As a father, I discovered something my father knew, ALL kids like nature and camping.

No matter how young,  children explode with joy when touching mud, splashing in ponds and absorbing the drama of a centipede crossing a leaf.

Campologists know the great outdoors is where the kiddies thrive, flourish, grow and learn. It’s not a scary, dark and dreary place at all unless YOU make it that way!

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My parents took me camping for 4-8 weeks every year, and my dear wife and I took our kids camping at every opportunity, we now have the privilege of camping with our grandchildren. Whether by car, canoe, or backpacking … from mountain tops, river valleys and sunny beaches … it’s all good!

It’s very simple, there are only 4 basic tricks to a successful camping trip with kids.

kids ADK
Tracy with children Erica & James …and Archie the dog – Adirondack Mountains 1996

4 tips when camping with kids:

  1. Positive Attitude – This is so very important. If you are a grumpy mumpy, the kids will be grumpy mumpies!  Kids are innocent blank slates thirsting for knowledge and positive role models – they simply mock their folks. So HAPPY positive attitudes are very contagious … absolutely NO WHINING!
  2. Knowledge and Skills – You need to know how to camp. The whole experience could be a disaster, cold, wet or even dangerous if you don’t. So start with baby steps. The nearby car camping location can be great. In Ontario we are lucky. The provincial parks are excellent and provide a variety of camping experiences. Pick a day with great weather and a season with few bugs. This will reduce the chances of problems. As you learn more and gain experience, stretch out the seasons, and lengthen the distances from civilization. Experiences will be richer the further you are from civilization … however only if you have the knowledge and skills.
  3. The Right Gear  – When your tent leaks, the sleeping bag is cold, and your clothing seems always wet… you likely have the wrong gear. I don’t recommend expensive gear, however, you do want stuff good enough to make the experience comfortable. This is the consumer’s magic puzzle. I would recommend you read all you can, and then head down to a local quality outdoor retailer. They should point you in the right direction.  Don’t buy cheap! It will likely be wasted money.
  4. Understand What Kids Like – If you have only camped with adults this may be a challenge. If you are a rookie parent this could be difficult. To make camping a wonderful ride for both adults and children the following is likely the most important thing … you MUST MUST camp, trek and paddle at the pace of the kids. If they want to stop and look at a worm for 15 minutes do it. If they want to paddle upside down let them. Most importantly, their attention spans are just a little longer than a fruit fly, so keep them busy with games, activities, songs and stories. Be prepared!
  5. The bottom line – is if you want to go long and hard leave the kids at home. However, if you want to share one of the best experiences on the planet with your children… slow, easy and fun is the trick… It’s child’s play!
camping family algonquin
James, Bruce and Erica in Algonquin Park (1993)
Austin camping4x6
Camping with grandson Austin – Ontario Provincial Parks, 2022
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