My fondest memory growing up was camping with my family. My dad is one of five and when he was a kid, his parents started this fun tradition of camping. If you knew my grandma and grandpa, you would only assume they used camping as an inexpensive way to get the kids OUT OF THE HOUSE!
My grandma and grandpa were best friends with another other couple, The Gressard’s, and they had a brood of children too. Every year The Ansari’s and Gressard’s would head down to San Clemente State Beach and camp for a week. X amount of years later, we’re still doing it. Every year we would all make our way down either by plane, train, or automobile for our week-long family vacation. With over 50 people camping, it was by far the most exciting week of my year. We would cook on small gas stoves, sleep in tents, and play at the beach all day. If you’ve never seen fifty people tent camping, it truly is a sight to see.
It wasn’t until I became a mom that I really respected how bad ass my mom and aunts were for camping with 15+ young kids and toddlers.
Somewhere there’s a photo of me at Cash’s age being bathed in a tin tub. We didn’t do the glamping, we did the down and dirty camping. One of the many things Trav and I have in common is our love for the outdoors. He probably decided to buy the ring when he heard me say I loved tent camping. Over the past year we’ve really invested in building up our camping gear and our core group of friends that also like camping. I hope that we can start the same traditions I grew up with. A few of our friends have unfortunately opted out because they have small kids. Of course I don’t blame them, camping with young kids is hard! But thanks to Pinterest, I have learned some fun and valuable tricks to camping with young kids.
Keep reading to see my favorite camping with young kids hacks!
1. Pre-make as much food as possible.
When we first started camping with Cash, he was in that really picky toddler phase. Since then he will eat just about anything but I still like to make food ahead of time. Its just way easier to prep everything at home where you have all the utensils and ingredients you need instead of at the campsite. Prepping ahead of time also means you don’t need to bring additional knives, seasonings, etc.
This trip I made macaroni and cheese shells from this amazing recipe I found on Pinterest.
The recipe is super simple. I make a whole big batch and add foil and stack them in the ice chest. When we’re ready to eat them, I just throw the foil-covered pans on the fire or grill and let them heat up. One thing I would recommend is spraying the bottom of the pans with a cooking spray. The first time I made these, I lost about half of the macaroni and cheese because it was burnt to the bottom. Whoops!
Another thing I pre-made were breakfast burritos; and I must say that was clutch. Breakfast when camping is always a struggle for me. Mainly because coffee takes SOOOOO long to make. And if I haven’t had my coffee yet, I don’t function well. My friend Rachelle told me that she pre-makes her breakfast burritos and it was a game changer tip. Like the macaroni and cheese, all I did was throw them on the fire until they were warm. I cooked the eggs, bacon, and whatever else I wanted to put in and assembled it all in a tortilla. Also, spray the foil with a little cooking spray. Not completely sure it made a difference but I learned my lesson from the macaroni and cheese last trip. It was an added bonus that they got a little crispy on the outside.
2. Pack for all types of weather.
We unexpectedly got rain, lightening, and very cold weather. The kids loved it though. I brought extra umbrellas and rain boots so they had a blast splashing in the puddles.
3. Give them some chores.
Of course I want my 3 year old to have responsibilities but usually it’s more work in the long run. But when you’re out camping, it’s very hard to make a bigger mess than they began with. And obviously I say this very loving, at home, I try to have Cash help me with chores as much as possible but sometimes it’s just easier to do it myself. Please no mom shaming here. Some examples of chores: throwing out their plates/trash, taking out the big trash bags, sweeping the tent, etc.
4. Embrace the dirt.
Most of our friends will take showers during our trips but I’m not one of those shower-while-camping people. I think communal showers are germier than the dirt outside. Which to each their own, I love a good warm shower. But when I’m camping, I embrace the dirt. I must add: changing your chonies and doing a baby wipe bath is lovely! Same goes for Cash, I don’t worry too much about the dirt because its everywhere! One rule is to take our shoes off in the tent but It’s so fun watching him be a kid and get all dirty. We live in the suburbs where they try to keep dirt out.
5. Keep track of your kids at night.
All my anxiety unexpectedly came when the “lights” went out and it was pitch black. If I blinked, I felt like Cash would be a million miles away in the dark. We originally gave them cheap $1 flashlights from Walmart but found that they dropped them on the ground as soon as they needed two hands. So this trip, I went to the $0.99 Store and got glow sticks to keep on the little ones at all times. It worked like a charm.
6. Sleeping is never a problem.
I get asked this a lot: How does Cash sleep in a tent? And the answer is: he sleeps great!! When you’re camping, you’re up when the sun’s up and the kids are busy all day long. They’re running around, playing baseball, riding bikes, etc. I don’t do any of that and I still get about 4 miles of walking in a day. So by bedtime, Cash has no problem passing out. I’ll lay with him and rub his back till he’s out and then I’ll rejoin the group to hang by the fire.
And most of all: have fun and let your kids be wild. There’s something so magical about being so connected to nature and experiencing it with your kids.