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Welcome to the great outdoors! As the warmth of summer comes, many families are eagerly planning their camping adventures. Camping offers a fantastic opportunity for families to unplug from technology, reconnect with nature, and create lasting memories together. 

Here in the Sioux Falls Area there are some amazing camping spots both close by and within a day’s drive! Go camping close by at Newton Hills or Big Sioux Rec. Take a longer drive to camp out in the Black Hills or up by a Minnesota Lake. We know that camping is hard work. Add in kids and it’s even more hard work! Read about one local Mom’s top tips about why camping as a family is worth the work

Camping with children requires some extra preparation and consideration to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. If you have never gone camping before, it can seem like a daunting thing to try for the first time! We have assembled a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of family camping like a pro!

Choosing the Right Campground

The first step in planning your family camping trip is selecting the perfect campground. Considerations such as location, amenities, and activities available should all factor into your decision-making process. Look for campgrounds that offer child-friendly facilities such as playgrounds, nature trails, and swimming areas. Additionally, be sure to check whether the campground allows pets if you plan to bring along your furry friends.

For your first time or two camping as a family we recommend trying something nearby! Test the waters where you are more familiar with the area, can run back home if need be, and a place where if these are going south fast you could simply leave for home quickly! 

For nearby campsites consider the following: Newton Hills State Park, Palisades State Park, Big Sioux Recreation Area, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, Lake Pahoja Rec Area (In Iowa), Oakwood Lakes State Park, or Lake Vermillion State Park. 

Packing Essentials

Packing for a camping trip with children requires careful thought and organization. Here are some essential items to include on your packing list:

1. Tent and Sleeping Gear

Choose a tent large enough to accommodate your family comfortably. Remember to take the pack-n-play into consideration if you need to bring it! Don’t forget sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and pillows for a good night’s rest under the stars. Some people prefer to not camp with sleeping bags but to simply bring blankets! It might not be quite as “campy” but that’s ok! 

For a tent: you get what you pay for. A good tent is going to be a bit more than you might be expecting! For those first trying out camping, see if you can borrow a tent from friends or family. It’s always a good idea to try something out if you can before investing money into it. For light summer camping a few times a year a cheaper tent will be great. But, if you want to invest in something that will last for the next several years with a bunch of kids, then a more high-end tent is the way to go. 

We recommend this North Face Tent if looking to invest in something long term! Remember to get the tent footprint to help endure a dry night and to protect your tent floor. 

2. Clothing

Pack appropriate clothing for varying weather conditions, including layers for cooler evenings and rain gear in case of inclement weather. Remember to bring a dirty clothing bag/hamper as well. Clothing gets dirty quickly while camping so you want a dedicated place to keep it away from your clean clothing! 

Tip for kids clothing: Pack a few more extra outfits than you think you will need! 

3. Food and Cooking Supplies

Plan your meals in advance and pack non-perishable food items that are easy to prepare. Don’t forget cooking utensils, pots, pans, and a portable stove or grill.

We love the classic Coleman stove for any camping that’s not backpacking! Easy to use and dependable. Just don’t forget the gas! 

For a particularly easy camping trip, bring freezer meals to cook while camping! Not only will they help keep your cooler colder, but they will slowly thaw and be perfect for a super easy meal camping. 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to make “camping” food the whole time camping! Think of it as an outdoor kitchen. Make the things you know your family will love. 

4. Safety Gear

Bring a first aid kit, sunscreen, insect repellent, and any necessary medications. It’s also a good idea to pack a flashlight or headlamp for nighttime activities. A headlamp makes all the difference in the world walking to the bathroom late at night! 

We love this Headlamp from Petzl! Headlamps are like tents, you get what you pay for! This one has great range. 

5. Entertainment

You don’t need much of this camping! Make sure to back a few books to read with your kids. Otherwise, bring a few simple things to play with. Maybe a ball, some cars to play around in the dirt with, or a doll and stroller to join in on the camping fun. You won’t need much in the great outdoors! 

For younger kids, bring some camping themed books for them to enjoy! We love this camping board book

6. Hygiene and Sanitation 

Pack toiletries, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and garbage bags for proper waste disposal. Having a tiny bathroom sized trash can at your campsite with bags stuffed in the bottom to use during a meal is so handy! 

What Else?

Preparing for the Journey

Before you hit the road, take some time to prepare your children for the camping adventure ahead. Talk to them about what to expect, set some ground rules for behavior and safety, and involve them in the planning process. Encourage their curiosity about nature and teach them about Leave No Trace principles to instill a sense of environmental responsibility.

Setting Up Camp

Once you arrive at the campground, involve your children in setting up camp. Assign age-appropriate tasks such as gathering firewood, pitching the tent, or arranging sleeping bags. This not only helps lighten the workload but also fosters a sense of responsibility and teamwork among family members.

Exploring Nature

One of the highlights of camping with children is the opportunity to explore the great outdoors together. Take advantage of nature trails, guided hikes, or ranger-led programs offered by the campground. Encourage your children to observe wildlife, identify plants, and learn about the natural environment around them.

Campfire Fun

No camping trip is complete without a cozy campfire! Gather around the fire with your family to roast marshmallows, tell stories, and sing songs. Just be sure to follow campground rules and safety guidelines when building and maintaining a fire.

Bedtime Routine

As the day comes to a close, establish a bedtime routine to help your children wind down and prepare for sleep. Brush teeth, change into pajamas, and read bedtime stories by lantern or flashlight. Embrace the magic of sleeping under the stars and listen to the soothing sounds of nature as you drift off to sleep.

Remember, this might go poorly the first times you camp. If your children are used to their bedtime routine at home, then suddenly sleeping in a tent outside might just be a bit too exciting for them! Have grace for them and embrace a bit later bedtime if you need to. 

Dealing with Challenges

Despite careful planning, challenges may arise during your camping trip. Be prepared to adapt and problem-solve as needed, whether it’s coping with bad weather, pesky insects, or homesickness. Stay positive, flexible, and focus on the joys of spending quality time together as a family.

Leaving No Trace

As you prepare to depart from your camping adventure, remember to leave no trace behind. Pack out all trash, extinguish campfires completely, and respect wildlife and natural habitats. Leave the campground as beautiful as you found it for future generations to enjoy.

Enjoy! 

Camping with children can be a rewarding and memorable experience for the whole family. By following these tips and guidelines, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and unforgettable summer camping adventure. So gather your gear, embrace the great outdoors, and get ready to create cherished memories that will last a lifetime! Happy camping!