Camping with kids may sound more like hard work than a holiday – but if you enjoy the outdoors, you can successfully introduce your children to it at an early age too. You’ll be surprised at how easily they pick up the ways of the wild, and you might learn a thing or two from their inquisitiveness.
A camping holiday is the perfect way to explore the outdoors and enjoy nature. Yet camping should also be a chance to relax and enjoy yourself, and many new parents shy away from taking their little ones into the wild. You might not be able to hike for days into the wilderness with your toddler, but you don’t have to relegate yourselves to the confines of package holidays either. Kids have a great sense of adventure, and they will quickly adapt to life in the outdoors. By planning ahead and keeping a sense of humour, your whole family can be happy campers.
Pitch a tent in the garden to see how they like it. An overnight stay in the back garden will feel like an adventure for them, and makes a useful practise run for you. A large family tent will give you plenty of space, or if the children are older they will enjoy the independence of their own tent: it means you get a bit more privacy too.
Thinking ahead will save a lot of time and energy. Make sure you have the basics covered, including food, water, toilet paper, soap. Imagine how a day might run, the typical activities you’ll get up to, and what you’ll need.
Find a kid-friendly nature book that explains the wildlife around you, and helps to answer all those “…but WHY?” questions. You’ll learn something as well!
Nature will provide plenty of new diversions, but take along the odd colouring book or game without too many loose parts to provide a quiet alternative.
Keep it green
Explain to your child why it’s important to pick up rubbish and leave no trace on your holiday. It will mean less tidying up for you, and a greener environment!
If your child is old enough to read, show them where you are and where you’re going on the map. You could turn map reading into a treasure hunt; your child will feel more enthusiastic about the trip if they have been involved in decisions.
Take it easy
You won’t be able to walk as fast or do so much with children. Enjoy it! Take your time to enjoy the journey.
What will I need?
Along with the basic necessities like clothes, food and water, you should also consider whether your kids will need sun protection (hats and cream) or waterproof gear. Extreme temperatures of hot or cold are not the best idea for your child’s first camping trip, but if you’re camping in the UK always be prepared with rainy day activities. A disposable camera allows the kids to capture their point of view of the trip, or use a scrapbook to collect shells, feathers and drawings they do of the holiday. A roll mat and extra warm sleeping bag are also essential to make sure the kids sleep warmly through the night. There is a wide range of outdoor companies that specialise in children’s camping wear, so they should be well catered for.
Where should we go?
It’s a good idea to start off with short-haul camping trips. If your first excursion only includes a couple of hours in the car, you can then start building up to longer, more adventurous trips when both you and your kids are used to it. The same applies to hiking; you may want to start with car-camping at first so you don’t have to carry equipment long distances.
You can head out to more isolated campsites as they get older. A good rule of thumb for any walking holidays is a mile a day per year in age – set yourselves achievable goals so you don’t add stress to the day and you have plenty of time to admire the view.
Established campsites have excellent facilities (some even offer to pitch your tent for you!), and they have the added bonus of there being other children to play with. “Camping in an organised site is relaxed because it gives children freedom to do activities in groups or be independent,” says Joyce Calam, a mum who has taken her three children camping from a young age. “The parents have to trust the child. It’s also very sociable and like minds attract; when the kids make friends, the parents make friends with the family too – so everyone has fun!”
If you want to completely get away from it all, camping wild is perhaps the ultimate outdoor experience. You should bear in mind, however, that although you might not mind stumbling into the undergrowth for a midnight call of nature, your children might feel differently. Make sure there are basic facilities of toilets and showers – kids have an affinity to dirt and it will make bath time a lot easier!
You will face many challenges as a parent, but camping doesn’t have to be one of them. “Camping is a brilliant holiday because kids are outdoors all day,” says Joyce. “The family learns to make do with what they’ve got: you just improvise.”
As an affordable, ecological holiday, it really can’t be beaten. Your children will remember carefree days of running around in the outdoors and learning how to live with nature; plus they’ll be so exhausted by all that country air at the end of the day, that you’ll get some peace and quiet to enjoy the stars.
Start your search for a place to pitch your tent with the WideWorld Directory: it’s completely free to use and allows you to search for campsites in every area of the UK – it’ll even tell you how far you are from them.