’t make many people’s travel bucket lists. However, camping can be an inexpensive way to bring families, including small children, together and to help with their love for the outdoors. What can be better than fresh air, wildlife and a night sky full of stars?
- Plan Ahead
Sometimes that spur of the moment camping trip can cause a little anxiety. Travelling with children can get chaotic in itself; take some of the anxiety out by planning ahead. Decide what is essential to have on your trip. Take into account the ages of your children and how they travel. Could you totally rough it for the week? Would a weekend at a seaside campsite be better for your family? Could you deal with sleeping in a tent or do would a caravan be easier? Is a working bathroom with showers a necessity? Plan ahead and pick the area that is best for your family.
- Camp Safety
Before your camping trip, find out where the closest hospitals are. Find out the procedure at the campsite if your child were to twist their ankle in a hole or if they are stung by a wasp or bee. When you first enter the site, you should look for the closest first-aid point (if there is one). Learn what poisonous plants look like prior to your trip, such as poison ivy, so your children know to keep away.
It is always a good idea to bring your own first aid kit with you when you travel. Fill the kit with plasters, bandages, ice packs and antiseptic wipes. Cotton buds are great to have on hand if you get water in your ears, Calpol is a must for that unexpected fever, and Vaseline or another kind of lip protection is necessary. Sun cream and bug spray are two other items that you always want to have when you go camping. And don’t forget the antihistamines! You do not want to fear the worse but definitely plan for it.
- Follow Campsite Rules
Both adults and children need to follow the rules. Your children need to realise that even in the wilderness, there are boundaries and rules to follow. One of the most prominent rules at most campsites is where the rubbish should be thrown away. Furthermore, make sure you pay attention to where your designated camp area is. You wouldn’t want to infringe on others’ privacy.
- Activities for Children
Before children, I personally would bring the bare minimum camping. A cooler, a tent, a pack of cards, and stuff for smores (we never called them that back in the day – it was just good old fashioned toasted marshmallows!) were on the top of my list. Children can become bored very easily, especially the younger ones, so bring activities to keep everyone involved. If you are at a beach, make sure you bring all kinds of buckets, spades and sand toys. Balls, kites, and a plastic cricket set are other good options. If your children cannot swim, be sure to bring their swim jackets and other safety devices. If fishing is allowed, then bring your fishing gear, and make sure to bring binoculars for those family hikes.
Before children, I was fine with just chilling out on a blanket. However, it is not always the easiest thing to rock a young child to sleep on just a blanket. Think about bringing one of those rocking chairs. In general, think in terms of how to make your trip more comfortable for both you and the child.
This means anything from bringing more changes of clothes (always bring spare socks and shoes) to a favourite stuffed toy for bedtime. Sometimes children have a hard time sleeping out of their environment. When traveling with a young infant, I always take a Moses basket; it is a much safer option for the baby to sleep in.
When camping, it is always nice to try new foods. However, bring some of your child’s favourite foods from home. For formula-fed babies, don’t forget to take enough with you. The ready-mad stuff might be easier and more hygienic for you to make up.
Do not forget your video camera and camera (or just rely on your phone – but definitely the charger to use in the car!). Take lots of pictures. Let your children bring their own disposable cameras. Consider getting one of the underwater cameras for candid shots. When you get home, you can work on a scrap book as a family project together.