We are off on another camping trip over the long weekend and the preparations and packing have begun! Camping with little ones can seem like a daunting task, but it really can be loads of fun. If you are unsure about packing up your family and driving off into the sunset, why not try camping in your own back garden at first? That way you will realise all the things you would have forgotten, but be able to get them easily (and add them to your list for next time!) and still enjoy the camping experience. For toddlers and older children, you can make tents indoors or out using sheets, blankets, tables, chairs, couches, bunk beds and anything else remotely sturdy! You can enjoy many of the camping activities at home too.
Some tips for camping with babies:
- Try out a campsite close to home initially
- Take along your babies favourite blanket or sleep teddy/toy
- Plan what they will be eating (if they have started solids) and pre-pack, freeze or take convenient jars and snack boxes
- Extra clothing is helpful as they will probably end up getting quite grubby
- Have layers for the nights, which can get very chilly or very hot (remember that they will lose most of their body heat through their heads, so a warm hat/beanie is essential if it’s really cold)
- Take some favourite toys and books
- Find out if the campsite has baths (some only have showers) and take along a big plastic tub for bath time (which can be at the warmest part of the day if it’s really cold at night)
- Decide where your little one will be sleeping and try out the new sleeping place at home the weekend before you go camping if you can
- Remember that it will be a new experience for him, so try to relax and enjoy it, following his lead as nap times, wake up times etc. may be different
Some ideas for camping with toddlers and older children:
- Have a special bag/backpack that he can put his “important stuff” in (e.g. his water bottle, snacks, favourite toy, special teddy/blankie, a storybook, a jacket etc.)
- Get him to help with the packing as far as possible (e.g. helping to carry items to a bag or to the car, choosing some of his clothes, packing snacks, packing some toys and books, baking something special to take along)
- If your groovy adventurer is super keen on independence you can pack ziplock bags with complete outfits in, so that she can pick out a bag in the morning and find everything she needs to get dressed inside
- Make some binoculars before you go (tape 2 toilet roll inners together, tie a piece of string on to go around his neck and decorate with paint or stickers). Pack in a magnifying glass, a container to catch bugs, a compass and a small spade and your explorers kit will be ready to go!
- Make up convenient snack packs in small packets or containers (e.g. nuts, raisins, cheerios, dried fruit, pretzels, biscuits, biltong) so that your busy explorer can simply grab one on the go
- Make a countdown calendar for the week leading up to camping and cross off each day. Be sure to talk about camping to give your curious little one an idea of what it may be like and to give her the opportunity to ask questions
Camping offers a wonderful, sensory-rich learning experience which most children absolutely love. There is something about the clean fresh air, the smell of trees and plants, playing all day in beautiful creation, sleeping in a tent, smelling like braai and eating roasted marshmallows that bring out the kid in all of us! One of my family’s favourite camping traditions is making (and of course eating) s’mores. The art of s’more making is in the perfect roasting of a marshmallow, placing it onto a sweet biscuit while it is still hot and gooey, balancing a block of chocolate on top of the marshmallow and closing your sandwich with another biscuit. Remember to give it a minute to melt the chocolate before devouring it! You can make mini ones with baby marshmallows, tiny or broken biscuits and half a block of chocolate for eager s’more makers who want to eat a lot of them! Try it next time you have a braai or are camping under the stars.