Why in the world would you take your kid’s camping? There are a lot of good reasons! It’s a wonderful way to strengthen family bonds while having fun and a special adventure together. Family lore is created when you expand your horizons to do something out of the ordinary. Your kids will remember the time you spent with them, and sharing stories of your exploits will always bring back the excitement and fun of family camping trips. But there are some things not to do when camping with kids. Let’s take a look at some of them!
Besides the fun and comradery of family camping excursions, there’s also an element of safety to consider. We’ve put together a list of 8 things NOT to do when camping with kids, for their health and safety.
Don’t let children drink from streams or eat nuts, berries or any other wild edibles they find. For one thing, wild berries and fruits could be poisonous. And no matter how sparkling and clear a stream or river looks, it could harbor illness-causing bacteria. If you run out of drinking water, the only safe way to drink from a stream is with a purifier like LifeStraw or after boiling water for a full three minutes.
Hiking without the proper preparation and gear is a no-no for anyone, but especially for children. Comfortable walking shoes with a deep tread will help maintain traction on uneven ground. Make sure kids know that bringing water along on a hike is important for more than thirst. Having enough water to drink can prevent hypothermia and heat exhaustion. Lightweight backpacks with water, snacks, a rain poncho, flashlight, and whistle should be kept handy for the intrepid hikers in your family.
The buddy system should be in force throughout the camping trip. Never let kids go off alone, especially at night. Explain to them that it’s vital to let an adult know whenever they stray more than a few feet from the campsite. Don’t assume that a child is safe because they have the family pet along as a companion, either. There’s no substitution for parental supervision.
Even if they complain, don’t let kids opt out of wearing sunscreen and insect repellent. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers these recommendations for protection from biting insects and the sun’s ultraviolet rays:
Never let children go swimming alone. This includes exploring shallow streams since small children can drown in as little as two inches of water. Giving kids swimming lessons is a valuable safety measure, but don’t assume that they’re safe because they know how to swim. In hot weather, monitor their water intake to prevent dehydration, and in cool weather, be alert for signs of hypothermia such as chattering teeth, shivering or confusion.
Playing in direct sun for too long increases the risk of a child getting sunburned, even when sunscreen has been applied, and serious sunburn episodes can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.
Keep kids in the shade as much as possible, and plan some activities that take place inside the tent. Hats and sunglasses are helpful protection from the sun. Let the kids have fun picking out their own, and it will create excitement and anticipation about the upcoming camping trip.
Explain to children why it’s important not to eat or drink inside the tent. Kids are usually better about following the rules if they understand why they’re necessary. You don’t have to scare them with stories of bears ripping into tents late at night, though! Just explain that insects, raccoons, and other pests will be drawn to their sleeping quarters if there are any food smells or stray crumbs to attract them.
Before the camping trip gets underway, have a talk with the kids about fire safety. Don’t let young children get too close to the fire, and make sure that older kids are supervised if they do any cooking. Of course, everyone can roast marshmallows and weenies on long sticks, as long as there are adults around to supervise.
Children get lots of fresh air and exercise, they’re able to spend valuable one-on-one time with parents, and they have a chance to get in touch with nature during a family camping adventure. Just make sure they follow these safety rules, and your next outing will be a memorable one. For a great time on your next family camp-out, here are a few engaging camping games for kids.
Sarah lives in Minnesota with her husband and four children. She enjoys going on outdoor family adventures including camping, dirt biking, boating and whatever crazy, new adventures her husband, David, has thought up! She believes life should be filled with fun opportunities to make memories as a family and aims to inspire you to do just that!