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Camp Safely With Your Children


Camping with your children is a terrific family activity.  You want your children to have fun and to learn about nature, but you want to make sure that they are safe and comfortable.  Some commonsense safe camping  rules will help you achieve this goal.

Before You Leave Home

  • Be sure to pack appropriate clothing for your children.  It's best to layer their clothes.  That way they can shed clothes as the day gets warmer or add them as it gets colder.
  • Always carry rain gear for everyone.  Simple plastic ponchos that you buy in the drugstore are fine. 
  • Pack food carefully.  Everyone will be super hungry.  That's what fresh air and physical activity will do for you.  Be especially mindful of breakfast.   Hot oatmeal, scrambled eggs or pancakes provide much needed carbohydrates for a busy day.
  • Include plenty of energy snacks such as nuts, GORP (good old raisons and peanuts), and trail mixes.  Dehydrated fruit and nuts and chocolate chips make a great homemade mix.  Your kids will love it.
  • Make sure there is plenty to drink.  Try to avoid soft drinks.  They just make you thirstier.  Plain water is fine.  If you are in a campground, the water is probably drinkable, but if you are doing any type of primitive camping, make sure to have some type of water purifier or iodine tablets.  Even though the water looks clean, there could be nasty bacteria lurking there.

When You Get There

  • Familiarize your children with the campground.  Make sure they know where the bathrooms are, although they are never to go there alone.  Institute the buddy system if their ages permit it.
  • Place some type of identifying object at your campsite.  The camping tents and campsites can look pretty much alike, especially in the dark.  Perhaps a flag or a folding chair placed at the entrance could easily identify your spot.
  • Set rules about how far they can stray.  This will vary, depending on the age of your children.  Small children should always be in sight.  Older ones could be within hollering distance.  If you have teenagers, make clear rules about where they can go and when they should return. 
  • Pick a place where the children should go if they get disoriented in the campground.  Perhaps the camp store or office would work.
  • Every child should have a whistle with them at all times.  If they get confused about where they are, have them stop and blow the whistle.  It's a good idea to have them memorize the number of your campsite.
  • Everyone should have their own flashlight.  You will need this for moving about in the campsite after dark.  It's a "must have" when you have to go to the bathroom.  A flashlight is fun to use in the tent or camper to make shadow figures.
  • Everybody must wear shoes in the campground.  There may be broken glass or crushed tin cans on the ground.  We would hope that all campers practice Leave No Trace ethics, but there are no guarantees.  Even just pine cones and rocks can hurt.  Flip flops don't do well on little feet.  They slip off too easily and  young children just don't remember to keep them on.
  • Be careful around your tent.  There will be stakes in the ground and guy wires extending out from the tent.  Put scraps of tin foil on the wires so they can be avoided.

Campground Precautions

  • Make sure your children are dressed appropriately for whatever activity they are doing.  Apply sunscreen if they will be out in the sun, perhaps swimming.  Don't forget insect repellent if it's buggy where you are.  There are special insect repellents that are formulated just for children.
  • If you are hiking or performing some type of strenuous activity, be sure to carry plenty of water.  Each person should have a canteen or water bottle with them.  If it's hot, you will be sure to sweat a lot and you must replenish that fluid.
  • A nature walk is a great activity, but be sure to teach your children that wild animals are just that--wild.  A good pair of Nikon Monarch binoculars is a great asset in viewing wildlife. 
  • If your family is camping in cool weather, everyone should have a hat to keep them warm.  Most of our heat is lost through our head. 
  • Make sure fire safety rules are enforced.  Establish a perimeter around the campfire far enough away from the fire so that sparks don't fly out and land on tender flesh.  It might be easier to cook on a portable gas grill and save the campfire for marshmallows.

These are simple suggestions to help you and your family have a safe and enjoyable camping vacation.  As you leave the campground, your children will be asking, "When can we go again?".

Author bio:  Stephanie is a lifelong camper and now writes about outdoor activities on her website, Always Outdoors.  She also reviews outdoor products.


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