What To Know Before Camping – Simulate The Trip First!

an illustration of a young happy family in a car going camping

With anticipation for camping season mounting, it can be a challenge to contain everyone’s excitement for the next big camping trip, especially the toddlers and kids. Fortunately, there is a way to beat the off-season blues and to get the kids excited for the next camping extravaganza.

Simulating a camping trip at home with your toddlers and kids is an easy and super fun way to get the kids involved with the planning and preparation of the next trip. It allows them the opportunity to learn new camping skills and to sharpen those that they have already mastered. Not to mention the sheer enjoyment they will have in setting up the tent in the backyard and practicing their angler techniques in the pool or grass.

Who says you need to drive hundreds of miles to enjoy the outdoors with your kids? Follow this camping-at-home guide and discover some wonderful ideas for simulating a camping trip with your toddlers and kids in your own home or backyard.

Help The Kids Practice Setting Up The Tent

clip art of two parents and their child setting up a tent in their backyard

One task that always needs to be accomplished at the campsite is pitching the tent. It is a joy for the kids and toddlers to climb into the tent for the first time after mom and dad have gotten it all set up, however, this is a great activity to get them involved in too. If you’ve got enough space in your backyard, show the kids how to set up the tent and how to drive the stakes into the ground to secure it.

If the weather permits, let the children have a pre-camp campout. Bring all the sleeping bags out and spend the night camping out in the yard. These memories will be cherished just as much as the ones made at the real campground. If you’ve got enough space in the house, you can even pitch the tent inside and let them play “camping” for a couple of days!

Practice Casting Fishing Rods With Weights

You don’t have to have a trout pond or even a swimming pool to practice fishing. When I was young I remember practicing my fishing cast out in the green grass of our backyard. All you need to do is tie a fishing weight onto the string of the fishing pole. This is a great way for kids to practice their casting skills and also it will sharpen their knot tying abilities. Casting a fishing rod can actually be a little tricky, especially for younger children so this is a great camping activity to do before the real trip takes place! 

Read Them Their Favorite Camping Books

Nothing gets the imagination fired up like a well-written camping book for children. There are many wonderful camping books that you can read aloud to your children to ignite their love for camping. Here are some great titles to check out and enjoy with your kids.

illustration featuring kids in a safari camping trip

Camping Books For Toddlers

  • Curious George Goes Camping by Margret Rey
  • Camping Spree With Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen
  • Fred and Ted Go Camping by Peter Eastman
  • S Is For S’mores by Helen Foster James
  • Let’s Go On A Hike by Katrina Liu

Camping Books For Kids

  • National Parks of The USA by Kate Siber
  • The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock
  • Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping by Peggy Parish
  • Gone Camping by Tamera Will Wissinger
  • The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Make A List Of Camping Activities To Do On The Next Trip

Let the kids have fun dreaming about their next big adventure. Have them write down a list of some activities they would like to do on the next camping trip. If you are needing some inspiration here are some family favorites to give a try.

  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Horseback riding
  • Kayaking
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Geocaching
  • Hiking
  • Slacklining
  • Paddleboarding
  • Volleyball
  • Rock climbing
  • Capture the flag
  • Stargazing
  • Campfire cooking
  • Cornhole
  • Horseshoes

Watch A Family Camping Movie

If you’re stuck indoors and the kids are bursting at the seams to get out camping, pop in your favorite family camping movie to inspire them all to plan for the next big trip. Some great camping films that you can enjoy with your kids and toddlers are The Parent Trap, RV, The Great Outdoors, and finally, The Long, Long Trailer.

Go On A Hike At A Nearby Trail Or Park

If your kids and toddlers are in need of some exercise, a hike at a nearby trail or park can get them in the camping spirit. Pack up your trail bags and go on an adventure with the tots at a local hiking spot. Have them keep their eyes peeled for birds and critters along the way.

Study The Wildlife That Is Native To The Future Campsite

Nature study is a wonderful and educational way to explore the outdoors. If you know where you’ll be traveling on your next camping adventure, take some time to find out about the local wildlife that you can encounter there. Children will be fascinated to learn about the animals, birds, even plants, and geology of the area. If you’re not sure where to start, you can call a nearby state park in the area and ask them what kind of wildlife and plants one could expect to see when visiting the area.

A fun way to keep track of and enforce the kid’s love of nature is by starting a nature notebook. A simple notebook in which they can make sketches of their nature observations. Children can draw the animals or plants that they encounter outdoors and even write their thoughts or poetry alongside their sketches.

Setup A Zipline Or SlackLine In The Backyard

illustration showing kids on a zip line in their patio before going camping

If you’re looking to have some real fun in the backyard for the kids and toddlers you need to look no further than the classic zip or slackline. Ziplines are a blast for adults and kids alike. While ziplines can take some serious setup and installation work, slacklines only require 2 sturdy trees or anchor points.

If you don’t have the slope required for a zipline, slacklines are an inexpensive option and easy to set up. Kids and toddlers can practice balancing on the “tightrope” and will be entertained for hours on end.

Build A Campfire In The Backyard

A vector illustration of happy family camping together in the backyard

Building a campfire is the cornerstone of camping. Every great campsite should be furnished with a smokey, cozy fire to warm your toes and roast marshmallows. Kids can get involved by gathering up sticks, twigs, or kindling. Show them how to dig a fire pit and how to best arrange the fire starting materials. Then they can practice building the campfire.

When you are ready to light up the fire this is a great opportunity to go over some basic fire safety tips. Teach them to be aware of the wind, how to maintain the fire, and how to extinguish it. Smokey Bear has some great resources for kids to learn about fire safety. Check out their article on campfire safety!

Master A Survival Skill

There are many basic survival skills to learn, and many of them can come in handy even on a fun camping trip. Kids love learning survival tactics. It’s so exciting for them to go on an adventure and use their survival skills to accomplish something great, such as building a shelter.

The only supplies they will need to craft a rugged camp shelter are some large branches, some rope or cord, and a tarp. Give them some ideas for different types of shelters like a teepee or a lean-to and then set them free to assemble their survival shelter!

Another must-know survival skill that kids can even practice inside is trying knots. It may not sound too exhilarating but knot tying is a crucial skill to have when surviving in the outdoors. Even campers need to know how to tie a knot when setting up the tent or rigging up their fishing lures. There is a great book called “My First Book Of Knots: A Beginner’s Picture Guide by Berndt Sundsten that has tons of illustrations to help you and your kids learn lots of knots.

Lastly, do not forget to have lots of fun with this!

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