Tips for Camping with Kids

Heading out into the great outdoors with kids in tow can be an adventure that’s as enriching as it is exciting. Tennessee, with its lush landscapes, rolling hills, and scenic campgrounds, offers a perfect backdrop for families looking to dive into camping. The state’s natural beauty, from the misty mountains of the Smokies to the tranquil waters of its lakes and rivers, provides an ideal setting for children to explore and parents to unwind. 

Camping in Tennessee is not just about setting up tents and roasting marshmallows; it’s an opportunity to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with each other and nature. Whether you’re a seasoned camper familiar with the trails and sites or a family looking to embark on your first outdoor adventure, Tennessee’s diverse ecosystems and welcoming campgrounds promise an unforgettable experience. 

Preparing for such a trip means packing not just supplies and gear but also a spirit of adventure and readiness to create lasting memories. This guide aims to smooth the path for families planning to explore the wilds of Tennessee, ensuring that your camping trip is enjoyable, safe, and filled with moments of wonder and joy.

Choosing the Right Campsite

When camping with kids, selecting the right campsite is crucial for ensuring an enjoyable trip. Family-friendly options that offer both safety and comfort, as well as features that match the curiosity and energy levels of younger campers, can greatly enhance the experience. 

In Tennessee campgrounds are celebrated for their scenic beauty and designed to cater to families, ensuring every camping trip is filled with adventure, relaxation, and unforgettable memories for both parents and children. For example, Greenbrier Campground stands out with its exceptional offerings, including playgrounds, easy access to clean restrooms, and safe swimming areas, making it an ideal choice for families. It’s important to look for campsites that provide activities suited to children’s ages and interests. Choosing a site that supports and enhances the camping experience for the entire family is key to a memorable outdoor adventure.

Packing Essentials

Packing for a camping trip with kids goes beyond the basics of tents and sleeping bags. It requires a well-thought-out checklist that anticipates the needs and comforts of the entire family. Essential items include comfortable clothing suitable for varying temperatures, sturdy footwear, flashlights or headlamps, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first-aid kit tailored to include pediatric medicines and band-aids. Don’t forget to pack enough snacks, water, and ingredients for simple, kid-friendly meals. Ensuring you have all the necessary gear and supplies will minimize stress and allow more time for enjoyment.

Planning Kid-Friendly Activities

Keeping children entertained and engaged is crucial for a successful camping trip. Plan a mix of activities that can be enjoyed together as a family, such as hiking, bird watching, or a nature scavenger hunt. These activities not only provide fun and exercise but also offer valuable opportunities for learning and exploration. Consider bringing along simple craft supplies to create nature-based art or a small notebook for each child to record their observations, turning the camping experience into an interactive learning journey. The key is to balance structured activities with free play, allowing kids to explore their environment under your watchful eye.

Safety First

Safety is paramount when camping, especially with kids. Before heading out, educate yourself and your children about the potential hazards you might encounter, such as wildlife, poisonous plants, and water bodies. Discuss the importance of staying together, especially on hikes or explorations. Equip each child with a whistle and teach them what to do if they become separated from the group. Ensure everyone knows the location of the first-aid kit and understands basic safety protocols. By preparing your children and emphasizing safety, you can foster a secure environment where everyone can relax and enjoy the adventure.

Preparing for the Weather

The unpredictability of the weather poses a significant consideration when camping with kids. Check the weather forecast for your destination and prepare accordingly. Pack layered clothing to accommodate warm days and cooler nights, and ensure you have waterproof gear in case of rain. A comfortable camp is a happy camp, so bring along extra blankets, rain shelters, or even a screened-in tent to provide a bug-free zone for meals and relaxation. Preparing for the weather not only ensures the comfort of your family but also teaches your children the importance of adaptability and preparedness in nature.

Food and Snacks

Meal planning for camping with kids should prioritize simplicity, nutrition, and, most importantly, fun. Opt for easy-to-prepare meals that require minimal cooking, such as sandwiches, wraps, and pre-made salads. Incorporate kids in meal preparation to make it an enjoyable activity, allowing them to assemble their sandwiches or decorate their pizzas. Bring along plenty of healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, and granola bars to keep energy levels up between meals. Don’t forget to include a few treats, like marshmallows for roasting over the campfire, as a special camping perk. Staying hydrated is crucial, so pack sufficient water along with juice boxes or reusable water bottles for each child.

Encouraging Exploration and Learning

Camping offers a unique setting for children to learn about the natural world. Encourage exploration by setting up a nature scavenger hunt or equipping them with binoculars for bird watching. Use a guidebook to help them identify different types of plants, trees, and animals. Such activities not only entertain but also instill a sense of wonder and respect for nature. Teaching kids basic survival skills, like reading a map or compass, can be both fun and educational, providing valuable lessons that extend beyond the campsite.

Keeping a Routine

Maintaining a semblance of routine can help children feel more secure in an unfamiliar environment. Try to stick to regular meal times and keep bedtime routines as close to normal as possible, perhaps with a story under the stars before sleep. However, be flexible and allow for some deviation, as the unpredictability of camping is part of the adventure. A routine provides structure, but adapting to the natural flow of outdoor life can teach kids adaptability and resilience.

Packing Games and Books

For moments of downtime or rainy days, having a selection of games and books can be a lifesaver. Pack lightweight, portable games that the whole family can enjoy, such as cards, board games, or frisbees. Bring along a few children’s books for bedtime stories or quiet time in the tent. These items not only serve as entertainment but also as a way to relax and unwind together, creating cozy, memorable moments in the great outdoors.


Camping with kids, while demanding, is an incredibly rewarding experience that offers countless opportunities for family bonding, learning, and fun. By carefully planning meals, encouraging exploration, maintaining a routine, providing entertainment, and managing expectations, you can create a camping trip that is enjoyable for all. 

Remember, the goal is not perfection but the creation of lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for the natural world. Embrace the adventure, including its ups and downs, and you’ll find that camping with kids is an enriching experience that strengthens family bonds and fosters a lifelong love of the outdoors. 

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