How to Camp with Kids: Checklists, Recipes, and Advice Needed for First Time Campers

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As soon as these 90 degree days let up, we are going to try out CAMPING WITH 4 FOUR YEAR OLDS!  Call us crazy, but you all know that we’ve already went way off the deep end of all things sane. After having 20 years of great family memories, some friends of ours wanted us to carry on the tradition by passing down their pop up camper.

The only catch is I’m CLUELESS when it comes to camping. My sole camping experience took place eons ago with a handful of junior high girls for a Sunday School girls sleepover. We lasted in a pop up camper until about 1am when we heard thunder in the distance, and decided we were minutes away from turning into TV tornado footage, and took cover in the living room of Mrs. Star’s farm house. (I don’t think it even rained a drop that night.)

So with much to learn, I’m depending on Pinterest and YOU ALL to hold my hand through our first time camping experience.

Here’s My Top 5 Ideas for Camping with Kids:

  1. These frugal and easy foods for camping from thekitchn look very doable!


2.  Here’s a thorough printable checklist of things to take camping from I’m An Organizing Junkie.


3. This top 10 apps for Summer Vacation from Life Scoop article includes apps for National/Regional Parks, Campsite Finder, and other road trip helps.


4. Camping with small children? Here’s some tips from Rockin’ Mama.


5. How fantastic is this Scavenger Hunt Game and Bag from The Creative Homemaker?!!!


Also, I just downloaded Katie from Kitchen Stewardship’s ebook “Family Camping Handbook”. It’s filled with real food recipes and tips to survive camping with little ones. Click here to view more details! *

These ideas combined with my few hours in a pop up camper next to a house, make my camping skills are minimal at best. What advice or resources would YOU recommend to our family as first time campers? 

(You can find more camping inspiration on my “Happy Campers” Pinterest Board.)

*Indicates an affiliate link.

10 thoughts on "How to Camp with Kids: Checklists, Recipes, and Advice Needed for First Time Campers"

  1. Nicole at Arrows Sent Forth says:

    I wrote a post with a few tips, although my son is younger than your boys.
    For a first time camper, I’d recommend using paper products so you don’t have to deal with dishes. Keep it simple!
    Also, site selection is important. If you’re going to a state park, Indiana’s DNR campsite reservation system is wonderful. Pay attention to things like how flat the site is, proximity to the bathrooms, etc.
    If this is your first time setting up the pop-up, give it a trial run in the driveway before you go. It’s sometimes not as easy as it looks.
    Most importantly, have fun! We love to camp with our little guy. 4 would be “quadruple” the fun!

  2. Charity says:

    It’s a good idea to bring a potty chair since we have 4 little ones, otherwise you will spend a good deal of your time running to the restroom. I read in “A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family” that it’s easier to deal with if you cut diapers in half & lay it in the bottom of the potty chair. I’ve done this & it works great! It soaks up the pee & you can bag it in a wal-mart bag & clorox wipe the potty chair & you are ready to go! =)

  3. Charity says:

    I have a list of campfire meals that I have bookmarked over the years on my acct. You are welcome to them:

  4. Kori Gammon says:

    You are very smart to wait until your kids are 4 so they’ll sleep well. Plan on dirty kids, it’s part of the fun. We washed ours down with baby wipes at the end of the day. The great outdoors is a boys heaven, have fun!

  5. leah says:

    aww man, was hoping that scavenger hunt poster thing was downloadable 😉

  6. RobinS says:

    I make food ahead like chile or fried rice and freeze it. The frozen food works as an ice pack in your cooler. Makes a nice break from hotdogs etc. and very quick for Mom.

  7. Melissa says:

    You might try some tin foil dinners. They are super easy to prepare (and your kids can probably help put theirs together). Here’s a website with some different recipes (its been a long time since I made on)

    do make sure to get heavy duty aluminum foil though!

  8. My camping experience is limited (though my husband did a daddy/children camping trip for years when they were younger!!!) I’d make sure you bring 1) bug spray, 2) flashlights with fresh batteries for everyone (fun and useful and no fighting if they all have one), 3) trash bags, 4) toilet paper. And my camping philosophy is “better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

  9. Danielle says:

    Hope your first trip is wonderful! We just did our first trip the beginning of july. It was my family and two friends families. Between the five adults we had 9 kids: 8yr, 7yr, 4 5yr olds, a 4 yr old, a 3 year old and a one year old! We had a blast. Biggest things that worked for us: a potty in the tent/trailer and wipes. flash light for EVERY kid, WE used disposable plastic cups but wrote each kids name on it and they reused for the day then they were recycled. Books for night time to settled them in before bed….hmm trying to think what else?

  10. Kitwench says:

    I’ve been camping for years, with groups of littles, mediums, teenagers, and mixed family groups and the best tip I have for first time campers with little ones is DON’T try to do everything!
    Bring foods they like that are easy to cook or serve- think peanut butter and jelly , a variety of dry cereal in baggies, pre-wrapped cheese sticks, hot dogs : boiled, not on a stick. It’s much like home – nothing more stressful than having four exhausted little kitchen helpers while you try to get dinner made while they’re “starving, mommy!” Bring marshmallows , graham crackers and chocolate (another tip – buy the prewrapped bite size, they don’t make a mess being broken into pieces for the s’mores!) and let the kids get their cook over a fire experience with something fun and foolproof after they’ve had dinner.
    Plan for down time, but bring balls, trucks, dolls, and blocks – no really – and watch them de-stress from a typical busy daily schedule.
    Make this as easy on yourself as possible – you’ll have more fun 🙂

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