Camping with Kids

Last weekend we went on a family camping trip!
The benefits of camping are endless. You are out in nature, away from technology, hearing the birds and the crickets, seeing amazing stars, chatting late at night over a campfire. . . I could go on and on. Children also need that time away from their normal routine. Camping is a great way for kids to de-stress, explore, and learn new things.

We traveled to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (in the great state of Texas!) for our camp out. We lucked out and had the coolest campsite; it butted up to some amazing boulders that the kids loved to climb. My younger brother came with us, and he took our older kids hiking all over the rock formations. If you can drive to Enchanted Rock, go for it. We made some great memories. Plus, you can hike up a huge granite boulder and get a fantastic view of the Texas Hill Country. Kids (and pregnant mommas) can climb the trail too! Can you tell I'm kinda proud that I hiked that thing at 5 months pregnant?  (=

Below you'll find my tips for surviving a camp out with kids:

We took three kids ages 4 and under, and everything went swell. I hope these tips help you too!

1. Forget about the dirt. This is one of the benefits to camping! At home, I cringe when the kids get super dirty outside. I know all the muck will get tracked into my carpet. But when you're camping, dirt is part of the experience. Let your little ones play in the dirt and muddy their clothes. They'll love it, and a tent can handle the mess. For example, our 18 month old played in a pile of dirt and rocks while we set up the tent, and she loved running all the pebbles through her fingers. It kept her occupied while we setup the campsite too.

2. Take clothes that can get dirty. Pack the clothes that already have some stains. Don't pack pretty clothes in order to get pretty camping pictures. Also, know your weather. Being cold or hot makes camping less fun, so pack the right clothes. Sleeping outdoors is usually colder, so bring warm pajamas and jackets for the kids. Everything will come home smelling like a campfire, so make sure it's washable. 

3. Plan for quick meals with little prep work and cleanup. It's just easier! After you decide on a main course, incorporate the fruits and veggies your kids normally eat. Full bellies make for happy kids, and easy meals make for calm parents. Kids don't expect a grandiose cooking presentation, so keep it simple. Dragging pots and pans to a cleaning station is also a pain, so minimize the dishes by using disposables and pre-packaged foods. (Not eco-friendly or the healthiest, I know, but you can be eco-friendly when you don't have to keep your toddler from falling into a campfire.) The bowls and utensils we used to make breakfast were wrapped in a bag and brought home with us. I stuck them in the dishwasher once we got home. Easy peasy. All the other meals had throw away packaging.

4. Take lots of wet wipes. Even for older kids. They help get melted marshmallow out of hair, clean sticky faces, and offer kids a quickie wipe shower before bedtime.

5. Pack water and snacks. Avoid the "hangry" feeling on hikes and walks. Healthy snacks like apples, granola bars, and dried fruit are easy to tote around. Squeezable yogurts are easy to store in a cooler too! Pack plenty of water, and make sure your kids are drinking. (Again, remember to take wet wipes on your hikes.)

6. Take comfortable bedding. Everyone will sleep better with their own pillows and blankets. Sleeping bags are exciting too - our kids were begging to go to bed simply because they wanted to crawl into their sleeping bags. But if you have room in your car, take their stuff from home. Stuffed animals and baby dolls are washable, so are pillows, quilts, and comforters.

7. Put away your electronics. Make your kids leave their devices at home (or in the car.) Camping is a great time to disconnect. Plus, you probably won't have cell phone service anyways, so enjoy that freedom away from technology!

8. Finally, relax. My dear parents, you work really hard to take care of your kids! So let them chase a butterfly around for 10 minutes while you just sit there. Don't feel like you have to plan every second of the camping trip or entertain your kids constantly. Camping should be a renewal for you too. Take a walk with your kids and look at flowers. Listen for birds. Watch the clouds. Let them go hunt for bugs or gather sticks for fire kindling. Don't rush or stress, just enjoy the moment with your family.

That's pretty much it!

My survival tips simply cover the basics. If everyone is fed, watered, and dirty, your camping trip will be a success. Based on your family's needs and ages, you can take card games, adventure packs, Frisbees, nighttime toys like flashlights or glow sticks, or swim suits. Older kids might enjoy cooking over a fire. Make some S'mores and enjoy those marshmallow smiles! Once you get home, be prepared for all the mountains of laundry. All their bedding, sleeping bags, hats, and clothes will need to get washed. Smoke only smells good when you're camping, but once you get home it loses the magic. I think we ran 6 loads of laundry after this camping trip!

If you want to try some Pinterest-y ideas, here is one thing we "invented."

We tried to make a pizza oven! Johnny had joked about picking up a pizza on the way to the campsite for dinner, so I bought some mini ones at the store. He laughed when he opened the cooler and saw them! I told him we could figure out how to grill them. Packed in the cooler, they thawed by time we drove out to Enchanted Rock and were ready for dinner. We stacked firewood on the sides and back of the grill racks to hold the griddle in place. My husband wished we had brought some aluminum foil to make the oven a bit more heat tight, but the mini pizzas were still yummy! We learned that the trick was to cook them for a few minutes on top of the griddle, and then put them into the oven for a few minutes. Followed by another round on top of the griddle, and then the final toasting inside the oven. Campfire grilled pizza!

If anyone is curious what else we ate on this trip:
Dinner was pizza, hot dogs, and fruit
Breakfast was pancakes (the easy "add water" kind), eggs, bacon, orange juice, milk, and fruit
Lunch was peanut butter sandwiches, bell peppers, squeezable yogurt, chips, and fruit
Snacks were granola bars, cookies, crackers, cheese pieces, ham pieces, and more fruit

Have fun on all your family adventures!!

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