Camping with Kids: Tips for Maintaining Safety and Sanity

This summer I decided I wanted to recreate my childhood camping experiences for my 10-year old son, Elliott. We had “camped” before – but only for a couple of days and never far from home…nothing like the weeks at a lake in the wilds of northern Canada I had known in my youth. So in late July, after stocking up on essential camping gear, we headed several hours north to Traverse Bay, Michigan for a week-long camping experience. It was a great trip, but even at my “mature” age I can still learn to appreciate my parents in a whole new way!

Our camping adventure was fairly authentic: sleeping in a tent, cooking on a propane stove, hauling water from the pump, and making s’mores over the fire pit. I admit we did cheat a little from what I remember as a kid. We had air mattresses that were indispensable, and electricity in the campsite meant the smartphones could be regularly charged and the kettle quickly ready for morning coffee and tea. Nevertheless it was a fair bit of work to get food made, dishes (and campers) cleaned, dirt tamed, and garbage out of the reach of critters. And I discovered that a 10-year old boy either doesn’t want to help at all (hiding in the tent playing on his DS) or only wants to do things involving sharp objects or fire.

So it turns out that keeping kids occupied, but safe, while camping is a challenge. Here’s what I learned from our nature adventure (sometimes through trial and error):

  • Trade help with a “boring” job for the chance to do an interesting one:
    • “…If you go fill the water container you can help me cook dinner on the propane camp stove.”
    • “Help me hang the towels on the line and then you can set up the camp fire.”
  • Show them how before turning them loose:
    • “…The propane stove works differently than our stove at home. Look, here’s a trick I figured out.”
  • But if they can prove competence and responsibility, give them some freedom:
    • “…You’ve done really well setting up and lighting the fire the past 2 nights. You’ve definitely learned a lot in Cub Scouts. Tonight you can do it all on your own.”

Note: Be sure to think ahead about campfire safety tips and talk them over with your kids. Even if you have a firepit at home there are differences when camping. For example, the campsite firepit was bigger than the one we have at home and the metal sheath got hot despite an inner layer of concrete – bad for skin and soles of shoes! Camping also generates a lot of different types of garbage, most of which shouldn’t be burned due to potential release of toxins. Make sure the kids know not to put anything other than wood or paper in the fire.

  • Trade-off activities you like or want them to engage in with some that really appeal to kids:
    • “…Ok, if the 2-hour kayak trip wasn’t your idea of excitement, I guess we can go play a round of mini golf.” (at least that will boost their mood prior to evening dinner chores!)
  • Find creative ways to mix healthy foods in with vacation and camp fare:
    • “…Tonight you can have hot dogs and s’mores, but I also made a salad from the farmers market we stopped at. And while we’re getting things ready have some of these great Michigan cherries!”

And if you’re worried about your child’s digestion while on vacation, you can use convenient Culturelle® Kids Probiotic supplements. They come in both chewable and packet forms and are highly recommended by pediatricians for support of healthy digestion and natural immune defenses. My son tried the chewable tablets and thought they tasted like a berry juice box – so you won’t need to worry about flavor complaints.


Disclaimer: I am participating in a sponsored campaign hosted by Culturelle® Kids. I received compensation for this post and was provided with Culturelle® Kids Probiotic supplement samples. While all opinions provided are my own, I make no claims about the effectiveness or any other aspects of Culturelle® Kids Chewables or Culturelle® Kids Packets products.

About the Author

Audra is an experienced pharmaceutical marketing professional, aspiring writer, and mother of Elliott, a high-spirited twenty-year old. Frequently tired but never bored, she has a strong interest in public health fostered by numerous years implementing global oncology education programs as well as by her twenty-year crazy (wild? amazing?) adventure in parenting. She recently earned a Masters in Public Health to augment her expertise in health policy and health promotion. Audra is a founding member of the PedSafe Team


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