Camping is a very popular summertime activity! And for good reason! There is something so tranquil about enjoying some time away from the hustle and bustle of the real world, breathing the fresh air, and relaxing in nature. If you have young kids, however, camping can fill you with anxiety and stress--the opposite of why you're on vacation in the first place. But avoiding camping just because you're stressed about how to do so with young kids would be a mistake! By following some simple tips and safety guidelines, camping can provide kids with an excellent opportunity to learn and explore while you enjoy some peaceful and fun family time this summer!
Camping with Kids Safety Guide
1. Set boundaries:
Some kids think boundaries prevent them from having fun. But boundaries are essential when camping with kids. Once you set up your campsite, discuss as a family what you think a safe boundary would be. Discussing the boundary together can help kids feel involved instead of "bossed around," which makes it much more likely that they will stay inside the boundary.
One way to create a boundary is using your camp gear as a guideline. For example, no going past the back edge of the tents on the north end of you campsite or past the fire pit on the opposite end.
2. Assign someone to watch small kids:
Young kids don't quite understand how to follow rules and stay within boundaries. That's why it's so important to make sure someone is watching your kids at all times. If camping with extended family, remind the other adults that if they have your children, they need to let you know. Be very clear when asking someone to keep an eye on your kids if you need to cook or use the bathroom so that they know they are responsible while you are gone.
3. Use sunscreen and hydrate often:
On hot summer afternoons, kids can get sunburns and overheat quickly. Make sure to keep your kiddos hydrated, reapply sunscreen often, and stay in shade to help avoid heat-related injuries such as heat stroke, dehydration, and sunburns. (When hydrating, remember to only drink purified water. Water found in lakes and rivers may look clean, but can actually contain plenty of harmful bacteria. Make sure your kids are not drinking any water that is not provided by you.)
4. Store food properly:
Most people know that storing food properly is important to prevent unwanted visitors into your campsite (stay away, skunks and bears!). But as moms, we sometimes forget that we have snacks hidden away in our diaper bags and purses. Make sure to keep all food out of tents, don't let your kids eat inside of the tents, and store the food properly when you're not eating. Not sure how to safely store food when camping? Read up on that here!
5. Be cautious if you're near water:
Water poses some serious dangers to kids and adults alike--even to those that can swim. If you are camping near a river or stream, be extra cautious. Rivers can have dangerous currents that can not only pull people downstream quickly, but may even pull them under. So if you're planning to swim in the nearby water, make sure to read up ahead of time and make sure it's safe to swim in. Pack proper lifejackets for each person (yes, that includes all adults too) and do not let children get anywhere near the water without an adult.
6. Always wear shoes:
Shoes were created for a reason. They protect our feet from a plethora of injuries and illnesses. In nature, it's especially important to make sure every person is wearing good, sturdy shoes at all times. Nobody wants to deal with massive splinters or cuts on their feet!
7. Avoid strange plants:
One of the best things about camping is enjoying all the greenery. However, there are plenty of poisonous plants that could be lurking near your campsite. Make sure to read up on dangerous plants in your area ahead of time so you know what to watch out for, and don't let your young kids go picking plants and berries that they may put in their mouths.
Be cautious, but remember that exploration when camping is a great opportunity for learning together. So pack that book about plants, go on a nearby hiking trail together, and help your kids identify what they see near your campsite!
8. Don't feed or touch wild animals:
My son absolutely loves all animals and takes any opportunity to chase them down. Although it can be fun to see animals while camping, do not feed, touch or go near them. Animals can carry deadly diseases, and feeding them can be harmful for them!
9. Keep a first aid kit handy at all times:
My kids tend to be pretty clumsy. Being in nature, you will most likely be without phone service and may be far from a hospital or urgent care. That's why packing a first aid kit with everything you could need is important. You never know what could be happen.
One of my favorite first aid kits was created by My Medic and pediatric nurse, Shannon Trip. Everything is beautifully organized with QR codes on the back of each item. Simply scan the code to pull up a video demonstrating the items in the bag and how to use them! This is a lifesaver for moms! If you don't have service (which many of us don't while camping) you can also download her videos to your phone.
10. Check for ticks:
Different species of ticks can be found all throughout the US. They can burrow into your skin without you realizing and cause illnesses like Lyme disease. That is why it's important to check for ticks. Be sure to check elbows, armpits, knees, between the legs, near the ears or belly button, and the hair. Wearing long pants instead of shorts can help prevent ticks, especially if you'll be hiking through long, tall plants.
11. Never go exploring alone:
Some of the most tragic stories are from individuals going missing when camping or hiking. Many of these stories happen when they were alone. That's why it's so important to stick together. Never let your children explore without an adult, and never go off of hiking trails or paths.
12. Provide each person with a whistle:
Preparing for the worst case scenario is important. One way to provide an extra level of safety is to give everyone a whistle. That way, if your other levels of safety fail and someone gets lost, they can sound their whistle, making it easier for the rest of the group to find them.
13. Observe campfire safety:
Fires are dangerous, but it wouldn't be camping without a good old campfire! As long as you're following guidelines on how to keep people safe around the fire as well as how to properly build and extinguish one, you will be good to go! If you're bringing small kids along, be extra cautious and watch them closely when you have a fire going. Review safe fire guidelines here!
14. Talk with your children about the safety rules ahead of time:
Explain that camping can be fun, but not following the rules can cause people to get severely hurt. Discuss the safety rules often, and remind them to follow them throughout your camping trip.
Tips for Ensuring an Enjoyable Camping Trip with Young Kids:
Check out the campground ahead of time. Some campgrounds can be a lot "rougher" than others. This can make camping a lot more difficult. If you're taking your young kids, it may be beneficial to reserve a campsite that is near parking and is not too difficult to hike up to.
Double check weather before you leave. Camping can be miserable if you're doing so in pouring rain and freezing temperatures. Although temperatures can change and forecasts are not always accurate, they can still give you a nice prediction on how things will be. Be sure to double check the forecast a day or two before you're planning to leave. If the weather is looking rough, it might be beneficial to change your plans.
Bring an infant camp chair! Babies and toddlers LOVE to wander! When camping, this can be extra dangerous. They're still learning about safety and don't quite understand that the fire and water could harm them. Packing an infant camp chair that allows you to strap them in and keep them safe while you're busy setting up the tent, building the fire, or prepping dinner can keep your worries at bay while also keeping your little one safe! My absolute favorite infant camp chair is the Veer Switchback with the &Chill Camp Chair Legs! Camp chairs also make mealtime a lot more manageable.
Bring a good infant playard. There are hundreds of different playards on the market. However, in my experience, your trip can quickly be ruined if your baby doesn't sleep. Invest in a good playard that your baby can sleep and nap in. Some playards have attached diaper caddies as well, giving you a safe and clean place to change your baby! Playards are also a great way to keep your little one contained if you don't have an infant camp chair.
Pack extra sleepers, sleep sacks, and hats for babies and extra blankets for older kiddos. Everyone loves to be comfortable. But even in the summertime, evenings can get cold. Young children are unable to properly regulate temperature, so making sure they're warm at night when temperatures drop is vital for their safety. Pack extra warm jammies and extra blankets for yourself and your older kiddos as well.
Pack fans and bring sun shades for hot afternoons. Just like babies struggle to stay warm on cold nights, they can also struggle to stay cool on hot afternoons. Pack fans to keep them cool and try to stay in the shade.
Bring your outdoor stroller/wagon. This can be a good way to go explore some nice and easy trails while also giving you a place to store and haul gear you may need. It is also another great way to keep young kids contained when you're busy. Just make sure to always use the breaks. Not sure if your stroller/wagon can handle rough terrains? Be sure to check out our Veer collection for products that can handle all your outdoor adventures.
Don't forget bug spray and bug nets. Keeping bugs away from your kiddos can difficult! Pack some child-safe bug spray, and be sure to pack your bug nets for your stroller and tents. If you don't like using traditional bug spray, try these tips on how to keep bugs away!
Pack extra baby supplies! You don't want to run out of baby wipes, diapers, bottles, or even pacifiers! Pack extras and keep them in your car just in case. And make sure to bring your kids favorite snacks too! (Just remember to store everything safely!)
- Bring games and activities! Although there's plenty of fun things to do in nature, packing a few small things to keep your kiddos entertained can keep them from complaining. And there's just something extra fun about playing a game in a tent! Even something as simple as Uno!
Camping is truly one of the best ways to teach kids about the beauty of the world around them. It offers them an opportunity to see a sky full of stars and incredible creatures they wouldn't see in the suburbs. By being educated and prepared, you can ensure your whole family can stay safe and comfortable, leaving you with memories you can reminisce on and laugh about for a lifetime.