Is there an ideal time to start camping if you have kids? The answer may surprise you.

Let’s say camping has always been on the radar, but you’ve been waiting for the kids to reach a certain age or milestone. Perhaps you’ve been dreaming of when they will be old enough to participate in one of your favorite pastimes, to be able to conduct themselves well on their own while away from home, or for everyone to simply be out of a booster or car seat. Let’s talk about some basic questions regarding “starting out” when camping with kids.


What is the “right” age?

There isn’t a “right” age; it depends on your comfort level, finances, and sense of adventure. It also depends on your life philosophy. Generally speaking, kids are adaptable. If you make something “part of life,” it will be perceived as normal and natural. Many families go camping with infants and toddlers so that camping is a part of who their children are as they grow up. Sometimes, though, parents want to wait until their children are older and can be more responsible and reliable, as well as more able to help out around the campsite and be around without needing constant supervision. Both are fair approaches. Again, it depends on several factors, and there is no “magic” age.


What are the advantages of waiting until the “kids are older”?

There are several advantages. First, old children may not require continuous supervision and can explore the campground on their own, helping to develop independence. Second, camping helps to remove screens from their world. More and more research shows that too much screen time, or screens introduced too early, is detrimental to attention span and behavioral development. Third, if kids aren’t in car seats or boosters, you have more options when it comes to the type of RV you choose to own or rent for your camping trips. Car seats and boosters are better in tow vehicles, so a towable RV is the better choice for families with younger kids. But if you have your sights set on a motorized RV, then you may need to wait for the kids to be older. Fourth, older kids can do more jobs around the campsite. Fifth, older kids can participate in more advanced activities, such as going on longer hikes, swimming at the beach, and visiting museums with more advanced subjects.


What are the advantages of camping while the kids are “younger”?

Babies and toddlers can be taken camping as well. This depends on your comfort level as a parent and your proficiency as a camper and outdoorsman. An advantage of camping with younger kids, such as those who are of infant or toddler age, is that they are still fairly portable. They can be comfortable in a backpack while you take a hike. Another benefit is that if you introduce camping and outdoor pursuits earlier in a child’s life, the more “normal” this lifestyle will seem to them and the more likely they will enthusiastically share your appreciation for them. Plus, they learn early to be flexible and develop independence. A third advantage of camping with younger kids is that they get to spend a lot of time outside, which helps with sleep and overall encourages good health from an early age.


What can kids do around the campsite to help out?

There are lots of jobs for kids! The key is to incorporate kids into the routine and give them opportunities to be responsible. This may entail giving the same job to the same kid or mixing it up so that the kids can get familiar with many types of chores. The age of a child helps to determine what jobs are suitable, as does a child’s personality and areas of interest. All children can help with keeping the interior of the RV neat and tidy, starting with their sleeping areas. Putting shoes away in the same place, picking up any trash, and generally taking care of their belongings are good places to start. When it comes to campsite operations, older kids can help with setting up and tearing down, loading and unloading, packing (as long as everything is in its proper place), preparing meals, and taking care of younger children to free up mom and dad.


Where should I start camping with my family?

You may have grand ideas of traveling cross-country or driving to a national park several states away for your first expedition as an RVing family. Honestly, don’t. It’s better to pick a camping destination that’s close to home so that you can get familiar with your RV, the RV lifestyle, and get a better idea of whether you and your kids actually like camping. Camping close to home is helpful if there is an emergency or the weather forecast takes a bad turn. This way, it’s easy to return home or find any assistance you may need in a location that is familiar to you.


If you’re new to camping and RVing, start off slowly, rent a couple types of RVs, visit your local parks, and get outside on the trails. Do only as much as a youngest child can handle, or split up activities by taking younger kids to do something while older kids do another. You may be surprised at how far their little legs can take them. If you’re more experienced, then it’ll seem relatively seamless to bring the child or kids along on your trips. In fact, they may even be better trips now that you’re sharing them.

Don’t feel you need to wait for a certain age; you can go camping whenever you feel like it. Your family will benefit from the effort regardless of the age(s) of the kids, and you might just pass along a love for the outdoors in the process.