Top tips for camping with an only child

an only child camping and cooking a marshmallow over a campfire at night

Camping with an only child can be daunting. You’ll want to make sure they have fun but there’s also no guarantee that there’ll be children their age to play with, so it’s natural to worry that your child will be bored. There are a few small changes you can make to be sure that everyone has a good time.

Top tips for camping with an only child

  1. Camp in-season when it’s more likely other children will be there.
  2. Go with friends or family who have children the same age.
  3. Choose a campsite that has organized activities for children.
  4. Plan some activities your child likes to do with you.
  5. If this is their first camping trip, perhaps plan a shorter weekend trip to see how they handle it.

You can find out more about how to plan a successful camping trip with an only child below.

Camp in-season

Camping in summer (or whenever it’s warmest where you live) means it’s much more likely that not only will there be other children to play with, but the weather should be dry enough to play outside. It will mean it’s busier though, so you’ll need to book campgrounds in plenty of time.

If you’re in the UK or USA, book your camping trip from early May to mid-September for the best chance of good weather and a busy campsite.

A great way to encourage your child to play with others is to bring along something to play with that all children love, such as bubbles, hula hoops, a jump rope, a soccer ball, and a bat and ball.

When other kids see your child having fun with these then they’ll soon want to join in!

If the weather’s nice then take a picnic to the play area and, depending on how confident your child is, they should be able to chat and play with other kids there.

Two happy children playing football outdoors in a camp site
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Camping in season means you can enjoy later nights and try some new activities in the lighter and warmer evenings. Doing things like putting up a hammock, building a fairy house, or telling stories around a campfire are great, quieter activities to try in an evening that just you and your child can enjoy.

Don’t worry if your child stays up later, it’s their chance to enjoy the full camping experience and it means you might get a lay in!

Camp in season checklist

  •       Try to book in high season when the weather is likely to be nice.
  •       Pick a campsite with activities for children (even if it’s just a playground!)
  •       Take lots of games that encourage children to play together.
  •       Make the most of the evenings with calming activities to keep them occupied until bedtime.

Go with friends or family who have children

If you have friends or family with children then ask them to come camping too, particularly if their children are a similar age to your child. They’ll already know each other so there won’t be any shyness and they can get stuck into playing right away.

Not everyone is keen on camping though or has all the kit. So if your friends don’t want a night under canvas then see if you can book a site that has cabin accommodation too, so they can enjoy the camping experience as much as possible, just without the tent!

Before you go, speak to your friends about the kind of activities they and their children like to do and try to plan some things that all the children enjoy. It’s pointless going camping with other families if you spend the whole time doing separate activities. This is especially important if you have an only child and the family you go with have two or more children, as there’s a risk that your child might be left out.

Going camping with other friends and family give you the change to hang out with fellow grownups and can take away some of the intensity of camping alone with a child. You might even get to have a few hours to your self if your friends or family are happy to babysit!

Camping with friends and family checklist

  •       Ask friends who have children a similar age to yours to come with you.
  •       Organize some activities before you set off.
  •       Embrace the support of other adults and see if you can get some time to yourself.

Choose a campsite that has lots for children to do

Whether it’s something as simple as mini-golf tournaments or something more structured like a kids’ club, look for campsites that cater to children and encourage children to play together.

Some larger campsites will have onsite activities such as craft activities, kids’ entertainers, a swimming pool, discos, soft play, and craft sessions, so plenty to keep children occupied. These campsites tend to be more like holiday camps and may have restaurants or a bar too, which is no bad thing if you want a break from campfire meals!

Little girl getting warm near a campfire at night
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This type of camping isn’t for everyone though and endless activities can be intense, and also expensive. Kids can enjoy quieter, less structured campsites just as much, and even just having a wood, river, or pond nearby to explore can give them hours of entertainment.

Campsites on farms are particularly good, as the animals are free entertainment, and the farm may offer activities such as animal feeding or tractor rides too. A campsite near the coast will mean you can enjoy a trip to the seaside every day!

Campsite activities checklist

  •       Book a site with activities suitable for children and book the activities in advance if you’re going in high season.
  •       If you prefer a quieter campsite, book one with something to explore, or kid-friendly walks nearby.

Plan activities that you know your child will enjoy

You can make your life much easier by letting your child choose what they want to do and even better if it’s something you enjoy as well.

Spending the entire camping trip in a soft play center probably isn’t your idea of a good time, so book a range of activities, some which your child will love and some which you and your child will like.

If your child doesn’t enjoy walking, then taking them on a five-mile hike is going to end in tears. Instead, ask your partner to look after them while you go for a walk. If you’re camping alone with your child, then maybe compromise with a shorter walk but take a picnic or some nature activities for them to do to keep them busy.

There are a lot of advantages of camping near a town. If you want a break from the great outdoors, then you could check out a museum or even go to the cinema. These are particularly good ideas for when it’s raining!

It’s important to remember that no one likes being forced to do things they don’t want to do, and toddlers can be very stubborn! Picking activities that everyone enjoys will make the camping trip much less stressful and ensure you get the chance to make lots of happy memories together.

Grown-up and kid activities checklist

  •       Plan a range of camping activities that everyone enjoys.
  •       Don’t plan activities that you know your child won’t enjoy – it’s not worth the stress!
  •       Mix it up with day trips out to a town or local attractions.

With a bit of planning and preparation, you and your child will have a wonderful camping experience.

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