Camping with your kids is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating. In a world filled with expectations, noise, and instant gratifications, retreating to the woods is the best way to eliminate the chaos and replace it with wonder, curiosity, and literally ZERO expectations in a totally unstructured environment. In those moments of electronic disconnection, kids are free to roam and explore and taste the flavors of nature (just hopefully nothing poisonous). Here are the top 5 kid-friendly camping hacks to make your camping experience with your children go a little bit smoother.
1.) Two Words: Poop Bags
We use them for everything, but they come in particularly handy during camping trips. Not only are they a less, um, potent alternative to campground toilet facilities that your little ones are too traumatized to enter, but they can be used as shoe covers while going in and out of the tent in the rain or mud, for storing wet clothes away from dry clothes, and come in super handy for scavenger hunt bags (to replace the fancy paper ones you meticulously glued scavenger print-outs from Pinterest on and left at home, obviously).
2.) Glow Sticks
Glow sticks by themselves are already magical. Attach the bracelets together to form bigger rings and they make the perfect game pieces for a little sunset ring-toss by the fire. Use them along the edge of the tent or near the door to establish a perimeter once it’s lights out, or attach them to your kids’ shoelaces or your dog’s collar if the sun is starting to set and they’re still among the trees. It’s easy to blend in with the forest when you’re only three feet tall.
3.) Hand-Washing Station
You have no idea how much sap there really is bleeding from the bark of the trees in a 20’ radius until you turn loose a few children in to said radius. They will find it, and they will touch it- all of it. Sap…. it’s everywhere. It’s on all the things. Sap on the hands, hands in the hair, hands in the dirt, dirt in the finger food, finger food on the clothes. Take along a 2-gallon water jug with a spigot, strap a roll of paper towel to the top and you’ll be good to go, lest the bears come and steal your bag of sappy, Dorito-smeared laundry.
4.) Toy Tub
Bring along a small, waterproof, plastic tub with a lid and bust it out when down time seems to be a little too down. Throw in some binoculars, bubbles, adventure journals or whatever else makes your kids happy, just make sure a few of the items are things your child has never seen before, even if you get them from the dollar store. Never underestimate the power of a never-before-seen, well, anything.
5.) Nature Music
If you’re not campfire song-savvy or happened to forget your acoustic guitar back at home, that’s OK! Make music as a family with the sounds and instruments that nature provides. Are you camped near a stream? Are there chipmunks chattering nearby? Is there a woodpecker in the distance? Some pinecones or a pile of sticks or fallen branches with pine needles on them? Get creative! Nature has its own rhythm and its own song, let it guide you as you create your own! Bonus points for the inevitable dance party.