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A Hot Mess Mom's Guide to Camping with the Little Ones

Updated on July 25, 2017

Make a Foolproof Plan

You need to make lists. Lots of lists to keep yourself organized. You need:

  • A shopping list
  • A packing list
  • A meal plan
  • Activities List

Make sure if you are going to be at camp ground that you research ahead of time for any activities that may already be on the schedule there in the park. Otherwise, you can plan your own things with cheap and easy ideas from the internet!

Pack Like A Pro

You will need clothes and towels and things to sleep on and in for sure. How do you organize all the things you need to take with you on your camping adventure? You can try these fun ideas.

  • Just in case you come across ouchies and sickness while in the wilderness, a Mini Medicine Cabinet is a great thing to have handy. You can store all the medicine in a "days of the week" pill container and put labels on each of the compartments with the name and type of medicine inside. You can easily see at a glance what you have, the containers are clear so you can see how much you have left at any given moment. You can also incorporate this with your first aid kit and put all of it a tackle box or caboodle carrier to keep it easy and portable with all your essential needs for any "disaster" that may occur.
  • Food Storage can be tricky outside and away from the conventions of home. You can store food in an ice box or cooler for easy mobility and compact storage. If you freeze your food before you put it into the cooler, you will need less ice inside, saving space for the actual food that you plan to take with you. Get the most out of the space in your cooler with this clever trick by Boat Galley, so you can eat well and not just prepackaged or dehydrated meals on your camping trip. Later we will look at some kid-friendly camping recipes to try!

Dryer Lint VS. Cotton Ball

Build Color Changing Apparatus

Light Up The Night

Once you have your tent pitched or your RV parked, if the camp ground allows it, you will want to build a fire. Unless you are a boy scout and just know how to make fire by rubbing two sticks together, (And go you!) you will have to try and use some of these tricks for starting a fire for your ghost stories and s'mores.

  • Start a fire with the old toilet paper rolls and laundry lint you are just going to throw away. You can start putting the lint into the toilet paper rolls and pack them away to be ready to use when you get to the campsite. Hobbies on a Budget suggest adding some wax to the ends of the toilet paper to allow for longer burning time. You can also try Pinching Your Pennies' idea of cotton balls and Vaseline. Your kids can help prepare either of these options making them all the more excited to be out in nature
  • Sage is a great repellent for insects, especially mosquitos. And since you will be spending a great deal of time outside, why not take advantage of the heat that the fire brings by throwing in a few clumps of sage into the fire to keep those bugs away from you and your babies. it cleanses the air and keeps the bugs far away from the central location of your family and food.
  • Make your campfire magical with the ability to change the colors of the flames. While your kiddos are dancing around the fire with their glowsticks and water balloons, they can be lit up in beautiful colors by the firelight. Dry out some firewood and douse the wood with the chemical for the corresponding color you want listed on DIY RV List and you are sure to have a swell time around the fire. They do mention that you should not cook anything over the colored fire, otherwise you may make someone sick. You can also check out the video on the right side to make an apparatus to help facilitate your color changing experiments and watch your little one's eyes light up!
  • Speaking of Fire Safety, there are always things to be cautious about when toddlers and small kids are playing around the fire. Preparation is key to start with fire safety. So as soon as you know when you are going on a camping trip, start talking to your kiddo about safety and how fire is hot and not to be touched. You can also read books about camping and campfires, like "When We Go Camping" and "The Lost Lake". I am putting Amazon links on the right side, but you can probably get these books at your local library for temporary use as well. You can also create a physical barrier to add to your watchful eye. You can have your little one help you gather rocks to line the outside of the fire.

Put That Fire To Work Filling Bellies

Camping with kids can be fun, but small children are notorious for being picky eaters. So, I have scoured the internets to find a few ideas that you can use, to put your campfire to good use. Make some memories with the classic treats or try something new and have breakfast by the fire in the morning.

  • S'mores are the first thing kids think about when they think of camping. Are you really camping if you don't have some ooey gooey chocolate and marshmallows roasting over a fire? I didn't think so! Buzzfeed has actually put together a really good list for ways to make s'mores and have fun doing it. Everything from traditional graham crackers and chocolate goodness to a more exciting banana boat or these yummy s'mores cones from hip2save can keep the spirit of this campfire treat alive while putting a new spin on an old favorite.
  • Roasting marshmallows is not the only thing you can do with a campfire. Art of Manliness has made a great list of six things you can cook on a stick over a fire, which includes hot dogs and grilled cheese to biscuit dough! For those campers who have a sweet tooth and like the occasional candy treat, I came across this gem buried between the normal roasting ideas. I never would have thought to roast a starburst, but Making Memories with Your Kids has made a great step by step guide to introduce this creative idea to your kids and begin the sugar rush to sugar crash journey of your camping experience.
  • Wet your whistle with this ingenious idea of turning an actual watermelon into a drink dispenser. I know right!? Whoever thought of this idea, was pretty much the master of camping in my book. If you don't want to get as creative and frankly, as cool as the Chew crew; you can go the boring route and fill up a cooler full of bottled water and juice boxes.

Use Mother Nature as Your Playground

Outdoors play is some of the best exploratory play for kids to have. You can find all sorts of things to do with your kids while camping outside. Go on a hike and get your supplies from the wilderness and make memories that can't be made in front of a tv screen or electronic device.

  • Paint masterpieces with natural paintbrushes. You can use all sorts of things from the woods to paint with. In their tutorial, LearnCreateLove shows us how to use twigs, evergreen leaves and twine to make your very own paint brushes. She has other brilliant ideas for painting with nature, depending on the weather and the area, you can gather pinecones and acorns for a nice textured effect you can't get with traditional brushes. If you want to make your own natural watercolors using things found outside, you can watch the video attached to the right.
  • Weaving is a great way to help kids with hand eye coordination. This may be an activity for kids who are a little older, as the motor skills of toddlers are likely to do nothing but frustrate them and cause tantrums. Nobody wants that, so make a judgement call on your child's tolerance for complexity. If you decide to venture into this activity, you can help them weave with nature using Crafiments guide to creating these beautiful crafts to make memories with your kids.
  • For little hands you can play a simple game of tic-tac-toe with them. Its an easy game to explain and you can get all the pieces from outside your tent. With several games for small kids listed in their article, From ABCs to ACTs shows how easy it is to make this game and entertain the little ones for hours. No need for pen or paper, an simple game of tic-tac-toe by breaking up sticks to make the board and using things on the ground like rocks and acorns or pinecones as your Xs and Os, is sure to delight not only your kids, but the whole family!


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    • rgarnett profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Fields 

      14 months ago from KC, MO

      Haha! I totally understand that! I don't intend to go camping any time either, even though my kid has been practically begging me to for months! Thanks for the comment, I love hearing from readers :)

    • thebiologyofleah profile image

      Leah Kennedy-Jangraw 

      14 months ago from Massachusetts

      Truthfully I can't say I am going camping with my little one anytime soon. But I have read your articles in the past so I wanted to check out your latest. That being said, WOW you have a ton of great information in here! I loved your first tip with using a pill sorter as a emergency travel medicine kit. Definitely upgrading from my little baggies with post-it labels to this clever system. All of your tips, tricks, and links makes me almost want to actually go on a family camping trip. Almost...


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