How to have a fun camping trip – with kids
Preparation is key to ensuring the whole family has a great trip.
Want to take the kids camping? Sleeping in a tent is a great adventure and there’s so much to explore in South Australia’s national parks and reserves.
Research has shown that being outside, engaging in unstructured play in natural spaces is great for children’s health and development.
With children – and adults – spending more time than ever in front of screens, think of camping as a digital detox for the whole family.
With a bit of planning, you can all enjoy time in the great outdoors. Here’s how:
Before you go
If you haven’t been camping with children before, start somewhere close to home.
If you live in Adelaide, Deep Creek National Park is a good choice. It’s only an hour-and-a-half from the Adelaide CBD so you can always pack up and head home if you need to.
Use the Find a Park tool on the national parks website to search for a spot. You can even view your results on a map to get a better idea of how far you’ll be travelling.
You might be right across what to bring on a camping trip with a group of adults. (Or if you’re a newbie, you might like to read our story for some ideas: Your guide to packing for your next camping trip in SA’s national parks).
But for a trip with children, there’s some extra things you might like to consider taking. Here are our suggestions:
- Bring lots of easy-to-access, healthy snacks to keep energy levels up.
- Pack rainy day activities like books and colouring-in, just in case the weather turns drizzly and you have to spend some time in the tent.
- Bring plenty of changes of clothes, especially socks. Nothing makes for sad faces like wet, cold feet.
- Bring thermals.
- Pack plenty of wet wipes for cleaning hands and faces when soap and water aren’t handy.
- Bring your bikes. Lots of parks allow bikes and many have dedicated cycling or shared-use trails suitable for young riders.
- Bring a head torch for each child so you can find them easily in the dark and for night-time toilet trips.
- Don’t forget to take simple first aid supplies like band aids, spray or cream for stings and bites, and antihistamines for allergic reactions.
When you get there
Camping means a break from the non-stop stimulation of computers, television and game consoles. However, at home or on holiday, there’s always a chance you’ll hear the dreaded words, ‘I’m bored’.
You don’t need special equipment to connect with nature. Here’s some activity ideas for the whole family that make use of what the bush has to offer, or common items you might have in the tent or car.
Although don’t forget to embrace the dirt (it will always wash off!) and plan rest time at the campsite so everyone can relax.
- Find a rainbow by collecting items of each colour like flowers, leaves, stones, feathers and sticks. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet – who can find the first rainbow?
- Build a fairy house, or village, using twigs, bark, leaves and stones.
- Noughts and crosses anyone? Collect stones or shells and let the competition begin.
- Have a natural treasure hunt. Challenge each other to find items like feathers or gumnuts.
- If there’s a creek nearby, go exploring and see if you can spot little fish.
- Make miniature boats from bark, twigs and leaves and have races in the creek.
- Collect a cup of creek water and discover the insects living in it.
- Make and decorate mud pies. Mud can be great fun and will always wash off.
- Create art in the dirt. Use a stick to draw pictures and decorate with pebbles.
- A bird book and pair of binoculars can provide hours of entertainment. Even without the equipment, see how many animals and birds you can spot.
- Crush coloured rocks or dirt and mix with water. You can then finger paint on rocks or trees.
- Go on a night walk and look for spider eyes with a torch. Hint: they’re the little pairs of glowing dots on the ground.
- Look for a good marshmallow roasting stick and cook marshmallows over the campfire.
- Try geocaching. Lots of parks have these little treasure troves, so make sure you download a geocaching app to your smartphone before you leave home.
- For photographers, put the camera on a tripod and let the kids star in long-exposure photos after dark by writing or making patterns in the air with a torch.
- Nature Play SAencourages children to play outdoors and has fun activities and events for families. What are your favourite family camping activities? Tell us in the comments below.
And a few other tips for camping with kids:
- Take short, interesting walks rather than long hikes that will leave children asking, “Are we there yet?”
- It can get dark quickly so it’s a good idea to start cooking dinner early.
For more tips on preparing yourself for a camping trip, you might like to read our story: Everything you need to know for your first camping trip in a national park.
This story was originally posted in April 2017 and has been updated with extra information.