Camping is a rite of passage, especially living in Colorado. You see other families doing it all the time. They post cute pictures of their 3-year-old frolicking along a trail with a stick in their hand and a cute sun hat. But let’s be honest: You haven’t mustered up the courage to take your brood on a trip just yet. Until now.
This summer is when you’re going to do it, dang it. And we’re here to help you. Maybe we won’t literally be there while you pitch your tent, but we are there in spirit and preparation.
We asked the Colorado parent community for their camping tricks, hacks and tips. Here’s what they brought back:
• Preparations: Have the kids be involved in as much as they can leading up to the trip. Have them help pick out what campsite you’re going to, what food you’re bringing—and if you’re buying gear, have them pick their sleeping bags. Get them excited. You’ll find having them excited beforehand only helps when you’re on the road and setting up camp.
• Stand down. Don’t let your parenting inhibitions control everyone’s every move. At home you usually don’t approve of your kids eating Pop Tarts for breakfast, lunch and dinner—but in nature, no one is around to bear witness. Okay, that’s a poor excuse. But seriously, it’s time to be the relaxed parent and go with the flow.
• For a Martha Stewart-type hack, bring a hanging organizer to hang from a tree to help keep track of things like bug spray, wipes and essentials.
• Oh yeah and that’s a big one: Pack plenty of wipes. It’s not just butts that will need them when you’re roughing it.
• If you’re traveling with infants, one family wrote they would dress their kiddos in snowsuits to keep warm instead of using sleeping bags. Also, bring plenty of blankets for the night and early morning.
• Stock up on bug spray and sunscreen. No one likes to have 100 bug bites—and combine that with a sunburn, you will not have happy campers.
• Some swear by no electronics, but watching a fun movie before bedtime snuggled together in a tent creates memories in its own right.
• The kids will love being out in nature. They’ll play throw rocks in the lake. They’ll play hide-n-seek. They’ll make believe they’re Hansel and Gretel getting out of the woods without the witch spotting them. But it’s always a solid parenting move to plan for more entertainment. Bring plenty of board games, toys and plan various activities.
• Plan a scavenger hunt. Have the kids find things around them—and the winner gets to make the world’s largest s’more that night. Give them a list and have them find the items on them. Such as find a stick shaped like an ‘L’ or a flat rock made for skipping across the water. Add nature to the activity and you’ll be patting yourselves on your back for your pure brilliance.
• Throw schedules out the window. Look, we know it’s important junior naps by 1 p.m., but when you’re camping, go lax on the routines. Who wants to sleep when there’s unchartered territory to explore?
• Set those safety boundaries before you set up your home away from home. It’s all fun and games until a sibling fight breaks out over the last marshmallow during s’mores making. Also, make sure they know the importance of no snacks or food in the tent or camper.
• Make sure your First Aid kit is fully stocked and ready for action, because scraped knees will happen.
• Pack those extra clothes. Be prepared for the elements. If your potty-training kid goes through three pairs of pants a day at home, just imagine what you need without a laundry machine.
• Have the kids be part of the cooking. When you’re camping, everything becomes a family event. Have them help prepare dinner at night and set the picnic table.
• Endless snacks for everyone. They act as good distractions … and make everyone happy!
• Plan on snuggling under the stars and having amazing talks. You’re building memories, so enjoy every second of it!