Our Top Things to Bring When Camping with a Young Child
Taking a little one camping offers plenty of chances to make warm, wonderful memories. But you can also find yourself dealing with an angry little human when he or she suddenly misses the creature comforts of home. Here are five sanity-saving things to bring when camping with the under-six-years-old set:
- Skin Protection
There's nothing like irritated skin -- courtesy of sunburn, connect-the-dots mosquito bites, or poison oak or ivy -- to ruin your trip. Bring plenty of sunscreen, insect repellent, and an ample supply of anti-itch cream.
To bring a hand-held video game or not to bring a hand-held video game? That is the common, contrary-to-the-whole-point-of-camping question. Consider bringing it, but keep it hidden and to be used only in a true "emergency." Better to bring kid-friendly guidebooks featuring nature lessons, camp songs, and how-to camping activities. Plenty of relevant books are available, including "The Kids Campfire Book: Official Book of Campfire Fun" by Jane Drake, and "Cooking on a Stick" by Linda White. Also, a game of catch or playtime with a favorite toy may distract from the odd environment while burning off your little one's excess energy.
- A Little Piece of Home
Remember that kids can get homesick very quickly. Be sure to bring a favorite blanket, stuffed toy, bedtime book, or other item that is sure to soothe should their awe at the novelty of camping give way to crankiness.
- Fun Snacks
Camping isn't camping without the requisite junk food like toasted marshmallows and s'mores, but all camp snacks don't have to have sugar as their main ingredient. There are plenty of fun, organic snacks available. Bring along several and have your child "invent" his or her own trail mix.
- A Disposable Camera
Let your little one run loose with the camera while you're all out and about during the day. It's surprising what they see from their eye level. The excitement and ownership they feel will help them feel like they are contributing. When you all get home from your trip, sit down as a family and compare the pictures that everyone took. Their photos may be better than the ones you took with your "adult" camera. Frame their best shot and hang it in their room for a special souvenir.
Bonus: A Loosely Planned Schedule
Although not technically an item to bring, it's certainly a necessity. Bear in mind little feet move slower, little legs get tired more quickly, and what seems to you like a molehill of a hike might well feel like Mt. Everest to your child. You may want to pack in as many memories to their first camping experience as you can, but bonding is the best part of family camping, and what they'll remember most is their time with you. Keep other goals to a minimum.