Planning on taking my niece and nephew (ages 5 & 3) camping for the first time this summer. My sister and brother in law aren't very outdoorsy but are keen on some outdoors fun with me being "the guide". They've bought a 4 man tent with a large porch and have camp chairs (they go to the beach a lot where they live). They have sleeping bags and will use a combination of cheap roll mats and my older thermarests etc. It'll be in the lakes for two or possibly three nights.
Mrs Kalna and I will be using our own tent.
I'm a seasoned camper, multi-day trips in the wild, abroad and in winter but... never camped with young kids. Hints and tips welcomed.
Mods: wasn't sure what forum it should go, please move as appropriate.
Is your sister and B-i-L coming? Or did they just buy a big tent for you and the sprogs?
If they're coming, happy days you only have to provide ample sugar and stimulation until 2 minutes before teeth cleaning time. If they're not ...
> Kids plus parents are coming. I've done plenty of stupid things, but agreeing to a weekend of babysitting with camping isn't one of them!
You're overthinking it.
Just pitch the tents and let everyone do their stuff as it will work it self out.
When mine were that age, camping was simply the best holiday imaginable for them. If the sun shines, everything is easy, although if it's this time of year sun can be a problem. The little one couldn't sleep until it was dark and woke at dawn. Not much sleep! Blindfolds helped a bit.
A campsite with some little novelty like a stream or little playground can be diverting.
And in my opinion, if the forecast is bad, just stay at home.
Mini variety boxes of Kellogs/Nestle for breakfast - hopefully a treat for them.
Plenty of toys and books for in the tent.
Crisps and treats to keep them happy during the day.
Be prepared for bedtimes to go out the window - it'll be very light in the tent, so won't feel like bedtime.
Take plenty of bedding to make cosy nests
ipad or tablet for games/videos
If the campsite has a place where you can light a fire, then marshmallows on sticks is about the coolest thing you can do. Sausages on sticks is also a winner but little kids love marshmallows more than anything!
Your sister and BiL may well hate it, but the kids will have a superb time I'm sure. Throwing stones into lakes/streams can also fill hours for kids that age. It's weird how much stimulation they need at home from YouTube, games, TV, etc - but then they'll happily chuck stones into a lake for hours and be at absolute peace with the world!
In fact if you really want to be Uncle Marshmallow and loved for the rest of time splash out on something like: Newthinking Marshmallow Roasting Sticks, 32 Inch Extendable Telescoping Roasting Sticks Forks for Fire Pit and BBQ Campfire Party, 8 Pack https://smile.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076WTH6SM/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_gl_i_2VCR7JM0P6A0AH7HJBFD?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
I like the Swedish hipster-backpacker, lightweight Light My Fire versions https://outdoorlearningresources.co.uk/product/light-my-fire-grandpas-firefork/ but unsurprisingly more expensive as you are paying for the Swedish hipster-backpacker image...
I took my son (then aged 3) for the first time last year, he loved it. It was easy although I took a big double airbed for us to share rather than try him out on a thin rollmat. I also camped once in the back garden with him before committing to a trip. Could be worth your relatives doing that if they are worried about how the kids will get on. Also gives them practice with the tent etc.
Obvious point, take a potty and make sure they can get to it easily.
My only tips would be dont be too worried about normal washing routines. Let everything go a bit feral for the weekend. It's not the end of the world.
Also take some of their toys you can produce/ books you can read them for the inevitable 5am excited wake up.
Ps they will love you
Just do it and enjoy!! The only one thing I would advise is a bucket/potty to save a late night walk to the toilets and the other thing I used to take with my daughter (aged 2-3) was a big plastic bowl and flannel etc to give her a wash before bed....a beer always helps a camping trip! Have a good time!
I remember when I used to take my kids camping.
Be prepared for early rising! It gets light at about 4 am ish, so the it will in the tent!.
Warmth is very important, kids get cold quickly in a tent, so warm sleeping bags,and blankets over the ground sheet under the sleeping mats give a cosy feeling in the tent.
Rain will be your biggest problem, if you get it! Have one or two wet weather outings planned in advance, to attractions in the area in case it rains. There is nothing more miserable than sitting in a tent, with it pouring outside, wondering what to do - bad enough for adults let alone kids. Better to have contingency plans rather than drive around aimlessly trying to find something to do.
Enjoy! And fingers crossed for good weather.
We took our daughter to bivi before she was two for the firt time. The weather dodn't work out very well, it was just above zero in the night and we didn't sleep much but our doughter did and she was happy.
She will be six soon and loves camping in the seaside camp, as well as sleeping in the car and bivouacs in the rocks.
Just keep children warm and saturated and they will be OK. Come up with some treasure hunt and night jurney with head lights and you will enjoy it too
1. Just pray for decent weather.
2. Don't go to Scotland unless you can guarantee a slight breeze.
We went camping with our three several times. Generally OK except on one trip to Scotland. We started in Glencoe. Good weather but millions of midges On the plus side I managed to take the two older children up Curved Ridge.
We moved to Skye and the first couple of days were excellent. However, on day three the weather gods sent us a storm. I had to go outside the tent in the middle of the night to secure the pegs several times. After 48hrs of an unrelenting storm, we went back home.
If it's their first time then I'd be very strict on the understanding that a bad forecast calls the whole thing off.
First impressions matter. If they have a great time it'll stick, if a terrible one then they'll never want to go again.
Take midge repellent and antihistamine cream.
With good weather and no itching bites, the rest will be easy
First time eh?
A black out tent for the kids is _really_ worth it - otherwise work out where the sun will rise and pitch your tent in the morning shade.
Add a stern talking to, to the effect that, despite the lights coming on and the birds making a racket, it isn't time to get up.
A large blanket for the floor of the kids bedroom (under the mats).
If you go walking lots of snacks and feed the children every 30mins until you no longer require them to walk.
Thanks everyone for the replies, much appreciated. All noted and will definitely use most of them especially about making a good first impression. We are all flexible on dates so if it's bad weather forecast it'll be postponed.
+1 for a night- time excursion. We got cheap headtorches for my two (aged 3&5 at the time) and they LOVED going for a spooky walk to a nearby (deserted) playground in the dark.
Don’t buy sticks for marshmallows: finding a good stick and watching you whittle it to a point could fill an hour easily!
Pitch your tent on a neighbouring "no kids" campsite and commute in for the day stuff.
That way you will have slept and arrive refreshed, ready to be fun uncle all day.
Otherwise, ear plugs and whisky.
Just have fun with the camping part – the lakes might not be the place to do this, having some good wet weather options and specific children's play activities may be useful, so a first trip local to home can be the way to go and useful in case of retreat / forgotten essential. Friends recently went 20 miles down the road on the Wirral and the children of very similar age loved it.
Certainly echo the be ready for dawnee wake ups. Just walked the footpath above the local mahoosive campsite near us. Already v busy and lots of young voices at 0645 Sunday morning. Beautiful Devon morning though and in the sunshine there is nothing better than a family camping trip.
Decent coffee for those early starts essential!!
In addition to whats been said already:
Try and find a Lakes campsite with access to stream, river or lake with sand. Always easy fun times with water.
Cathedral quarry caves will give them a spooky time.
Hire a boat on one of the lakes.
Leave all tablets and electronics at home.
Sweets will always lift spirits.
Don't worry too much about cleanliness, being grubby is fine for a couple of nights and adds to the feeling of adventure.
Tracksuit will be warmer than PJs and saves getting dressed for walks to the loo (good advice for parents too).
Frisbee or simple ball games give hours of fun for the whole family and being active helps to keep warm.
Wellies are ideal for long wet grass in the mornings and quick to pull on/off so they don't walk mud into the tents.
Doesn't matter how nice the weather or forecast, ALWAYS have a waterproof in the tent overnight as it will invariably be raining when you wake up in the small hours needing the loo! (Large tent with porch - bucket for nighttime use may be worth considering)
As a small child wrapping up in a massively oversized fleece is great fun - maybe take a couple of spare jackets incase the parents underpack, as nobody will get any sleep if the kids are cold and miserable.
The more active you are in the day the better the chances that they will flake out and sleep. My first camp was aged 4 and after walking 13 miles and playing football in the evening, mum put me to bed and I was asleep before she got back from doing her own bathroom routine. (I still remember the trip!)
Wellies or crocs/flip flops in the tent porch for quick on and off. A cheap torch each. A bucket/potty for middle of the night loo emergencies (when it will inevitably be raining).
Dont even think about bedtimes, they won’t want to go to bed when it’s still light and there’s interesting stuff going on, but they’ll still be awake and ready to go at sparrow fart.
Little kids love a puddle around a burn or loch side and this will keep them happy for hours, mud is seen as a plus!
Make sure they have plenty of warm clothes, and spare clothes because there’s alway (at least) one who will fall into water/mud.
Hot chocolate is good for warming up after the muddy puddle incident
Thanks for the tips, and everyone else! It's great to hear so many people have had good experiences, sounds like managing expectations is key regards bed times and cleanliness.
I think Mrs Kalna and will avoiding the morning "fun" until 7 or 8am if possible. Large strong coffees will be required I'm sure.
My sister used to really enjoy camping trips when we were younger before deciding they were tragically uncool sometime in her mid-teens. Fingers crossed that this rekindles some childhood memories and encourages her kids to do more adventures.
Remember that the kids parents are responsible for looking after them, not you. Your job is to educate your sister and brother in law in what to bring and things they’ll need to consider. Then plan suitable activities. I would try and find out how active the kids are, you don’t want to get too ambitious in your plans.
Some repetition of other advice here:
- do all the camping stuff like helping your friends to pitch tent, cooking, making tea etc.
- take kids to fetch water and any other simple duties. Unlike adults, who will be slumped in camping chairs, kids like helping!
- campsite with woods to explore, walk around with sticks, build a den, etc.
- ours enjoyed just playing in the tents/hiding from each other or an adult hunting them down and shaking the tent. Tripping on guy ropes was funny the first time but...
- cool things like coloured filters over lanterns or lights with coloured bulbs, fairy lights etc. if they're still up when it's dark.
- kids love a fire (and toasting marshmallows). This has the greatest potential for making the trip memorable but not always in a good way so keep a close eye on them!
- fireside games like "yes/no" game. Basically have conversations and if you say yes or no you're out...simple games like that.
- alcohol is great but remember the kids don't respect the hangover
- they'll probably not fall asleep that easily, especially if adults still up, so consider keeping them up and all going to bed at same time
- they'll wake early so having toys to hand is useful
- tent potty/bucket advisable. Sense of humour definitely required for the inevitable spillage
- blankets for when it gets much colder than anyone was expecting!
- getting ready to go out for the day will take longer than usual
- 2 nights is fine if things are going well, but your friends might need an opt out clause
I'm sure this will be a repeat of what others have already said.
- Be prepared to abandon if you're expecting wet weather. While 100% doable with kids .. its just not that fun. Everyone will get a bit a grumpy and bored.
- Don't rough it. Not the first time anyway. Need to remember that if you give them a "good" experience of camping they will want to do it again. If they hate it first time .. they won't want to come back.
- Well rested children .. are happy children. They will go to bed later than normal. Consider a black out tent/tent insert. Ensure they will be warm, warm, warm .. that includes from above and below - they can always remove the layers they do not need. Bring them a proper pillow and ensure that what they're sleeping upon is comfy. They will need torches - which they will find fun.
- Dry children ... are happy children. Even if you're expecting dry weather .. bring the wet weather gear just in case. If they're wet and cold they will get grumpy.
- Well fed children .. are happy children. They will eat a tone, especially if they're outside all day. You'll need big dinners, lots of snacks and fresh fruit. Think cool box. You get some amazing passive cool boxes these days.
- They will need toys and books - at the ages of 3 & 5 they will probably need a lot. Duplo, cars, building blocks etc. Sticker books/coloring books/scissors will go down well.
- The iPads/Fire kids pads will be a life saver in the mornings if they'll settle for an extra hr with one of those in their hands. If you can't get wifi .. then you need to download games/movies before you go.
- Let them drink what they want with dinner ... but wind down the water after that if you don't want the inevitable trips to the loo in the night. They will likely need to the loo immediately after they wake up in the morning.
- Non-parents would typically pitch up as far has humanly possible from any kids park ... the opposite might be true for you. If they can play, safely, in line of site of your pitch at the park you get a lot more free time. They might also make friends. (maybe not true yet with the age of your pair)
- Same is true for toilet blocks. They will got to the toilet an innumerable time .. and you will need to take them every time. You'll appreciate a short walk. (Not right next to them obviously .. but 3-4 pitches away might be a sweet spot)
- Crocs or something similar is good. Good to kick on/off as the go back and forth all day. Good for toilet trips/showers.
If it were me .. I'd do a 1 nighter first (even if only in the back garden) before you jump up to 3 nights. You'll all learn a lot. I would also avoid if it's damp ... it's just hard work with kids.
> Planning on taking my niece and nephew (ages 5 & 3) camping for the first time this summer. My sister and brother in law aren't very outdoorsy but are keen on some outdoors fun with me being "the guide". They've bought a 4 man tent with a large porch and have camp chairs (they go to the beach a lot where they live). They have sleeping bags and will use a combination of cheap roll mats and my older thermarests etc. It'll be in the lakes for two or possibly three nights.
Should have bought a 6-man tent with blackout lining
Fairy lights go down well for the evenings.
The potty suggestion is an essential - I take a spare sleeping bag, just in case!
If you're feeling flush, Petzl do the TikKid headtorch, which isn't too bright and glows after use.
Pretty much everything else covered already.
5 & 3 - that's OLD! We started ours at 6 months, though it was handy they were both January babies.
Recently spent an evening reminiscing with the 24 yr old about our camping trips. Cheese raiding crows, biscuit tin thieving badgers, flaming marshmallows, big brother making scary noises, remote wild camps beside a burbling brooks, bright days scrambling, climbing, paddling, snorkelling, swimming.
Start 'em young I say :-D