Camping with Kids

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Kids never forget anything you want them to. Say one little cuss word and they remember it forever. Have a minor meltdown over your dog getting sick all over your clean floors and they tell their friends. Tell them you’re going to take them camping and then go camping without them? They’ll ask and ask until you break down and take them.

camping with kids - family

Mandatory photo opp, canine included.

We promised Brecken over a year ago we would take her camping. Unfortunately, life seemed to get in the way and it never happened. One evening after watching me pack and unpack my ULA backpack, she finally asked, “are you ever going to take me camping?” I knew right then she really wanted to go.

You see, I had my doubts. The first time I took her hiking, it was rainy and muddy and she was whiney. Most kids want to run and jump in the mud puddles, she wanted nothing to do with them. Getting dirty was not her “thing”. I figured camping was something she thought she would like but in reality, it would be one big mud puddle that she didn’t want to jump in. Well, I’m happy (and a bit proud) to admit that I was wrong.

Now the first time I went “camping” I was taken into the wilderness and left to fend for myself against wildlife, mosquitos and with no electronic devices! OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but that tends to be how I usually do things, kind of all or nothing to see if I like it. Since Brecken is only 5 and I wanted her to enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, we decided to ease her into it. A few weeks before the trip we talked to her about all the fun things we would get to see and do. To a five year old, the idea of sleeping in a tent is the best thing since Disney Junior and knowing she would get to make smores wasn’t half bad.

camping with kids - Jeep
We decided to take her camping at Elk City State Park for a variety of reasons. One, it’s about two hours from Wichita, near Independence, Kansas. Far enough away to feel like an adventure but close enough if it was a complete disaster, we could go home. Two, the park is adjacent to the Elk City Reservoir and has access to several hiking trails and a mountain bike trail. There is also access to boat ramps, a swim beach, several campgrounds and even a playground. This meant that K could go mountain biking while Brecken and I hiked. And three, the Redbuds weren’t in full bloom, which typically means the ticks usually aren’t that bad. Once those trees leaf out, beware.

camping with kids - cambelbak
The key to making a camping trip with kids successful is to make it fun! Before we left for Elk City, Brecken helped me prep the food we would be cooking on the trip. I also made sure she had plenty of snacks in her Camelbak to ensure that a mile into our hike, any comments about being hungry or thirsty could immediately be addressed. While we hiked we looked for heart rocks and Brecken sang me songs she made up. If you see her, ask her to sing the Evergreen Star song. 🙂

camping with kids - campfire
After hiking for a while, we picked out our camp site and set up our tents. We had a nice spot away from the RV sites where we had easy access to the lake shore and not too far from the vault bathrooms. After making dinner on our camping stove, Brecken helped gather sticks so we could light a fire and make smores.

camping with kids - tent
I’m impressed with my kid. She handled her first camping trip like a pro, even remembering that she couldn’t wear her shoes inside the tent. She went on several hikes, used a vault toilet (which is still traumatic for me at times) and even got dirty…with no whining. She enjoyed sleeping in the tent, though it did get a bit cold that evening. The coyotes serenaded us to sleep with their howls and even though she was a bit uneasy, she never once asked to go home. 🙂

Ever since that trip, she’s been asking when we can go camping again. Our next adventure is in the planning stages and this time, she’ll have multiple nights sleeping in a tent. The girl who used to cry about getting mud on her legs now wants to be an adventure girl and this mom couldn’t be more proud.

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About Sarah

Mom. Blogger. Runner. Hiker. Insomniac. Not necessarily in that order.

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