Some of my favorite childhood memories take place in a campground. If asked what I loved most about it as a kid, I’d excitedly exclaim, ALL OF IT! If you don’t think you can go camping with kids, I disagree!
Camping seems to be a polarizing activity. Either you love it or you cannot imagine how a person could. I clearly fall in the former category.
Our family’s style of camping has evolved over the years. For the longest time, it was a 4-person tent just big enough to fit a queen air mattress. We squeezed a baby + our 75 lb dog into that small tent before upgrading to a 10-person when our second baby came along. Then last fall, we traded in our large tent for a camper (specifically a 32’ travel trailer).
Our family consists of two little boys (ages: 2 + 4), a dog, a cat, the husband, and me. (while we’ve never taken the cat camping, he’s making his inaugural trip this summer).
I am 100% that girl. The one convincing the used-to-but-now-kids or the never-been-a-camper they must go! So, let’s get started.
Give them a job
When it comes to setting up a campsite, things can get a little hectic. I recommend giving the kids a job. They’ll be excited to contribute and stay busy, at least for a little while. Collecting sticks for the fire is a classic kid job. A few other ideas include setting up the chairs, assembling the tent poles, and looking for bugs. Once camp is set up, let the kids cook or assemble their own dinner. Our make-your-own favorites are deli sandwiches, quesadillas, burritos, and s’mores.
Fresh air is good for the soul
There are many studies that can tell you being in nature will boost your mood, help you relax, fill you up with vitamin D (assuming the sun is shining), and get a better night’s sleep. I can attest to all of this being true. But more than that, it’s so good for the kids. We’re at the stage where our kids need to be in my line of sight. I’ve been guilty of “needing” to make dinner, do the laundry, pick up the house, so instead of letting the littles play outside, I turn on the TV. When camping, we do all the things outside. The household chores are down the road or far away, and can definitely wait. Life is simpler when you’re camping.
Food tastes better outside
This is purely opinion-based, but hear me out. It could be the ease of preparing a meal (because a sandwich will suffice or you can prepare in advance), cooking outside in nature, the absence of a kitchen to clean up after, or a combination of all of it. The food just tastes better!
I often cut up fruit and veggies before camping. I throw sliced bell peppers, onions, and an occasional zucchini into a ziploc bag with a bit of olive oil and taco seasoning. When we’re ready to make dinner, it’s as easy as cooking the veggies and assembling the tacos. For breakfast, the littles only require yogurt and fresh fruit. Sometimes dad gets fancy and makes chocolate chip pancakes.
Making new friends
I surveyed the crowd (read: my 4-year-old) and this had to be on the list. When we arrive at a campground, the littles scope out what sites near ours also have kids. It then becomes a mission to make friends. They have a pretty high success rate. From playing at the playground to painting, kicking a soccer ball around, and everything in between. I love watching them be social and have a ball.
A break from routine
I find it hard to fully relax when I’m home. There is always another load of laundry to be folded or put away, dishes to be done, a grocery list to write, a surface to clean, a space to organize, a lawn to mow. If I’m home and “doing nothing,” I always feel a tinge of guilt. But while camping, I can allow myself to completely relax. I’m just far enough away from “daily life” that I couldn’t fold the laundry even if I wanted to. (*I’ve never wanted to). There is just something about an evening spent sitting outside by a fire, gazing up at the countless stars, surrounded by nature and stillness that is relaxation for me.
Best Campground Near Des Moines
If you’re ready to head out to the wilderness right now, Jester Park near Polk City, Iowa, overlooking Saylorville Lake is one of our favorite spots to go camping with kids. There are plenty of play areas for the kids, a ton of hiking trails, animals to see, and it’s close enough to town (just in case). HAPPY CAMPING!
Does your family go camping?
Chelsea is a wife and momma of two young boys. She spends her days as a marketing manager of a startup company and moonlights as a lifestyle blogger. Over on her blog, Little Lessons by Chelsea and instagram you’ll get a look into her everyday life, what makes their world go ’round, and the tips and tricks she devised to make it easier and more enjoyable. This is where she shares her little lessons on life and its everyday celebrations. Because needing a reason to celebrate is nonsense – just make one up!