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Family holidays: camping with kids

June 12, 2011
by Laura Canning | guides

Three kids with dead Nintendo batteries Ah, children. Where would we be without them? Probably happy in a hammock stretched between two palm trees if we’re perfectly honest, rather than rocking back and forth in a tent or caravan trying to keep the little darlings from killing each other on a rainy day. Still, it’s not all bad. Camping with kids is definitely doable, and gives you the perfect excuse to regress to childhood for the weekend with them, pouting if your sandcastle isn’t judged the bestest, stealing everyone else’s chips at dinner, and generally running about and being loud. It’s win/win. Here are our top family camping tips.

  • When you get to the campsite, ask for a pitch near the loos if possible so no one has to walk too far in the dark or in an emergency (kids are great at these). Anyone old enough to walk to the loo and back in the dark without tripping over tent poles or getting lost should get a nifty torch to use on the journeys. A miner’s style helmet with torch is even better – look, Ma, no hands!
  • Bring a potty with disposable linings for anyone not old enough to get to the toilet block at night on their own. Yes yes, you think you'll just get out of your sleeping bag at 2am and escort anyone who needs it, but you won't, and no-one would blame you for it either.
  • Enlist the help of everyone when pitching the tent. If you’re wincing at the idea of giving your eight-year-old a mallet to let them pound things, utilise them to get firewood or water. Kids love to help! They do, really. They do... (and you’re paying for the horse riding).
  • Bring a high chair for your baby or toddler if you can. When you're pitching the tent, cooking, or just dancing tantalisingly out of reach in front of them, high chairs are escape-proof and your best friend. Also for babies and toddlers, a large washing up bowl will do for a bath, and bring a baby carrier or sling so you don't have to try and use a pushchair on the beach.
  • Once the tent is up, put a marker on it like a balloon or windsock so it’s easy to spot from a distance away. You can have great fun here with children over six or so and make the marker really embarrassing. Personally I'd use a giant pair of peach satin knickers from Primark to attach merrily to the tent, but then I’m a bit strange...
  • This will obviously vary per family, but if children's ages and general sense levels are of an OK level, let them go off and do their own thing if they want. There are plenty of sites with loads of activities for children of all ages, while you can go off fishing or just chill by the pool.
  • Have plenty of back-up entertainment planned if it rains, especially if you're in a tent and not a motorhome with electricity and TV. Bring extra batteries for consoles and phones for games, or a charger if you’re going to a site with charging facilities . And make a bet with yourself to see if you can get them to play Monopoly or another long, competitive board game that you'll likely win in the end.

Finally, to ensure best behaviour not just on the campsite but all year round, show your older kids and especially your teenagers this story , accompanied by a meaningful look. They’ll be building the campfire, putting away the DS and coming with you to every museum and stately home in the county, without complaint. Bless.

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