Australia is such a beautiful country and camping is accessible in some of the most breathtaking of places.
Camping really is a great way to appreciate all Australia has to offer. It’s also a great way to enjoy quality time together and provides the chance for all family members to relax. The fun and memories created during camping often last a lifetime.
Planning in advance helps ensure a pleasant experience for all regardless of age.
When you do anything with children it’s always most successful when you go in with a plan (and be prepared to adapt that plan!), basically as soon as you become a parent spontaneity becomes a thing of distant memory. Whenever you are doing anything involving camping it’s also good to go in with a plan (and again be prepared to adapt the plan). So it makes sense that when camping with kids, you definitely want to be well prepared. Making sure you know where you are going, what equipment you need, what clothes to bring etc will take any-pre holiday stress out of the equation.
2) Choosing a Location
The planning process takes on a new light once a family decides on a specific location.
The items needed for a successful trip when camping with children largely depend on the facilities offered at the designated area, the distance from home, the age of the children and the type of activities that you hope to enjoy.
If you have never camped before, a well-appointed campground located close to an area of interest/ beach/ river might be a great way to start.
This way your family will have access to established bathrooms, shower and laundry facilities in addition to a convenience store where you can purchase last minute essentials.
Other campers may prefer the quiet and tranquillity that only the most rural destinations might provide.
3) Make a Packing List
Without taking the time to create a list, it is very easy to forget necessary items.
Consider everything needed for setting up tents, sleeping arrangements, meal preparation and clean-up. A good way to think about things is breaking your list into areas: Shelter, Sleep, Eat, Personal Hygiene, and Entertainment.
Remember basic first-aid items, personal hygiene necessities, water-repellent sunscreen lotion and perhaps a patch kit for floating devices.
Remember campfire starting tools, maps, torches and spare batteries. Easy things to forget are items like hand sanitiser or baby wipes, bags for trash, dirty laundry or to keep items free from moisture.
If you go camping regularly, keep a box or two with all the items ready and laminate and stick the check list to the top of the box. This makes packing at both ends a breeze.
4) Food Choices
When camping with kids, bring plenty of fresh fruit, raisin boxes, crackers, popcorn and other snacks that the children enjoy. This is handy to have for the whole trip but particularly useful for set up. While adults can wait until a meal completes, youngsters often cannot and the last thing you need is a hangry child while you set up camp.
Take along a combination of foods that are easy to cook and do not require a multitude of kitchen tools, preparation and in particular clean-up effort. Just because you are cooking outside though doesn’t mean you have to compromise on quality or flavour. Pre season foods and seal (or even cryovac them) so you can have delicious flavoursome meals that rival what you have at home. Outdoor cooking equipment is so good and varied that you can everything from a delicately grilled fish, to a full roast dinner.
Don’t forget, while you may plan on feasting on freshly caught fish, have a back-up plan just in case!
5) Appropriate Clothing
When packing clothing in anticipation of camping with children, consider the weather of the intended location. Think about the time of year that you plan on taking the trip.
Is there the possibility of rain or cold temperatures at night? Take along extra clothing changes, thermal underwear, jackets or coats, blankets and other necessary items in preparation of what might happen. The key thing is to bring plenty of layers and always bring a spare!
6) Individual Backpacks
Camping with children encourages youngsters to gain a sense of responsibility. You can encourage this by allowing each child to have their own backpack.
Let them pack and carry their own necessities or personal items. Packs might contain a water bottle, tissues, snacks, sunglasses and a whistle in the event that they become separated or lost.
They might choose to take along a favourite book, a deck of cards or another activity.
Advise children to pack a jacket or other outerwear item for cold nights or unexpected weather changes.
Depending on the age of each child, they can assume responsibility for their pack whether at the campsite or on a hike.
Parents should take inventory of the packs before setting forth on the trip!
7) Flashlights for All
Even very young children get excited at the thought of carrying their own light source.
Whether you plan on going animal sighting or just walking to the bathrooms late at night, a torch will come in handy for everyone.
A personal flashlight also provides a sense of security for the youngster who might be afraid of the dark or who misplaces a valued item.
Headlights are great alternative, or addition to flashlights, perfect for hands free light, particularly for cooking, or for wrestling kids in the dark!
Regardless of the number or age of the children, youngsters often become restless when traveling long distances by vehicle.
Parents around the world often hear the common question “are we there yet?”
This is a normal question asked by children who have little understanding of time or distance – and are bored.
Books, games or other diversions sometimes are not sufficient to keep little ones occupied during the trip.
Older children might be more pacified if able to visualize distances on a map.
If told the trip will take five hours and they are able to tell time, they will have a better concept of the progress made through each leg of the journey.
Stop every few hours and allow children to stretch their legs, use the bathroom, grab a snack or briefly run around.
Planning journey times around sleep times can be a great way to have some quiet driving time (as long as they fall asleep!)
9) Own Space
Of course camping is about spending quality time together; however there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! All sleeping in one room together may be OK for one night however for longer trips you really want kids in a separate room. If they are old enough some kids love having their own small tent to themselves.
The more items of their own that they have the more independence and ownership they can build up as well. Having their own chair, as well as their own bed and sleeping bag that they take care of can be a great way to build responsibility, children love having their own special items and it can be a great benefit of camping.
10) Arriving at the Campsite
Try to plan the arrival time so that you have plenty of daylight to set-up needed supplies. Setting up in the dark isn’t fun when you are without children and when you have children to consider it can add unnecessary stress.
As the trip is camping for kids, get them involved in the set up. They can help with unloading the vehicle, rolling out the tent, putting up the tent and knocking in pegs.
Depending on their age, kids can also put out the chairs, set up the food prep table and all children love gathering fire wood.
Assign chores that do not require a lot of effort or will lead to frustration.
11) Camp Safety
Young children have a magic knack of finding danger when you don’t even think any is around and can trip over whilst seemingly standing still, on a flat surface, with nothing around them! Its stands to reason, that when camping, you need to be aware and make them aware of potential hazards. Younger children especially may run about upon arrival without regards to the many possible dangers that are lurking in the environment.
Caution children about the potential hazards of encountering wildlife whether that be harmful insects, snakes or other creatures.
Likewise, a careless game of tag might result in someone tripping on tent ropes or a number of other objects.
Advise children not to wander off without being accompanied by an adult or older sibling.
If camping next to a body of water, ensure that youngsters wear the appropriate safety gear.
12) Leave the Toy Chest Behind
One of the most common images of modern society is a family sitting around a table, or on the sofa, all engaged on separate electronic devices. We all love them, young and old and they have changed the way we communicate and interact. Take the opportunity when getting away though to minimise the gadgets and wifi and enjoy the chance to re-connect. It’s not just the electronic toys though, discourage children from taking an excessive amount of toys.
Once in the captivating surrounds of nature, kids can build sand castles, stick structures or invent any number of creative play activities, it’s great to get them to really engage their creative brain.
13) A Learning Experience
Camping for kids can become an exciting and memorable time if they have the opportunity to learn something unique.
Little ones may enjoy baiting a fish hook for the first time or catching their first fish.
Older kids often enjoy learning the proper method of starting and maintaining a campfire. They might also be excited about learning to swim or kayak.
Share their anticipation and sense of adventure when going on an exhilarating hike.
Sit around the campfire at night and teach them about the constellations in the night sky.
14) Have Fun
Some times you can get so worked up with planning and making sure everyone else is OK, fed and watered you can actually forget about the part that says, you can have fun too. The more fun you have the more fun your children will have. Laughter is infectious!
Enjoy the moments, take the time to run, jump, swing, swim and act the fool.
Forget the logistics and routines of home and enjoy the stress-free surroundings.
Look for unusual plants or wildlife day and night. Certain destinations may offer tours by park counsellors or rangers.
Plan some activities in advance that might include tossing a ball, going kayaking, playing cards or telling stories by the light of the campfire.
Life can be hard and fast; the morning routine, the bed time routine, weekend sports, juggling work, life, washing and shopping. Now is the time to go slow, do not try to cram a multitude of activities into a single weekend holiday.
Enjoy each moment as it comes.
Do not get discouraged if the three-year-old does not share your love of fishing. Take the time to enjoy each other’s company and relish the wonderment.
Camping for kids and adults can be an enriching experience.