Thursday, February 2, 2017

Camping with little kids

Spring is coming soon and that means camping season is coming soon! Why you can camp now if you like winter/cold camping! In our family, we like to camp in the spring/summer/fall. This blog post has been requested by several friends. How do we do camping with little kids? I will be sharing about our experiences so far, lessons we've learned, and realistic expectations when you're camping with kids under the age of 5 yrs. old.

Camping with little be camping with little kids. If you're not sure what I mean by car camping, well it's where you park your car next to where you have your tent. So...camping with little kids (specifically under the age of 5 years old)..let me say is fun, adventurous, and tiring (gotta keep it real here).

Dave introduced me to camping when we started dating and I was hooked! We love spending our time out in nature! Camping is so great because you're literally out in the woods at probably a national or state park and unplugged (no cell phone or laptop!). All you can do is hangout, eat, hike, build a campfire, make smores (cuz you always have to have smores during camping!), play games, read, etc. All the things you would do if you didn't have a TV, computer, laptop, or a cell phone! You get my point.

So, when we had our first daughter J, we decided to take her on our annual OSG (old small group) camping trip every year in August 2013. J was 1 yrs old when we took to Yosemite National Park Tuolumne Meadows for camping and I was pregnant with my 2nd! Were we nervous taking her camping so far away? YES! Was I crazy to be camping with a 1yr old AND dealing with morning sickness? Double YES!  But in the end, it was a great experience and we learned a lot about camping with a little kid/toddler!

So, since then, we have gone on a total 6 camping trips with our daughters (both under the age of 4 yrs. old currently). 2 of  those camping trips have been by ourselves (just the 4 of us) and the others have been with friends.  So....after 6 camping trips and more to come in the future, there's a lot to share! Let's break it down...

Best things about camping with little toddlers
  1. Everything is an adventure for them! It's so much fun watching them have a blast being out in nature and just exploring!
  2.  Making smores with them. Yes, you gotta watch them cuz there's fire but it's super fun watching them turn the marshmallow with you over the campfire and who doesn't love eating a roasted marshmallow?!
  3. Teaching them how to use flashlights or headlamps at night. Kids love flashlights and it's even more fun when they have their own kid headlamp! 
  4. Eating outdoors for every meal, it's like a picnic all the time! 
  5. Playing outdoors ALL day long. Seriously camping is the best excuse to unplug, get dirty, and just PLAY with your kiddos with no time constraints! 
  6. Eating fun snacks that we normally don't eat at home. Camping is an excuse to eat special fun snacks. 
  7. Dedicated FAMILY TIME!
Lessons we've learned along the way
  1. Be Flexible: We've learned that we have to let go of how we usually do things at home and be flexible with kids in terms of "naps", foods that they eat during camping, bedtime, etc. 
  2. Bring lots of snacks! Seriously, camping is an excuse to eat whatever you want cuz you can hike it off! ;)
  3. Plan easy meals that are kid friendly and easy to make or make ahead of time and just heat it up over the campfire or the camp stove! 
  4. Have a big enough tent so that if the kids want to play in the tent, they can! OR.. bring along a play tent for them!
  5. Sometimes it helps to bring fun simple activities for the kids to do: making necklaces, coloring, find a rock and make a pet rock, go on a scavenger hunt, bubbles, glow sticks (kids love these!)
  6. Even though Dave and I love to just camp with our own 2 kids, we also appreciate and absolutely love camping with our friends (the kids end up playing all together!)
  7. Headlamps for kids!! Dave just found these for the girls this year and it's so much easier than having them hold a flashlight. We got the froggy headlamp for our girls.
  8. Setting up camp (the tent, chairs, putting things away in the food/bear bins, etc.) is hard with toddlers. We've tried giving them activities to do in the car while still strapped in their carseat, we've tried sitting them down in their camp chairs with an activity, we've tried letting them just run around the campsite (which was a crazy idea and drove us nuts but at least they had fun), we still are trying to figure out this part to be honest. 
  9. Hiking - start off small! Sometimes, it's easier to do hiking with other families and friends but we certainly enjoy hiking just as a family too!
Really..what's it going to be like?
Camping with kids is probably one of the best things ever to do as a family (in my humble opinion)! Lots of great memories and conversations happen during camping and I look forward to the camping every year! So with that said, I am going to be honest here. Even though camping is fun and memorable, it is a lot of work and it's tiring all at the same time. Yes, your kids might be a wreck the first night sleeping in the tent, but trust me..the 2nd night is better! Yes, sometimes you end up carrying your 4 year old for most of the hike and that's ok because you're going on an adventure together! Yes, you might get paranoid about whether your child has touched poison oak or wonder how the heck did they get covered in all that dirt! And so my friends..that's the beauty and fun of camping! Stay tuned because there's some exciting news we will be sharing about what's next for our family!

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