Camping with Kiddos

Taking your children camping appeals to the nostalgic sentiments of iconic American youth.

It also means a lot of packing.

One night of camping with an 18-month old in our friends quiet and forested backyard involved:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad
  • Blankie
  • mini potty
  • Wipes
  • Diaper
  • 3 changes of clothes for each of us
  • Swimsuits
  • Sunscreen
  • Towels
  • Cooler with 3 meals per person (see below for our favorite camping meal ideas)
  • Headlamp
  • Firewood
  • Lighter
  • Bug spray
  • Plenty of water

We brought all these things...and we were only 10 miles from our house!

I certainly questioned if all this was worth it. Especially when we first arrived and my son wouldn’t stop crying unless held. Which then meant assembling our tent one-handed by myself. Would the benefits of being outdoors together for an evening outweigh the chaos of an abnormal routine?  Would either of us sleep?

Once we had our campsite established we ventured off to splash in the creek. The frazzle of set-up was smoothed over by the peaceful sound of the wind in the hemlocks. “Yes, it’s worth it” the trees seemed to whisper. Nature does offer tranquility and repose; you just have to gear up and get out there to experience it.

We played “rock-point” a game where we pretended a rock was a compass to guide us to our next adventure.  We watched an ant carry away a crumb of his dinner and then disappear underground. We made a “salad” out of fallen fern leaves by piling them together. The simplicity of these endeavors was comforting. (See the list below for more camping games and activities for kids)

Once the sun set and we zipped the tent around us. Nature offered an unexpected surprise. My son slept better that evening than he had all other 558 nights of his life. Despite the lack of familiar comforts!

I was reminded to not be afraid of the unknown. As parents, we spend so much time trying to figure out “what works” for our children. Then, once we think we’ve got it down, the thought of abandoning those patterns, even briefly, is daunting.

But kids are resilient, curious, and adaptable. Fear of disruption can’t hold us back from exposing them to environments and experiences. Nothing is constant. What a better way to teach that lesson than cicadas lulling your child into restful sleep?

Here are some recommendations for some great camping with kids meals:

1. Peanut Dzzled Sweet Potatoes

Put your sweet potatoes in some aluminum foil and throw them over the fire. When, cooked, mix up a little PB2 powder with some water and drizzle over the sweet potato for a little protein and extra flavor.

2. Campfire Caprese Pizza

 I like using Naan bread as the crust because it travels well and is a good density. Slice a tomato, onion, and some mozzarella, sprinkly some dried basil and grill away until cheese is melted.

3. Omelets

Pre-chop your favorite veggies, and, if you plan on eating this as one of your first meals, you can even pre-scramble the eggs and put them in an airtight container. Place in your camping skillet or enclosed aluminum foil wrap over a fire and enjoy!

4. Lentils

These are our camping-go-to: Madras Lentils

5. Jar Pancakes

 Then, if you want to get fancy, there are Mason Jar Pacakes 

6. Banana Boat S’mores

These are SO delicious. Better than regular s’mores in my opinion! 

7. Clif Bars 

These are my favorite because they aren’t super crumbly! 

8. Home-made Veggie Chips. 

These can be made ahead of time! Slice up your favorite veggie, drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt, put in the oven at 200F, and monitor for desired crispiness. 


Camping Activities with Kids

1. Encourage Your Child’s Observation Skills 

Play “I Spy with my Little Eye”. Have them use binoculars for an even more naturalist experience.

2. Collect Samples

Play the “Can you find ____” game.

3. Animal Journal

Have your kids observe an animal they see in nature and write down its traits and tendencies

4. Huckle-Buckle Beanstalk

This was a game my grandmother and I used to play. One person picks an object and holds that in their mind. Then, the other person walks around. As the people get closer to the object you selected you clue them by saying “warm, warmer,” and then, when they are really close you say “HOT/FIRE”. Or, if they are going in the wrong direction, you tell them in terms of “cool/coolder/freezing” language. When the person has found the object you say, “HUCKLE BUCKLE BEAN STALK!”

5. Make a Photo Collage

Give your kid your phone for 5 minutes and let them photograph what they find interesting, then have them come back and tell you about their pictures. It’s a pretty neat way to see the world through their perspective!

6. Leaf Boat Racing

 If you are near a body of water, have everyone pick their leaf-boat, set them in the water at the same time, pick a finish line, and cheer on your boat! 

7. Practice Meditation

Have everyone find a quiet place, set a timer, and have still-listening-ears for a few minutes. 

8. Knot Tying 

Bring a knot tying book and a rope and practice learning different techniques! 

9. Story Trails

Start making up a story, and have each person in the camping party contribute to the next “chapter” of your invented story. 

10. Draw

Nature is such a great source of inspiration. 

11. Watercolor

(If you are near a water source or have plenty of water available)This is one of my favorite art mediums, and there are these great water color pens that are easy to travel with. 

12. Make a Field of Stick-leaf Flags. 

Kids love this one. Just poke a fallen leaf onto the top of a stick and then place the other side of the stick into the soil. You can have your child invent details about their “country” that their flag(s) represent. 


We’d love to hear your ideas as well! Shoot me an email to let me know your favorite camping games or meals. One thing I’ve learned as a toddler-parent how helpful it is to have “loose guidelines/ideas/plans”. When you need to swoop in with slightly more structured activity… you can. But for the most part, noticing what your kid is into and facilitating their interest seems to be the way to go! 


May you enjoy the great outdoors with your family and friends! 


Sign up for a FREE pregnancy Core workout.

Sign up to receive a free class learning how to protect and activate your core during pregnancy. Your information will not be shared.


50% Complete