Parent's guide to camping with kids

Kids camping in a state park

Camping with children may seem like a daunting task, but don't get discouraged! Here are some tips on how to navigate the outdoors with children.

Keep them involved

Create roles for your children to make them feel like they are part of the process. Help them plan and pack for the trip. Give them tasks around the camp like keeping it tidy or gathering sticks to start the fire. Have them try to read maps and determine hiking routes while you are out in the park. All of this will help your child feel like this is an experience they are participating in, not simply attending. There are also programs like the Junior Park Naturalist programs or the ICan! programs to start teaching children outdoor skills that may come in handy on your camping trip.

Keep it simple

Practicing in your yard before you camp is always a good idea. This helps you realize what gear you need and get a feel for how your trip may go. Another option is to stay in a camper cabin for your first time staying in a state park. This way you can get the outdoor experience without having to pack as much gear.

Equipment

  • Not sure where to get started? Check out our packing list for some ideas.
  • Baby backpack. Having a sturdy carrier for your child is a must. This pack can help you when you are hiking and camping with children. Just be sure to try the pack on before you buy to make sure it is the right choice for your child.
  • Dual purpose items. To maximize your gear while saving on space, pack things you can use multiple ways. An outdoor crib is not only a sleeping area for your child, you can set a fitted sheet over the top and you have a shady, bug free play area for your child. Buy a hiking pack that will not only carry your child, but can also serve as a seating area for them around the fire. There are many ways you can get creative with your gear and minimize your packing.
  • Appropriate size. Make sure your gear is the appropriate size for your children. It will save you and your children some headaches when they get frustrated that they can’t see out of binoculars too big for them or paddle correctly because the paddle is not small enough. This will also help them feel more involved during your camping experience.
  • Sleeping. You have many options to choose from when figuring out sleeping arrangements. One option is to bring a portable crib or child sleeping bag to let them have their own space. If you want to save on packing materials, another option is to combine your sleeping pads together, have your child sleep next to or in between you, and use a quilt or sleeping bags as a cover.
  • Clothing. It is always wise to pack a few extra layers when camping with kids, whether it is for keeping them warm during the night or having clean and dry clothes for them to change into.

Food

Children in a tentHaving snacks on hand is never a bad idea, but what about your meals? Prep what you can ahead of time and plan your meals around the weather. Is there going to be a cold day? Have some soup and grilled cheese. Is it going to be hot? Make sure you bring extra water to drink. You can also check out some cooking tips and recipes to get inspired.

 

Make it fun

Keep them entertained! You have many options of things to do in state parks, like playing games or borrowing equipment from the park to help fill your days with fun in the outdoors. Our Summer Activities Guide is another great resource on things to do in Minnesota state parks!