must haves for camping with kids

Camping with Kids 101: 25 Tips & Must Haves

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Have you ever tried camping with kids? It’s a heck of a lot more work than camping with adults. You need to pack and provide more food, clothes, and entertainment. Keeping them busy can be a lot harder. But, don’t worry. We have a huge list of must haves and tips for camping with kids. 

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Camping with Kids Must Haves:

1. Games/Activities

There are so many amazing games and activities to keep kids busy. If your children are anything like mine, she’s always “bored”. So it’s important to have lots of stuff to entertain kids, for your own sanity’s sake! 

Here’s a list of kids camping activities:

  • Cornhole (bean bag toss)
  • Horseshoes
  • Bug catching kit – this is so cool! Where better to catch bugs than camping? 
  • Scavenger hunt – this will keep the kids busy for a while, trying to find everything on the list
  • Frisbee
  • Slackline (tight rope) – have you seen these? They are super fun! 
  • Journal – your kids can draw about their camping experience

If you’re going to be in the car for a while on the way to your camping destination, be sure to grab these Kids Activity Pages for Long Car Rides! They are a lifesaver for bored kids!

2. Toys

Toys are a must, anywhere!  And camping is no exception. There are so many fun toys out there that are perfect for camping. Now, there are plenty that would not be ideal for camping, like stuffed animals, dolls, anything white, etc. But we’ve compiled a list of super great toys that are great to take camping. 

Here’s a list of kids camping toys:

  • Walkie talkies
  • Kids binoculars – because adult binoculars can be really pricey!
  • Bubbles
  • Squirt guns
  • Bucket and shovel

3. Pack ‘N’ Play

This is such a genius hack! Taking a pack n play is great for so many things. No one wants to carry a baby around, so for kids under two, you can stick them in there with some toys while you get things done around the campsite! Another hack is to get a crib or twin bed fitted sheet and put it over the pack n play, and it will keep any bugs out, and provide shade if you’re in the sun! Is that not the coolest?!

You can also use the pack n play to keep things out of reach for younger children. Possibly some things you don’t want them getting into, like tools, fire starting things, or marshmallows – so that they don’t eat the whole bag before you even get a chance to roast them! 

4. Whistle

This one can be great or it can be obnoxious, depending on the children using it. If your children wander off, or they fall and get hurt, or they encounter anything they don’t know how to handle, they can blow the whistle so you can find them quickly. 

If your kids are too young, this might not work because they’re just going to want to blow it because it’s fun. But for kids that are a little older and can understand what it’s for, it’s a perfect safety addition. 

5. Lantern

This one is important, because the last thing you want is for your kids to be scared of the tent. A night light or a lantern is a perfect way to help them feel a little less anxious. We have a dim one that we can leave on all night. There are also ones with a shut off timer, or you can wait until your children fall asleep and then turn it off. 

This is the night light we have. It’s actually for my daughter’s room, but it can also be battery powered so you can take it wherever you go. This is great for traveling too! 

This little lantern is also really popular for camping! 

6. A Good First Aid Kit

Everyone should take a first aid kit camping, but it’s even more important when you’re bringing kids. Adults usually shrug off a little cut or a bug bite. Well, kids do not. And a band aid goes a long way in easing their mind. 

Most kits come with all of the basics, but there a few other things you might want to add to your kit:

  • Bug bite relief
  • Benadryl, both medicine and cream
  • Children’s tylenol/ibuprofen
  • Melatonin
  • Hand warmers
  • Pepto chewables
  • Superglue 
  • Burn spray

7. Bug Repellent

There are so many different types of bug repellents out there. Sometimes it can be good to get a few different kinds. Because getting eaten alive while trying to enjoy your camping trip is horrible. 

There are sprays, lotions, bracelets, candles, essential oils, and there’s also a kind of spray that is just for clothing, tents, blankets, etc. that you can use in addition to your other choices to get a more effective repellent. 

8. Fold Up Table(s)

I will never go camping without a folding table again. If you don’t have a table, you do everything on your lap. And odds are you have those cheap, flimsy paper plates, so it just keeps folding and shifting around while you’re trying to apply your peanut butter and jelly to your bread that already fell onto the ground because you couldn’t catch your plate in time from falling off your lap. 

Tables are great! Even if your site already has a picnic table, it’s still worth it to bring another fold up table just to put stuff on so it’s out of your way. 

9. Flashlights & Glow Sticks

You can get really great flashlights at Walmart for a dollar! Kids will love a flashlight to play with. But even better than that is glow sticks. Your kids are going to love them, and you’ll feel better always being able to see your kids when it’s dark out. 

10. Spray Sunscreen & a Sunhat

When you need to put on sunscreen every 7 minutes, spray sunscreen can be so much more convenient. You can put sunscreen lotion on the first time, and then touch it up with the spray after that. 

Also, a sunhat can be so helpful. My daughter’s part line in her hair burns so easily. And it’s not fun putting sunscreen in her hair. So having her wear a sunhat helps prevent burning on the top of the head as well as the face, ears and neck. You can even spray the top of their hat with bug repellent as an extra way to keep the bugs away! 

11. Swiss Army Knife

If you could bring no other tools, bring a swiss army knife! It’s so compact that you can just keep it in your pocket, and it seriously comes in handy. My husband has a leatherman, it’s a little more pricey but it does so much. He carries it everyday, camping or not, and he uses it everyday! So worth the money. 

12. Kids Potty

We take my daughter’s potty training toilet everywhere, even though she’s 5 now. If you’re camping somewhere that doesn’t have any good restroom options, a kids potty will make life so much easier. You don’t want your kids peeing all down their leg trying to squat, and you don’t want your kids falling on their bare butts trying to help themselves up while they poop. 

We also take her potty on any road trips. Because “can you hold it? The next gas station is 54 miles away…” never ends well! With the toilet, we just pull over, she goes, and we get right back on the road, no accidents! 

13. Baby Wipes – So. Many. Baby Wipes

Baby wipes are a must. I don’t think I will stop buying baby wipes until my kids are at least 15. Not really, but seriously I find myself using them constantly. And camping is a prime example of when you will want plenty of baby wipes.

If you’re looking to save some money, or be more eco-friendly, check out these DIY baby wipes so you can make your own! 

14. Bumbo or Camping High Chair (if you have a little one)

Bumbos are so wonderful. No mother should go without! They can be handy for camping with a baby as well. But they are low to the ground, so another great option is a camping high chair! It’s like a fold up chair but designed for little ones! Bumbos are definitely cheaper. So if you can find a way to safely elevate it, that might be a good option as well. 

15. A Litter Box

Hear me out! I know it’s weird. But a litter box is a really cheap, and great way to clean things, such as your hands or feet. Your kids’ feet are going to be so dirty. You can also use it to wash dishes, or to fill with water to put the fire out quickly, and so many other things. 

Some people use small plastic bins, or buckets or something else for this. But litter boxes are the perfect size, and they’re so cheap. They’re about $3 at Walmart! 

16. Mini Broom

If you have the room to bring a full size broom, or if your tent is really big, that’s definitely the easier option. But a handheld is a lot easier to pack. You can take off your shoes every time you get in the tent, and somehow there’s still a hefty bag worth of dirt and pine needles in the bottom of your tent. 

17. Rain Boots

Rain boots are great for any time of year! And especially for camping. They’re tall so things don’t fall into their shoes as easily. And they are the easiest shoes on the planet to clean. Everything just wipes right off. 

Everyone needs rain boots!!! You can get cheap ones at Walmart that are great! 

Tips for Camping with Kids

1. Don’t Let Your Kids Know What You Have

If you don’t show the kids everything you have, you can bring a new activity out every few hours or days so they stay entertained. If you bring everything out all at once, they will play with each thing for 5 minutes and then be bored. 

Make a plan ahead of time for when you want them to play each game or activity so you know that you can distribute everything evenly throughout the duration of your camping trip. 

2. Pack Clothes You Don’t Care About

If you have any clothes, or shoes, or blankets that you don’t care much about, those are the ones to pack! These can become your designated camping clothes and bedding, so you’re not trashing all your nice things. Another tip is to take your camping stuff to a laundromat to wash them. The washers are really big so you can even throw your sleeping bag or pillows in there if you want to! 

3. Buy Dishes At A Thrift Store

You can get dishes, silverware, and just about anything at a thrift store for really cheap! If you camp often, it might be nice to just get a few pots, silverware, plastic plates, etc. to keep set aside just for camping. 

A few really important things to bring are:

  • can opener
  • hotdog sticks
  • knife
  • scissors
  • cups or water bottles

Here’s a list of some great camping food ideas!

4. For More Comfortable Sleeping:

There are a few ways to make sleeping a little bit more comfortable. The first being an air mattress. Air mattresses are great, as long as you have a pump! You can also buy a thick foam pad from somewhere like home depot, and just use some string to roll it up and store it. 

For kids, you can use a crib/mini crib mattress. And for babies you can even use a changing table pad. They’re thick, and they curve up on the sides a little bit, so your baby can’t roll off. This is what we used with my daughter when she was about 6 months old and it was perfect! It fit right next to my husband and I’s air mattress. 

If you bring an air mattress, don’t forget a patch kit! They are not the most durable, and patch kits are cheap!

5. An Extra Tent

If you happen to have an extra tent, it can be really nice to bring it, especially for longer camping trips. It can be a great place for kids to play in, or to keep all your supplies in at night. The kids will think it’s so fun! And it provides a nice shady spot, if you’re not in an area with a lot of shade. You could get an extra tent at a thrift store, or a garage sale, it doesn’t have to be perfect. 

6. Set A Parameter

Kids need direct instruction. It’s not enough to say “stay within my site” because they could be on top of a mountain and still be able to technically see you. You’re just the size of an ant.

It might be helpful to set up a parameter or something to tell them exactly where or where not to go. You can put some small wood stakes in the ground, or wrap some twine around, or even some spray paint. You can use anything really! 

7. Use Plastic Tubs

This is the best camping hack ever. Store all your camping things in tubs. One full of kitchen stuff, one with dry food, one with bedding, one with activities, etc. This is so great because next time you go camping, just load up the tubs! No need to pack and unpack everything. 

I will never not use tubs again. 

8. The More Kids the Better

Okay, this sounds crazy. But seriously, kids entertain each other. Taking one kid is way harder than taking three. They can play together, build together, imagine together. If you take one then all you’re going to hear is “I’m bored” every 2 minutes. They aren’t going to want to do anything by themselves, because that’s no fun. 

What do you think of our list? Is there anything else you would take camping with kids? Is there anything on here you wouldn’t want to take? We love to hear from our readers, leave a comment down below!

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