It's been a few years since I camped with my — now almost grown — little ones, but the memories remain: marshmallows and sing-a-longs around the campfire, snuggling together in the tent and midnight trips to the bathroom.
What I came away with was this mantra: prepare, prepare, prepare!
We surveyed readers and scoured the internet for some fun and easy ways to keep camping trips with kids running as smoothly as possible.
Keep them cosy
The surface on which you've pitched your tent may be rocky and uneven. Take some of the lumps and bumps out of your slumber with giant foam floor tiles found at most big box stores. Bigger kids will enjoy putting together the foam "puzzle," and little ones can crawl around on it safely. Thanks to alittlecampy for the idea, found here.
Parks Canada has advice for camping with children, including packing several extra sets of clothing and footwear because kids tend to get dirty and messy while camping.
Keep them fed
Another mantra when camping with kids could be, "Keep it simple." In that vein, here are a couple of easy-peasy recipes that will keep kids happy.
Breakfast burritos can be made ahead and frozen. You can customize them beforehand with what each child prefers: scrambled eggs, cheeses, bacon, sausage, veggies, onion, hashbrowns and more. Wrap them up in a flat wrap and freeze, storing them in foil to stick on the barbecue or in the campfire embers to heat. No prep time and no cleanup! More info here from onesweetappetite.
Marshmallows on a stick = good. Smores in a waffle cone = better! These campfire cones from cometogetherkids take just five ingredients, none of which require refrigeration, and include bananas. Sweet — literally!
Keep them entertained
Some of these camping games are so fun and simple I wish I'd thought of them!
Try a game of mosquito bites — all you need to remember to bring is some red dot stickers. At the beginning of the campout, hand each camper a sheet of red dot stickers. Choose a word that kids are likely to say often like "tent" or "camping," and make that word forbidden to say for an hour.
If one hears another say the forbidden word, they give that player a mosquito bite — placing a red dot on them. The person with the most "bites" at the end loses.
Sleeping bag races are like a potato sack race, and a scavenger hunt looking for bird's nests, leaves, flowers or pine cones can keep everyone entertained for hours! When everyone's tired sit down for a game of Tic-Tac-Toe with sticks and pine cones or stones. More ideas for games here.
Forgot the campfire songs you learned as a kid? Here's a handy list to bring with you.
Keep them safe
Who better to ask about camp safety than Scouts Canada, whose motto is "be prepared"? Scouts has a list of 10 tips including having a pre-determined meeting place if you get separated, and clipping a whistle to kids to use if they get lost. Use a "stay within sight" policy with your children until you believe they are old enough to venture alone, advises the Children's Health and Safety Association.
While mosquito bites is a game, they're also usually a reality on any P.E.I. camping trip. Here's a DIY remedy to try, if you have some Chloraseptic spray in your medical kit — just dab it on the bite.
To avoid ticks that could carry Lyme disease, stick to cleared paths and trails, tuck in clothing including pants into socks and use insect repellent containing DEET. After a day outside, especially in woods or tall grass, check kids all over for ticks.
Parks Canada advises families to let children feel like they are part of the experience.
"Make sure they have their own flashlight or head lamp at night. Let them bring their own backpack on hikes and day trips," said their website.
Can't get enough camping hacks? Here's a whole list of 25 excellent ones to teach your kids from wideopenspaces.com.