Take the first steps to setting up camp with kids with my guide to keeping small adventurers happy and fed in the great outdoors. And if you’re after somewhere special, pack up the car and head for one of my my six favourite campsites in Europe, picked by me for Enterprise and perfect for kids.
I’ll never forget the joy of sleeping under canvas as a little ‘un. Is there anything better when you’re small than packing up the car, heading for the great outdoors and creating a brand new little house in a field with your mum and dad? And camping isn’t just a childhood rite of passage – it’s also a way to spend quality time with your family and gives kids the space to run riot, explore, learn to love nature and just be themselves.
If you’ve never slept out under the stars before then getting started might feel a little daunting. But successful camping with kids is simple, I promise. Keeping the whole gang happy, warm and well fed is all about good planning and packing, and there’s no reason why your first camping trip shouldn’t be a breeze (and recession-bustingly cheap, too!).
First, pick your campsite. There are tons of gorgeous places across Britain and Europe which are easy to drive to. Most will mention if they are family-friendly, and it’s worth looking through a few to find somewhere special (try my six favourite campsites in Europe, picked for Enterprise). Do you want to camp by the sea? Or sleep in a magical woodland grove? My only must-have is a site which allows campfires – after all, it’s not camping if you don’t roast marshmallows before bed.
Next, you’ll need to pack up the car with the basics – a roomy tent, sleeping bags and mats, cooking equipment, food and warm clothing. After that, it’s all about the extra bits and pieces which make your camp feel special and keep the small fry entertained. If you’ve got room, make sure you bring comfy extras – duvets, blankets and fairy lights will transform a boring tent into a magical grotto.
Food is the key to any happy camper. Luckily, you can get away with preparing simple stuff: all food tastes better outdoors. Kids love helping out with easy recipes such as potatoes wrapped in tinfoil and roasted in the embers of a campfire, or you could get them to be in charge of making s’mores whilst you cook up pasta or a stew on a camping stove. Many European campsites have BBQs on site, too – easy for cooking up sausages or burgers to serve with a salad.
Make a list of games to play. Smaller explorers will love blowing bubbles and going on scavenger hunts, whilst bigger ones can play hide and seek, build forts or just roam wild. My absolute favourite game to play with bigger groups (and even with grownups) are the Camping Olympics. Teams made up of different ages compete in rounds of sports such as obstacle courses, egg and spoon races, tug of war and long jumps. You could even add in aquatic rounds if you’re staying by a safe place to swim.
And last but not least, remember to pack a camera to capture your new free-range family.