Arrive, Assess & Give Your Kids A Job
After choosing a primo camping spot, setting up camp properly is the most important way to ensure your family has ALL THE FUN. Consider shade (especially if your kids still nap) and the distance from the road, water sources, and bathrooms when deciding where to place your tent. Involve your kids in the process (we brought our son’s play tools so he could “help”) or have an engaging activity planned ahead of time. I picked up some inexpensive Melissa & Doug “Water Wow” coloring books that bought us tons of runway.
Build a Play Area. (Or Don’t.)
You may have visions of your children being completely entertained by the great outdoors, and I love that. I really do. Buuuut, when they inevitably get bored of admiring tall trees and chasing squirrels, you’ll be pretty stoked you brought some stuff for them to play with. Durable, easy-to-clean toys are best, like wooden blocks and plastic trucks, as well as theme-appropriate books like our new favorite about Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, “The Camping Trip that Changed America.”
Welcome to Your New Outdoor Kitchen
There’s no farmhouse sink or reclaimed wood shelving, but the ceilings are awfully high! Welcome to cooking outside, and if you set it up properly, it’s actually pretty awesome. Lay down a durable tablecloth (duct taped or clamped to the table) and stock your “kitchen” with one plastic bin for clean cooking utensils, another for dirty utensils that acts as a “sink,” a giant tub of wipes, and your camp first aid kit. Though our site had a dedicated fire ring and it was technically possible to cook every meal over the campfire, I appreciated our camp stove for heating up water FAST for my morning coffee. Throw a canopy over the whole thing and it’s chow time.
Establish Your Camp Rules
Look, I’m not going to tell you how to run your camp, but unless you relish dirt on your pillow or toddlers with poison oak, you should lay down some basic rules (like no shoes in the tent and hands off dangerous items like swiss army knives and camp stoves) and establish a safe perimeter around your site for adventuring.
A Few More Things…
- Remember that rope I told you to bring? Untie your kid and hang up a clothesline. You’re totally going to need it.
- Stash headlamps, lip balm, and a reusable bottle of water in those handy side pockets of your tent. (And keep a brick of wipes in the front pocket for wiping down hands and feet before entering the tent.)
- Depending on, ahem, bear activity near your site, there may be strict rules about locking up food. Don’t blow this one.
- Seating around the campfire is EVERYTHING. We roasted marshmallows, read bedtime stories, and tended to prefer eating there as the picnic table was too big for my kids to sit at comfortably.
Tomorrow is Part III (and my favorite part of our Camping Primer): Family-Friendly Camp Cooking! We’re talking classics like Frito Pie and Smores, as well as fancy pants fare like foil-packet salmon. Oh, and I made cinnamon rolls IN AN ORANGE. I’m totally a real pioneer woman now.