Taking young kids camping can be challenging, but if you have your heart set on a camping holiday, these tips will come in handy to make it a fun and memorable experience.
Do a practice run
If you’re not sure how your children will respond to sleeping in a tent away from their creature comforts, spend a night in the garden to gauge their reactions.
Do your research
If this is the first time you’re going camping as a family, it’s wise to pick somewhere that’s fairly close to civilisation – after all, children can be prone to accidents, and the outdoors presents many opportunities for mishaps. Being close to a pharmacy or medical centre certainly has its advantages. At the same time, unless your kids are old pros at car trips, it’s always advisable to keep travel time to a minimum.
Pick your tent site with care
A spot close to the bathrooms may come in handy when you’re woken up because nature is calling at 3am.
Children don’t travel light, and even if you’re planning to spend the day exploring trails, you’ll still need some games and books to keep them entertained. Being prepared also means being minutely thorough when you pack the medicine kit. You might be able to overlook the odd insect bite or scrape, but injuries of this sort can be a big deal for children. You also need to ensure your snack tin is more well-stocked than usual.
Bring a night light
You may consider the impenetrable night sky, lit only by stars, to be one of the best parts of camping, but for city kids who are used to falling asleep to the gentle hum of traffic, the complete darkness can be a little frightening. Don’t forget to pack a lantern that can be used to create a little light in the tent, and bring along some familiar, much-loved reminders of home, like a favourite teddy bear.
Stick to your usual routine
If your three-year-old usually naps at 2pm, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re back at the tent by that time. Keeping up the same practises you follow at home will introduce an element of comfort that helps to prevent meltdowns.
Look for a campsite that has top-notch facilities, as well as great views
Renowned locations include the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp at the Tsitsikamma National Park; Dinokeng Camping and Fishing at Roodeplaat Dam and 22 Waterfalls Holiday Farm in the Western Cape.
Don’t skimp on your gear
While you may be happy to rough it, kids usually fare better when they have room to move. Opt for a bigger tent, comfy sleeping bags and the best-quality hiking gear.