Preparing for Your Child's First Camping Trip

Whether it's a family trip, a trip with a close friend or even summer camp, your child's first camping trip will take some emotional preparation. Doing a little bit of advance prep work can help make the entire situation less stressful and more enjoyable for your little one. Here are a few basic tips on how to prepare for your child's first camping trip.

Backyard Camping

A great preparation tool for parents is the backyard camp-out. For a child, this first-time experience can feel like the complete wilderness, especially once the sun goes down. Plus, with the comforts of home close-by, a child will feel more at ease.

Comforts of Home

Speaking of comforts of home, the more, the better, especially for a beginning camper. This could include a portable toilet, portable stove to cook meals on or a small radio to help drown out the sounds of the outdoors. At 2 a.m., every noise can be frightening to a child, especially on a first camp outing.

Other camping basics, such as starting a fire, can be taught over time. Remember that a first-time camper, especially a young child, doesn't need to learn everything right away during their first experience. Too much can overwhelm, stress or even scare a young child; thus scaring them away from camping entirely and permanently. If you're a family that loves camping, this could put a huge dent in your vacation plans.

Family Friendly Campgrounds

A backpacking camping trip is not the best idea for a first-time camper. Instead, opt for a campground that is family friendly and includes a number of child-friendly activities. This could include nature trails, ranger programs, playgrounds, canoeing, kayaking, swimming areas and so forth. You might want to work your child up to tent camping, as well. Many campgrounds have cabins or trailers that can be rented. Let your child adjust to the outdoors in one of these atmospheres and work your way back up to tent camping.

Summer Camp

Going alone to camp for the first time is extremely stressful and scary for a child. Fortunately, a number of coping methods can be extremely helpful for both parent and child. For example, a stack of pre-stamped, self-addressed envelopes can be put into the suitcase for the child. The parent should tell the child to write home whenever they feel sad or homesick and be sure to note that writing will help ease your child's mind. Don't forget to mention that it's perfectly OK to be homesick.

Also, tell your little one about all of the fun experiences they'll have while at camp, such as horseback riding or kayaking. Compliment them on their bravery and consider having a reward for them upon their return home. Don't make it a surprise, but rather, give them something to look forward to by telling them.

Finally, be extremely confident when dropping your child off at camp. Don't cry or show any sadness, as this will only stress your child out more.

A child's first camping trip should involve more than packing a suitcase full of clothes and other necessities. Parents should consider a pre-camping backyard trip or a weekend at a family friendly campground before a longer or larger adventure. Children going away to an overnight camp may need additional encouragement or a way to release emotions. While fears are normal, it's your job to make sure they're alleviated before they get out of control!