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Books / Children / Colorado Livin' / Family Travel

5 Tips for Camping with Kids this Summer

camping with kids colorado

Camping is a great way to get kids unplugged and connected to nature, and summertime is prime camp season. We tapped Boulder-based Helen Olsson, author of The Down & Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids, which was just released in its second edition in April, to give us her top tips for taking the brood into the woods. 

#1. Prep the Kids: Before you go camping with small children, read picture books about camping. Pitch a tent in the backyard to get used to sleeping outside.Camping with kids COlorado

#2. Gear Up: For family camping, remember to bring kid-specific gear like little potties, portable high chairs, pack-and-plays, small backpacks, kid water bottles, and baby backpack carriers. Here’s a few key items of gear:

  • Headlamps: They’re better than flashlights, because your hands are free to cook, cleanup, or read a book. Bring one for each kid to avoid tussles.
  • Hiking shoes (not sandals!): You’ll want shoes with good traction for the trail.
  • Tweezers and a magnifying glass: One small sliver can bring your trip to halt. Be ready!
  • Earplugs: When the whole family is in the tent, it can be noisy at night.
  • Duct tape: It fixes everything!

#3. Be Food Prepared: Everything tastes better in the woods, but kids can be finicky. Plan a menu you know your kids will like. Burgers, hot dogs, or steak with corn on the cob; buttered pasta; or turkey and veggie packs cooked in tinfoil over the coals. 

  • Packing the Pantry: Put spices in small bags and label them. Leave bulky packaging at home.
  • Scrambled Eggs: At home, crack eggs into a Nalgene bottle and add milk, salt, and pepper and give it a shake (this way, you avoid the soggy egg carton in the cooler).
  • Go beyond S’mores: Bring foodstuffs like candied ginger, dried cherries, hunks of good dark chocolate and fresh berries to stuff inside marshmallows before roasting for twist on the usual camp dessert. 

#4. Get Crafty: Bring along a sketch pad or nature journal, crayons, colored pencils, markers, or watercolors to keep kids entertained. Doing art with your kids in the outdoors can elevate your camp experience. Try these nature-based crafts:

  • Leaf prints: Color the back of a leaf with a colored marker and press it onto paper. These prints are beautiful and whimsical—especially if you use non-traditional leaf colors like pinks, purples, and blues.
  • Land art: Create patterns out of collected rocks, leaves, feathers, or shells. Take a picture of your creations when you’re done, then leave it to return back to nature.
  • Nature rubbings: Set blank, white craft paper against something with texture around the campsite (tree bark, the picnic table, a trail sign) and rub the broad side of a crayon back and forth to create a rubbing.

#5. Get Out For a Hike. Most kids are at their best in the morning and so’s the weather. Choose hikes with landmarks, like a bat-filled cave, a pond with a beaver lodge, a ghost town, or a waterfall. Here’s more sage advice on ensuring “hike” is not a four-letter word:

  • Stop often for snacks, water, rock tossing, or meditating by a burbling river. 
  • Take time to listen to birdsong and smell the pines. 
  • And when kids start dragging their feet, start dispensing a treat—M&Ms or gourmet jelly beans—for every stretch of ground they cover. 

You can find Helen Olsson’s complete packing checklists for family camping on


Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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