Kids and Camping


Two things you need to focus on are keeping it simple and knowing what to do. I’ll help with this by offering a few ideas on how to stay entertained during the day or around the campfire.

The first thing you need to focus on, again, keeping it simple. Books, magazines, and writing are great ways to pass the hours. Granted, I usually have the kid in tow so our days are usually spent something like this: slow roll out of bed, rekindle the fire, coffee, simple breakfast, clean up, kids play, hike & exploration, kids play, prep for lunch, kids play, lunch, downtime by the fire, new hike and more exploration, knot-tying work (download a free app to help with this), campsite maintenance, stoke campfire, kids play, time to get ready for supper, kids play, supper, constellation ID, the whisper game, and others. And then there is the ability or desire to do “nothing”. I know this is hard in our modern world, but doing “nothing” does have its benefits – and then I like to rest afterwards.

By far the most popular way to pass the day is the hike. You do not need to go out like Bear Gryllis, but with a few simple preparations exploring the area can be intriguing for you and kids if you have them. My daughter brings a small box to collect different things, mostly interesting rocks and has accumulated quite the trove of cool pieces. On one particularly interesting trip we had seven kids! Over the course of one afternoon they gathered our firewood, collected future hiking staffs, and built their own petite campsite complete with a very small fire ring. Yes, we helped them build their own small fire and provided them with stuff for Smores!

If I attempted to list camping games I would bore you. With the internet there is no shortage of blogs and articles that offer a near endless way to pass the time. One of my regular visits is Pinterest and search for new ideas. You can also follow Sonoran Trails on Pinterest here.

With Mother Nature at their disposal kids will automatically revert to what they know…play!

My daughter loves to go on hikes into the surrounding area.  One particular tear-jerker…Jolie and I went for a short hike so she could continue to build on her “nature” collection.  We stopped along the river where small boulders and rocks were barely exposed by the quietly flowing Verde River and over time had gathered into small pools.  Jo began digging and flipping rocks, exposing little creatures, plant life, and new rocks.  She was completely engrossed in her exploration, so I just watched.  Without looking up she said quietly, “Daddy, I wish me and you could stay here forever.”  This is where I had something in both my eyes.  To the parents out there, I’m talking to you!  Get your kids out and about.  You won’t regret it.

That being said, I know what you are thinking!

  • “But I’m not one to put up a tent and sleep on the ground.”
  • “It’s too hard to get everything together.”
  • “The kids will get bored.”

My answer to all of the above is a curt and resounding, “No!”  You’ll know what to do, it’s not hard, and, trust me; I’ve yet to experience a bored kid when unleashed into the outdoors, especially with a stream nearby.  So, how can we parents make it more enjoyable for everyone?  At the behest of friends and clients, here are a few ideas I learned:

  • Make it comfortable!
  • Make it easy!
  • Make it fun!

If that’s not enough, here are a few hard and fast planning guidelines I use:

  • Prepare a snack box with the kids favorite treats.
  • Fill up their favorite water bottle.
  • Let them pack their suitcase. No need to bring a lot of extraneous stuff but let them pack and be a part of the planning.
  • Plan meals for adults and meals for the kids. Jo loves the instant mac ‘n cheese when camping, so it’s a treat.
  • If money allows, grab them a kid-size chair and their own sleeping bag. I recently did this for mine and she loves it.
  • Buy a cheap hammock. We have one and they play in it for hours!
  • Have them select a special container to collect what they find, i.e. special rocks, leaves, etc.
  • Let them pick out a nice stick the size for hiking. I have several knives I use to trim off branches and debris when Jo finds her special stick.  The tradition now is that Jo finds a “new” hiking staff and I carve it up to her liking.  She loves it!
  • Except for travel time, no screen time. No exceptions.  Go play!
  • I operate out of a weathered and now beaten Arizona Atlas – get one, or one for your locale. Great info!  It has all of the developed campgrounds (which, again, I now avoid), as well as hundreds of miles of out of the way dirt roads and tracks that will take you to a plethora of camp sites that are off-the-grid.
  • We generally try to stay close to a stream, just a shallow one. These are better than unleashing your kid in a Toys-R-Us.

There you have it!  As is usually the case, taking that first step is the hardest.  If you have let even a portion of this soak in, give Sonoran Trails a shout and let us answer your questions or concerns.  Our company motto is, “Exit – Experience – Explore”.  Not only can we help you do just that, we can help you enjoy the experience with your kids and family.  It’s moments you will capture during these adventures that you, and them, will remember for the rest of your lives.

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