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Getting back to nature, spending quality time together, and making memories are just some of the benefits of camping with the family. However, taking young kids camping can also be challenging if you’re not fully prepared. This guide will provide parents and foster carers with practical tips to ensure your camping trip with children is relaxing rather than stressful. 

Plan Ahead

Advanced planning is key to a smooth camping vacation with children. Decide on your destination and reserve your campsite well in advance. Foster carers can consider using some of the foster carer allowances to cover the costs of camping site fees and equipment. Next, consider amenities like toilets, child-friendly activities, and proximity to nature. Pack wisely – make a checklist of essentials like a first-aid kit, torches, insect repellent, sunscreen, and always overestimate the amount of clothes, food, and water you’ll need. Involve older kids in the planning process so they feel invested in the trip.

Set Realistic Expectations

Don’t expect young children to immediately love the great outdoors. Adjust your mindset and timeline to suit their needs. Make the first camping trip just an overnighter close to home. Focus on fun in short bursts rather than rigid schedules. Be ready for kids to get dirty, tired, and need more reassurance in an unfamiliar environment. With realistic expectations, the whole family will enjoy the experience.

Keep Kids Occupied

Prevent boredom and tears by keeping children engaged. Bring familiar toys and games, pack craft supplies like paper and crayons. Have a stash of simple scavenger hunts ready and take short, child-paced hikes. Get them involved in camp chores like meal prep, washing dishes, and tidying tents. At night, tell stories around the campfire or teach them about constellations. Downtime can be used for reading books together in a tent. Embrace their sense of wonder about nature.

Promote Safety

Take extra safety precautions when camping with kids. Supervise them at all times, especially young children near fires, lakes, rivers, or trails. Ensure they wear covered shoes at campsites and life jackets near water. Explain dangers like sharp tools, ticks, and unknown plants/berries. Encourage communication by teaching kids what to do if they get lost or separated from the group. 

Make Mealtimes Fun

It’s easy for meal planning to get overlooked when camping with children. However, fun camp food will make the trip. Make the most of campfire cooking – let kids help with roasting marshmallows or hotdogs on sticks. Supplement with healthy pre-prepped snacks and sandwiches. Have juice boxes and water bottles on hand to stay hydrated. Consider each child’s needs – avoid messy or complicated meals for younger kids. Make washing the dishes a team effort. Food is a great opportunity for family bonding.

Embrace Flexibility

Camping with children is unpredictable – expect the unexpected! Adapt your schedule to work around cranky kids, bad weather, or other surprises. Have a few back-up activities ready so kids stay occupied. Be prepared to cut activities short or end the day early if needed. Build in relaxation time as a family – just sit together doing nothing in nature. Go with the flow – the less rigid your plans, the more enjoyable the experience will be for all. Foster carers can use their judgement to adapt activities to suit each child’s needs.

Create Lasting Memories

Most importantly, keep the focus on quality time together, not just the activities. Camping with kids is about disconnecting from devices, connecting as a family, and building lifelong memories. Give older kids independence to explore within set limits. Share stories around the campfire at night. Take plenty of pictures to look back on. Enjoy inside jokes that come from your adventures. Bond through the mishaps and challenges faced together. With the right mindset, camping with your little ones will become a treasured family tradition.