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Tips to remember when camping with babies, kids and teens

Kids of all ages can create challenges to any camping trip -- but don't be disheartened! Our roundup of age-by-age advice can help.
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January 26, 2018 10:18 AM
  1. Baby basics

    Camping with very young children is much easier than you’d think, thanks to the fact that they aren’t yet mobile or eating solid foods.

    • Load the baby into a backpack carrier. You’ll enjoy a hike and, with any luck, the little one will catch some shut-eye.
    • In addition to disposable diapers, you’ll need a waterproof, easy-to-seal dry bag for storing the dirty ones you’ll need to carry out with you.
    • Sure, a portable crib takes up car space, but you’ll be happy you have it when you need to contain your tot during camp setup and cooking. It’ll double as a crib during naps and overnights. Speaking of sleep, this isn’t the time to let a baby “cry it out.” Be mindful of neighbors.
    • Middle-of-the-night diaper changes require two hands, so opt for a headlamp vs. a flashlight.
    • A familiar blanket and pacifier will soothe a baby who feels out of her element.
    • Assuming you’re comfortable co-sleeping, zip a couple adult sleeping bags together and have the baby sleep with you.
  2. Taming toddlers and young kids

    Just like at home, children this age will keep you on your toes at camp, as they tend to wander off and will put anything in their mouths.

    • Before your trip, read children books about camping and nature. Have a test-run campout in the backyard so that they grow accustomed to unfamiliar nighttime sounds. At camp, let kids assist with easy setup tasks. Have them carry lightweight objects like sleeping bags and pillows from the car.
    • Once kids outgrow a carrier, parents should adjust their expectations for hiking. While many kids can walk a half mile for every year of age, heat and boredom can strike at any time, so plan for short hikes, with plenty of water breaks.
    • New walkers should have bells attached to their sneakers, while older kids should wear whistles around their necks. Both will help in tracking should children stray.
    • Activities abound for kids of this age. From Junior Ranger programs to scavenger hunts, take advantage of the endless opportunities to tucker them out.
    • At bedtime, a favorite stuffed animal and glow sticks help comfort little ones who still aren’t so sure about sleeping outside.
  3. Talking teenagers

    Sorry, Mom and Dad, but your teenager prefers spending time with his buddies. Assuming you have car space, suggest that he invite a friend.

    • Teens are happier when they have their own space, so bring a small second tent to give them their own “chill zone.”
    • Try activities they were too young to safely attempt on their own in past years, including mountain biking, fishing, hiking, kayaking and horseback riding.
    • Know the three ways to a teen’s heart at camp? Food, food and more food. Stock up, especially on the snacks that you won’t let them have at home.
    • When settling in around the campfire, let your teenager do the talking. After unplugging for a day of old-fashioned fun, your typically tight-lipped teen may surprise you by just how much they open up. (And that’s a parenting win much sweeter than any s’more.)

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January 18, 2018 09:48 AM