Hacks for Camping With Your Kids

father sitting with his kids in front of a campfire

If you intend to take your baby or children camping at a state park, then you need a few hacks to help make the trip more enjoyable.

These camping techniques could alter how you “rough it” when camping with kids, whether it is your first camping trip or your hundredth family outing.

Of course, the first step to guaranteeing camping fun is choosing a fantastic family-friendly campsite, but carrying the correct supplies is just as crucial! To help you get a head start, we have included our top camping with babies and kid hacks in one place.

Babies Camping Hacks

Flameless Candles

Candles add some soft light and are perfect for camping with babies (and kids) as they cannot catch on fire.

They put off the perfect amount of light for a late-night diaper change or feeding, and you do not have to fuss with aiming a flashlight that’s too bright.

Portable High Chair

Portable high chairs fold up and sit lower to the ground making the perfect option for dining at a campsite.

These are wonderful for those who have little toddlers that still use a high chair. Also, they help to keep your child safe while you cook.

Sound Machine

There are so many unfamiliar sounds at a campsite that it can be hard for little minds to rest!

Turn on a sound machine to drown out the noises of animals and bugs and help them get a good night’s sleep.

Moses Baskets

Moses baskets are perfect for infants who cannot sit up yet for camping. You can use it as a bed, keep them safe and off the ground while you do various tasks around your campsite.

Some people prefer a travel bassinet that functions similarly; however, when your baby outgrows the basket, you can use it for holding camping supplies.

Stroll to Sleep

Bring a stroller for nap time and lull your little ones to sleep as they often do while moving.

Most strollers have an umbrella which is great for protecting against the sun. You can easily find an all-terrain option that will help you with hiking too.

Make a Tummy Time Space

If your baby is crawling, bring a big tarp, a picnic blanket, or a fitted sheet to create a play area for your baby.

This can be a great area for your baby to crawl around on, being monitored, of course. You can even lay down some blankets for extra cushion.

A fitted sheet can give higher sides if you add objects at the corners. A baby pool works well, too, and has sturdier sides to keep the baby in while still giving you an easy option to cool your baby off with water fun.

Just lay some blankets down and toss in some toys, and you have a perfect, safe play area for your little one!

Find Distance

State parks often keep campsites close together, but you often have the option to make reservations and choose your spots online.

If you’re making reservations ahead of time, try to find a site with a little distance between it and the neighboring sites.

The extra space can make the whole experience feel more remote and help reduce your worry about noise issues or your baby disturbing others.

Limit Exposed Skin

Babies are harder to keep insect repellant and sunblock on or too young. If you want to avoid using repellents, try to limit the amount of skin that’s exposed to the sun.

Pants tucked into socks, a long-sleeve shirt, and a hat are fairly effective. You can also try other ways of deterring insects, like wearing head nets, setting up a screened-in shelter, or lighting citronella candles in your campsite.

Hacks for Toddlers and Children

Block the Sound

If you’re not used to sharing tight quarters with your whole family or with nature, campsite sleeping maybe be too loud to induce sleep. Earplugs will help take the edge off, but being in tight quarters means you’ll still hear the stuff that actually needs to be heard.

Find some kid-sized earplugs to help them sleep if a sound machine does not work.

Forget the Toothpaste

Pack toothpaste tablets instead of toothpaste. Toddlers and kids tend to squeeze out the paste and get it covered in forest floor soot. So instead, hand them a tube and let them crush a tablet and brush as normal.

New brands offer options without fluoride and harmful ingredients that kids can swallow if necessary.

Mini Marshmallow Trick

Use tea light candles with toothpicks to melt marshmallows for s’mores. Camping in the summer can make a campfire out of the question, but tea lights will not heat up your campsite. In a pinch, the lights can be emergency lights too.

It’s best to soak the toothpicks for thirty minutes beforehand and drain the excess water before skewering the marshmallows.

Find a State Park Nearby

Pick a state park near your home, so you have the option to run home if necessary. Especially if it’s your first time going with kids and you are nervous about camping, close by allows you to leave early if necessary. Moreover, if you realize you forgot something.

Pack a Hot Water Bottle

Hot water bottles are perfect for pre-heating sleeping bags on cooler nights. Additionally, they can act as a heat pack for a bite or small injury, making them a must-have for camping.

Show Your Kids Around

Take your kids for a stroll around the campground and the state park facilities. Make sure the location of your tent or camper is obvious to the kids so they can find it if they are old enough to wander a little on their own.

Point out landmarks around your tent pitching location to help the kids find their way back to the tent. Also, tell your children how far they go from the tent site and which areas they need to avoid.

Pack Some Fun

Every child is different, but many kids will get bored without their electronics rather quickly. Plan smart, and you can avoid hearing, “Mom! I’m bored!” Here are some fun options to bring with you to entertain younger family members.

  • Bow and arrow set (if park approved)
  • Squirt guns
  • Bug nets
  • Chalk
  • Bubbles
  • Binoculars
  • Camping Bingo
  • Glow Sticks
  • Toy Tools
  • Daily Scavenger Hunt
  • Telescope
  • Painter’s tape (you would be surprised how much kids love to tape things, and painter’s tape peels off easily to throw away).
  • Campsite Tic-Tac-Toe (with rocks or acorns)

Get Kids Involved

Help your kids to feel older and enjoy the experience of camping more by involving them in every part of camping. The main reason is to keep them occupied so you can work and to help reduce your workload.

Responsibilities like taking out the trash can give them confidence too.

Pack a Spare Tent

Not all campsites at a state park offer enough room, but if possible, bring a spare tent to use for indoor activities if it rains. You can also use it as the chores and activities tent too.

This will keep them from jumping all over sleeping bags in the main tent and reduce clutter.

Single-Use Soap

Use a vegetable peeler to shave off individual soap leaves to make washing easy. You can even use these for dishes or showers. Castile soap makes a great option as it can be used for anything, including stain treating clothing.

Also, use the soap to soothe the itching from a mosquito bite in a pinch by rubbing one of the soap leaves on the bite.

Enhance Sleep with Cushions

Nobody wants a rock or a tree root sticking out of their back as they sleep, which is why cushions exist. Additionally, you can put a yoga mat under the sleeping bag or use an inflatable bed.

A cot can also help to keep your kids off the ground and help to keep them warmer on cool nights.

Keep Outfits in Easy Reach

When you roll up a full outfit, you not only free up space but also avoid having to search through your tent on chilly mornings. Alternatively, you can use bags to store outfits in too for smaller children or even plastic shopping bags for older kids.

Finally, after your kids use a bag of clothes, use the bag for trash clean-up around the campsite.

Glamp Up Your Adventure

Some people prefer a modest camping trip, while others like to camp in luxury and comfort, including fussy children. Elevate your camping experience with a few glamping (glam camping) touches.

The camping experience can be improved by adding amenities like fairy lights, throws, cushions, fake flowers, incense, and lanterns.

Do Not Eat That!

Make sure everyone knows this crucial camping rule: Never consume any berries or mushrooms. Even fruit and fungi that appear delectable might be toxic. With my children, I called them kill berries and pointed out everything they could not eat.

Hacks for the Whole Family

Abandon Dish Duty

Instead of packing dishes, bring individual serving sizes to reduce clean-up. This can also lead to another great hack, no-cook camping! When you do not have to cook all the meals, you can avoid bringing all the kitchen accessories! Instead, try alternative meal options like MRE’s or options that only need hot water like oatmeal and ramen.

With no cooking, you usually have far fewer dishes and stuff to carry.

Pack a Rack

You can use rope or a folding drying rack for a camp clothesline. The rack works best in parks with fewer trees and helps to keep towels and clothes from mildewing or staying wet. Use it to dry wet swimsuits too, or just to keep items off the ground.

Pack Duct Tape & Rope

Duct tape can quickly and effectively fix many camping difficulties, from temporary bandages to tent repairs. Bring a few bungee cords and some rope to act as a clothesline or help anchor a hammock or tent.

In the event of strong gusts, gear can be secured using both ropes and bungee cords.

Keep Wildlife Out of Your Campsite

If you go drive-up camping, it is a good idea to keep all food—including coolers—inside your car, regardless of where you stay. Bears, skunks, or any other animals should not be looking through your belongings! Therefore, keep everything locked up, especially at night, to keep unwanted wildlife out.

Hands & Feet

Front your family tent with a doormat to keep your youngsters from tracking in dirt, mud, pine needles, etc. Also, teach the kids to remove their shoes before entering the tent and keep a shoe basket there for easy access when exiting the tent.

Finally, camping with kids requires a hand and foot washing station by the door to keep the mess at bay.

Turkish Delight

Turkish towels are lightweight, thin, and roll up to a third of the size of a normal towel. More importantly, because of the long weave cotton, they repel sand and dirt and act as a blanket too. You can also buy hand towel sizes to use for dishes, hair, hands, or feet.

The bath towels work as a blanket, shower towels, or beach towels. While many people like microfiber towels, they are not great for people who do not like polyester or other plastic fabrics.

Also, microfiber towels tend to be stick magnets, and soon you will have leaves and dirt all over them, making them an unbearable mess.

The Most Important Camping Seat

Depending on your campsite, you may be too far from the park’s bathrooms, or they are just filthy and not desirable to use. Additionally, bucket potties do not work well for kids as they have short legs and toddler potties are too small.

However, with many brands now make portable potties with lids in various sizes to work for almost the whole family, especially in the middle of the night for little bladders.

Tent Noodles are Useful

Make tent ropes visible to prevent tripping with colorful pool noodles. Cut a pool noodle in half and place it over ropes to make them easy to see. This camping hack will avoid scraped knees. Also, you can use one to organize fishing poles.

Lanyards for Showers

Showering in the woods can require a lot of work as you have to carry the soap, shampoo, conditioner, towel, etc. Instead, use old hand sanitizer bottles for the toiletries and add them to a lanyard.

Then, hang each family member’s necessities from the shower head using lanyards, and you are ready to shower with less carrying!

Bring Some Shade

You probably remembered to bring hats for your family, but what about a pop-up sun shelter or canopy? Depending on the state you are in and the park, you may have very little shade, which will have the whole family irritated in a few hours.

You have many options to choose from, including tarps, tent style, umbrellas, canopies, or even one with a mesh to keep bugs like chiggers at bay too.

Park a Sled at the Park

Plastic snow sleds are handy year-round. You can use them to glide across the grass, sand, or even gravel and quickly get things to your campsite.

The kids will enjoy them too and may try “sledding” down a hill; just make sure they stay safe. Consider gluing pool noodles to the bottom for an easier glide.

Water Shoes for the Win

If you love camping at state parks with creeks, rivers, or lakes, carry water shoes for everyone.

They are designed to protect feet from scratches and bumps; they help kids scramble over rocks and play on pebbles. The shoes include non-slip soles and quick-dry materials.

Movie Night

If you are willing to bring a generator, you could also pack a projector for a family movie night. Purchase a campfire popcorn popper for additional fun.

If you do not have space for a projector, you could also bring a laptop.

Remember Safety

While the great outdoors bring wonder and beauty, they also bring bug bites, scraps, bruises, and more. Pack mini first aid kids for the whole family to keep in case of an emergency.

Also, remember to pack bug spray, bandaids, antiseptic wipes, allergy meds, and pain relievers just in case.

Final Thoughts

Camping with the kids at your favorite state park can be an amazing adventure with the right stuff packed. A few hacks can make the trip easier for parents too and save time or money. Worry less and enjoy more with these smart ideas ready to improve your next family trip outdoors.