Tent Camping with Kids ( Checklist and Activities )

kids on trailBringing your kids on their very first camping trip, or hundredth, is always a memorable occasion. Watching them run through open fields, not a care in the world, or taking them hiking and fishing to watch their faces light up when they reach the top of the cliff or catch their first noteworthy bass.

Yes, camping with your children is one of the warmest and memorable activities you will ever have the pleasure of experiencing with them. However, there is most definitely a little, or a lot of, stress involved! Planning, packing, and organizing a trip for five is a lot harder than planning one for two, or even one.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide. You will find a checklist, some do’s and dont’s and plenty of DIY activities guaranteed to make your family camping trip less stressful and truly one-of-a-kind!

So how do you tent camp with kids? First make sure you have a checklist of crucial items that will be need. Not only that but it is important to have projects that can keep them entertained while camping. Be sure to check out the additional articles listed at the end to get even more information to make your trip even better.

The Crucial Checklist

Camping for two can be planned or a sporadic, spur of the moment event easily. But, when you have kids to bring along, spontaneity is out of the question.

When you have kids, there needs to be planning and organizing involved to ensure you have absolutely everything you are going to need for the entirety of your trip.

Fun Fact: It takes four times more food on average to feed a five-person camping trip consisting of a hungry teenager, rambunctious toddler, moody eight-year-old, and two tired parents versus two people. Okay, maybe this isn’t an actual statistic… but it should be!

In short, you need a checklist. And not just any checklist, but a many checklist.
Here’s an example of what one of these checklists might look like for a sunny weekend camping trip:

Clothing Checklist

● Danny (The Teen) – 6 pairs of shorts, two pairs of pants, 8 shirts, 10 pairs of socks, 6 pairs of underwear, swimming trunks, tennis shoes, hiking boots, rain boots, 1 light jacket, a hat
● Lucy (The Toddler) – 2 packs of diapers, 10 little swimmers, a bathing suit, 10 pairs of shorts, 10 shirts, 4 pairs of pants, 2 light jackets, a hat, 12 pairs of socks, tennis shoes, boots, rain boots
● Mildred (The Youngin’) – 8 pairs of socks, 8 pairs of underwear, 8 shirts, a bathing suit, 8 pairs of shorts, 3 pairs of pants, a hat, 1 light jacket, tennis shoes, hiking boots, rain boots
● Mom – 7 pairs of socks, 1 pair of luxury socks, 5 pairs of underwear, 2 pairs of pants, a bathing suit, 8 shirts, 4 bras, 6 pairs of shorts, a light jacket, tennis shoes, hiking boots, rain boots
● Dad – 7 pairs of socks, 1 pair of luxury socks, 5 pairs of underwear, swimming trunks, 5 pairs of shorts, 6 shirts, two pairs of pants, a light jacket, a hat, tennis shoes, hiking boots, rain boots
● Premade eggs for scrambling (ref. article ‘35 things to make camping easier’)
● Loaf of bread
● Peanut Butter
● Jelly
● Sandwich meat
● Marshmallows
● Hershey bars
● Graham crackers
● Variety pack of trail mix
● Variety pack of mini-boxed cereal
● 24 pack of bottled water
● 12 pack of soda
● Juice boxes
● Shish-kabob kits
● Variety pack of chips
Personal Hygiene
● Toothbrushes
● Toothpaste
● Hair brushes
● Hair ties
● Deodorant
● Sanitary pads
● Cooler
● Ice packs
● Tupperware
● Tin foil
● Plastic bags (for wet clothing, storage, garbage and anything else you can think of)
● Empty bucket (for garbage)
● Charcoal
● Lighter fluid
● Matches
● Newspapers
● Sunscreen (experts recommend SPF30 or higher)
● Citronella candles
● Bug spray
● Wildlife repellent
● Tent and tent accessories (poles, cords, etc)
● Sleeping bags
● Extra blankets
● Pillows
● Cookware
● Compass
● Fishing poles and necessities (if you plan on going fishing)
● Colored tape (for marking trees while hiking)
First Aid
● Bandages
● Cleansing wipes
● Anti-bacterial ointments
● Gauze
● Medical tape
● Aspirin
● Baby wipes

We probably haven’t covered everything due to individual circumstance, however, you get the gist. The point is, making a checklist will help you in many ways. It will help you in making sure you have absolutely everything you need before getting 50 miles away from your house.

And, if you forgot what type of food you packed and you’ve got a hankering for some snackage, or you need to check inventory before you leave, all you have to do is take a glance at your handy-dandy checklist!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Camping with Kids

As with everything, there are most definitely some do’s and don’ts when it comes to camping with your children. Though we can’t cover all of them, here are some of the more fundamental do’s and don’ts of camping with kids:

DO know your child’s limitations
If you’re thinking about taking your three-year-old hiking, you may want to do some serious thinking beforehand. Though toddlers seem to have boundless amounts of energy, hiking is sure to wear them out quick, as well as heightens their chances of bug bites and potential, serious booboo’s.

We’re not saying not to take your three-year-old hiking, but we do recommend keeping it short and sticking to the smaller trails. And, be prepared to carry your, most likely sleeping, toddler at least three-quarters of the way back.

DON’T do everything yourself
Your kids want to be a part of the trip, so let them! Allow your kids to help you set up/tear down the tent, and/or get the fire started (depending on their ability to do so). Let them help you plan out some activities and pack their own bags. You’ll probably have to go behind them and re-do it, but at least they’ll feel a little sense of independence.

Letting your kids get involved to the best of their ability makes them feel more involved, and you can feel less stressed trying to do everything yourself.

DO take time to do your own thing
Obviously, don’t leave the kids to their own devices, or you may come back to find your tent burnt down and your kids prancing around it like savage cavemen! However, it is important to allow them time to explore and enjoy the wilderness, without being told, “stop that” and “sit down”.

Take them to a wide-open field and let them roam free for a while. Let them explore the woods and caves available.

While camping, the world is your oyster. So, let your kids be a part of that extravagant oyster too! Not to mention, this promotes optimal bedtime cooperation, so you get the benefit of relaxing before midnight!

DON’T pack the Bare Necessities
You may get away with packing only a few things to eat while camping on your own but, while camping with kids, you almost need to bring an entire refrigerator! Bring enough food for a week instead of a weekend. Kids get hungry, especially at inopportune times – like when you decide that the trip will be fine without snacks (and it takes up less time and space, right?).

This goes hand-in-hand with the above checklist. Think about how much your family eats on their hungriest day, then pack that much plus a little extra. It’s easier to be safe rather than sorry. And, your ears will thank you from saving them the trouble of the “I’m hungry” complaints all weekend.

DO know your area

While camping, especially with small children, it’s highly recommended to camp somewhere that’s not far from other people’s campsites. Accidents and things happen, much more than we parents like to admit, and when your child absentmindedly wanders off when they were supposed to be sitting by the tent while you start on the fire, you may just lose your marbles!

Camping near other campers creates a slightly safer environment as, if your child does wander off, there’s a highly likely chance they will be found a short distance away sharing s’mores with your camp neighbors kids!

DON’T exclude your small children from campfire activities
If you’re so worried about your small children being anywhere within 500 miles of the campfire, you mind as well leave them at home with their nana and try again next year.

Not only is it cruel to allow your other, older children near the fire and exclude your little one, but it’s not as scary and life-threatening as you may think – so long as you remain extra vigilant.

Don’t exclude your smaller children from experiencing making s’mores or the warmth of campfires, campfire stories, and songs. Instead, be extra vigilant by holding them gently on your lap. Explain to them why fire is dangerous and how to safely be near it without getting hurt.

It may be more difficult to enjoy the fire than it is when it’s just you and your significant other, but it’s extra rewarding to see the wonder in your child’s eyes as they watch the sparks singe the air around them, or the delight in their face when they taste their first s’more.

rock art for kids

Best DIY Family Camping Activities

When you’re camping as a family, it brings a whole gamut of experiences and a whole new level of fun! It also brings a whole new area of activities, that you may not normally experience on your own, into play; DIY!

Plan some seriously fun crafts, experiments, treasure hunts, and exploration missions before your camping trip.
If you’re in need of some inspiration, here are some of our favorites:


Leaf Jewelry
What you’ll need:
● Twine
● Scissors
● Hole punch
● Leaves
First, fold your leaves in half along the spine and punch two holes through the middle. Then, weave twine through the holes, adorn, and rock out!

Rock Dominoes
What you’ll need:
● 6 colored acrylic paints
● Paintbrush
● 28 rocks
Leave one “domino” blank, then paint one-half of each of the other rocks a different color – like dominoes. To get even more creative, paint them however you like and use them for different games such as hopscotch, go-fish, or even one you make up together!

Words of Gratitude
What you’ll need:
● Acrylic paint
● Paintbrush
● Sharpie
● Decorative pens
● Rocks
Paint the rocks and adorn them with what you’re grateful for, words of wisdom, names, or anything else you can think of. For extra fun, bring some glue to glue on feathers, acorns, and other natural ‘keepsakes’ your children may find along the way.

Painted Feathers
What you’ll need:
● Bag of fake feathers (Don’t use real feathers since they’re dirty and can potentially make you all sick). For added fun, hide them around your campsite and let your kids find them for a more authentic feel.
● Acrylic paint
● Small paintbrush
Tip: Try adding a little bit of water to the paint before touching it to the feathers for a watercolor effect.

Bark Owls
What you’ll need:
● Bark
● Acorns
● Twigs
● Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, or other nuts/seeds that are ‘beak-like’ in appearance
● Tacky craft glue or hot glue
You can make a treasure hunt out of this for the kids beforehand to find all the ingredients. Gently, carefully break the bark into the crude shape of an owl. Then, glue two acorn caps for eyes and the seed below for the beak.
Tip: glue the owl to a leafy branch for display at home!


Test Tube Garden
What you’ll need:
● Water jelly crystals
● Plastic cups or test tubes
● Test tube rack (if required)
● Seeds
● Soil
Soak the water crystals and seeds, separately, in water overnight – try to do this at home the night prior to your camping trip so you don’t waste time doing it while camping. Have your kids dig up some nice, soft soil from your campsite, pre-wet as necessary.

Fill your plastic cups two-thirds of the way with the water jelly crystals, pressing down gently to reduce air bubbles, then fill the remaining two-thirds with the soil. Add 1-2 pre-soaked seeds to the soil near the wall of the cup so that you can watch it grow.

Then, fill the remaining space with leftover soil and water crystals and place it in a warm, sunny location.
Check on your plants daily, and water them every other day with only a few drops of water – since the cups aren’t able to dispose of excess water, it is very easy to oversaturate your seeds and drown them. You should only need up to six drops.

It will take four to seven days to be able to see results, so this experiment is best suited for longer camping trips.

Sun-Powered Energy Beads
What you’ll need:
● UV energy beads
● String
● Sunlight
Teach your kids about the power and effects of the sun using UV energy beads. UV energy beads start off white but, when exposed to sunlight, they will change colors before your very eyes!
Make necklaces, bracelets, hat adornments, and other accessories and see how much sunlight your kids are attracting.

Density Tower
What you’ll need:
● Four short plastic cups
● One tall plastic cup
● A dropper
● Sugar
● Warm water
● Measuring spoons
● Food coloring or Kool-Aid (four different colors)
Fill each glass with a cup of warm water, or the same amount of water for each cup depending on the size. Then, color the water with the food coloring or Kool-Aid, one color for each cup of water. Add sugar individually as follows:
● 2 Tbsp
● 4 Tbsp
● 6 Tbsp
● 8 Tbsp
Label the cups accordingly based on the sugar content and mix the sugar into the colored water until fully dissolved.

Now, add each cup of water, starting with the densest with the 8 Tbsp first, to the tall cup and work your way down to the least dense.
Watch as your ‘tower’ turns into a rainbow of color!

Everything Glowy

There are a few different things you can do for some fun in the dark. Create your very own nightlights with glow jars, make a ‘lightening’ drink, or make some fun glow-in-the-dark ice cubes!

Glow Jars
What you’ll need:
● Clean mason jars
● Elmer’s glue
● A few drops of Atomic Glow or a few scoops of Glow Powder
● Cotton swabs or a paintbrush
Mix the glue and the atomic glow or glow powder thoroughly. Then, use a cotton swab or paintbrush to paint the mixture onto your jar. You should try to do this in the afternoon so that the ‘glow’ has a chance to charge in the sunlight, and so the mixture can thoroughly dry. At night, bring out your nightlights and light up your night!
Lightning Drinks
What you’ll need:
● Tonic Water
● Your beverage of choice (it’s recommended to use clear or light-colored beverages for an optimal glowing effect, as darker colored beverages cloud the glowing properties of the tonic water)
Tonic water contains small amounts of quinine, a chemical known for glow-in-the-dark properties. Simply mix the tonic water into your beverage and wash down some lightning!

Glow Cubes
What you’ll need:
● Ice cube tray
● Tonic water
● Freezer
Obviously, it’s a little hard to bring a freezer with you while camping. But this experiment is definitely worth mentioning! Plus, you can do this at home and attempt to keep the cubes frozen in your cooler until ready for use.
Simply freeze the tonic water in the ice cube tray, place in your beverage, and watch them light up like light bulbs!

Treasure Hunts

● The first step to planning a DIY treasure hunt is to know where you’re going and what’s abundantly found in that specific area. If you’re camping in Ohio, you may want to include acorns, Oak leaves, and flowers like Black-Eyes Susans and Blue False Indigo to the list. But, if you’re camping in Colorado, you may want to focus on things like Poppy’s, Russian Sage, and Aspen leaves.
● Try to keep your treasure hunt medium-sized, such as 10 of each for 5 things or 1 of each for 10 things. This way, the treasure hunt doesn’t take forever and you’re kids remain engaged the entire time.
● Have your list planned and ready before the camping trip so you don’t have to spend time planning on the road or at the site.
● Make it fun and interesting! Try choosing things that you and your family don’t see every day. Incorporate things like birds or other wildlife and plant life that is more prominent in your camp region than near your home. Even if you’re only 10 miles away.

Mission Exploration

Plan an exploration mission for you and your family’s next camping trip. Do some research to see what nearby caves, coves, creeks, rivers, hills, and landmarks there are near your campsite and make a point to list them out and go explore them.

Try thinking of things you wouldn’t necessarily get to see every day at home, such as waterfall caves, caverns in the hills, and the like. Just make sure you’re not accidentally trespassing on someone’s property!

There are so many exciting things to do and see while camping, and bringing your family along for the ride makes it so much more memorable and enjoyable. Of course, it takes a little extra effort and planning, but is it worth it in the end after all the checklists, planning, organizing, packing, and extra baggage? Absolutely.

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Rickie Arms

Hi, I'm Rickie Arms, owner of Glampingorcamping.com. I am so invested in writing the best and most informative articles for you that I went out and bought a travel trailer just so I could write about it for you. I spend just about all of my off time both camping and glamping so I can share everything I have learned and will learn with you. I have spent my whole life camping and over the last 10 years, I have spent a large amount of time checking out glamping experiences with my wife and kids as well. Thank you for coming by and we hope to see you back here getting great information in the future. Rick Arms-

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