RV Camping with Children
Going camping is one of those experiences that every small child should have. An opportunity to spend time with nature and get away from the modern tech-supported environment they’ve grown up in gives children perspective and a leg up on natural sciences later on. Not to mention teaching them how to entertain themselves with nothing but sticks and leaves or learning to identify plants in the wild. There are dozens of great reasons why to bring your kids on camping trips when they’re very young… but there are also a lot of reasons not to. As wonderful as kids are, they can also be cranky, picky, and even throw tantrums when put in an unfamiliar position away from their normal environment and routine.
The good news is that they not only grow out of it but can learn to adapt better to new environments if exposed a few times to something completely alien like a big wild forest from time to time. If you’re on the fence about RV camping with children this year and bringing the littlest ones along, we highly encourage you to take the chance. They will learn and grow so much if given the opportunity. And while it may be a little more challenging, with the right camping hacks you and the kids will soon be camping like pros together.
1) Making Bedrolls
RVs generally only have one bed and one narrow couch in the public area. If you don’t want your kids to snuggle up with you in the main bed, you can make them bedrolls with or without a sleeping bag so they can spread out in the cabin instead. The key to making a comfortable and easy to stow bedroll is to know what you’re doing and have the right supplies. First and foremost, you’ll need bungee cords, preferably about one to two feet long un-stretched.
To build the bedroll, start with a thick sleeping bag or comforter to start as a pad, If you have a thick workout mat, this might work as well. Lay the first layer out as if it were a child-sized bed, folded if necessary. Next, add a sheet folded over so that it forms both the top and bottom sheet together. Finally, add the top blanket which may also need to be folded to fit into the long rectangle of your bedroll. Now have your child kneel on one end to keep it flat and start rolling tightly from the other end, keeping the sides even. Finally, use two bungee cords, one on each side of the roll, to fasten it closed. Now you have a comfy portable child bed that can go anywhere. Repeat as many times as you have kids to bed down.
2) Recognizable Food
Children go through stages of pickiness. Many very young toddlers will eat anything off their mother’s plate but by the time they hit three or four, this has transformed into a pickiness for only recognizable foods. This made sense back when we were hunter-gatherers as babies learned what is safe to eat, then as toddlers stick to these rules when gathering nuts and berries for themselves. However, in the modern world, this evolutionary tendency appears as unbelievable pickiness making it hard to introduce new foods until they hit a slightly more adventurous age.
If one or more of your kids are in the incredibly picky phase, make sure to pack some recognizable dishes for them to eat in case camp food seems too strange. This may require you to do a little pre-cooking at home but it will save you hours of trouble on the road trying to coax your little one to eat things they don’t recognize. Once you know there’s something they’ll eat, it may even become easier to convince them to try a few new things over the course of the trip.
3) Books and Toys
The kids will eventually learn to have fun playing in the woods near your RV but at first, they’ll go through the whole entertainment withdrawal cycle. It can be difficult for modern children to leave the console games and computers behind. To help with this phase, make sure to have a reasonable collection of books and toys ready for the road. Boardgames and card games that challenge the mind are particularly valuable because they provide ample distraction and can give your kids something to do if you need to catch a nap.
Of course, this collection of small items could wind up anywhere if left to roll around in your RV, including dangerously underfoot. To keep the toys under control, start introducing your kids to how RV storage works. Give them each a soft hanging bag or rack to put their toys and games in. Then grant them the responsibility for keeping all their items in the bag unless an item is actively being used. This way, your kids will always know where to look for entertainment supplies and lost items are their job to crawl around and find.
4) Plenty of Outside Time
Finally, camping is your ultimate excuse to tell your kids to play outside for a few hours without bothering you. As long as they keep the RV in sight, your children should be free to run, jump, climb, and explore the area around your camping site for hours at a time. While they may have trouble figuring out how to play without electronics or predetermined rules at first, your kids will eventually figure out how to play in the woods like every generation of children before them.
The key is to leave your kids alone and insist they leave you alone to get your wilderness relaxation in. While you soak up the sun, they’ll discover the incredible boost to the imagination that somehow comes from being surrounded by trees and sky. Soon enough, they’ll be inventing elaborate imaginary worlds to play in as we all have when left alone in the woods for a while. Just make sure to encourage good sunscreen procedures or the second day of playing in the woods won’t be quite so comfortable.
5) Staying Hydrated
While it’s a good idea to leave the kids alone to play for several hours a day for the duration of your camping trip, it’s also incredibly important that you keep them hydrated. Time flies when you’re having fun and outside of their routine, it can be incredibly easy to forget to drink any water or to get enough when they finally do seek hydration. Keep big bottles of shade-cooled (but not icy cold) water ready for them and insist they take a few gulps every time you see them. A great way to encourage hydration is to bring along a sack of oranges and distribute slices with their gulps of water. Remember to withhold the oranges until water has been consumed to make sure the kids don’t try to get all their hydration through fruit juice.
6) Teaching RV Conservation
Life camping in an RV, even with hookups, is very different from life at home. It may look like all the amenities are there, but it’s not really the same. You need to conserve both the water and power you use inside but it will be difficult for children to understand that. When your kids are reeled back in and looking to talk about something, take the time to explain to them how the RV works. This is some pretty interesting stuff including how the two-mode refrigerator works, how the fresh water and wastewater tanks relate to each other, and how much power you can store and use. The explanation will not only entertain your kids for a while and teach them about engineering, it will also help them understand why washing and cooking are limited activities that should take up as little water or power as necessary.
7) Clean-Up Routine
Finally, when it’s time to clean up you’ll want your kids to understand how stowing things in the RV works. Whether it’s the end of the camping trip or just the end of each day, make a new clean-up routine like the one at home only for the RV instead. Teach the kids how to strap, buckle, and latch things into place so they don’t roll around when the RV is in motion and show them how every item in the vehicle has a specific place it belongs so it can live there when not in use. When your children understand the RV clean-up routine, you may be surprised how clean they can keep the small tightly-packed vehicle.
Children benefit from a camping experience often more than their parents do. While you may be looking for a few days away from the bustle of normal life, your children will be exploring nature, learning to play without electronics, and training responsible camping procedures that will stick with them for a lifetime. No matter where you’re going or how long you plan to stay, bringing your kids along on an RV vacation is well worth the effort it takes to teach them how to participate.