Make safe camping for kids part of your outdoor adventure routine.
Camping trips with the family provide priceless memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. It’s a time to disconnect from your busy life, slow down and enjoy quality time with family. From roasting marshmallows for s’mores to hiking to sleeping under the stars, the days are full of fun activities. Whether it’s your first camping trip with the kids or the tenth, safety must always come first. Before hitting the road, it’s essential to teach your kids all the lessons they need to know to stay safe while in an RV or tent.
Four Main Wilderness Risks
One of the biggest perks of camping is being in the great outdoors. Mother Nature has so much beauty to offer, yet the wilderness can also be dangerous. To teach your children camping safety basics, group these main wilderness risks into four simple, easy-to-remember categories: weather, wildlife, terrain and fire.
Ideally, when you start your camping adventure, chances are it’ll be sunny and warm with blue skies and cool breezes. However, weather is often unpredictable and can turn on a dime. It’s important to teach your children how to prepare for any weather condition you may encounter when camping.
Wind: A gentle breeze is always welcome when camping, but strong winds can pose a threat by upturning tents and canopies and wreaking havoc on a campsite. When setting up the camp area, teach your children how to thoroughly plant stakes to secure the tent. If the wind is extreme, teach your children to get to an open area so an unruly branch doesn’t fall on anyone.
If you’re staying in an RV, you may need to reposition it to face the wind (if you’re not in an RV park campsite). While the children can’t drive, you can let them know what you’re doing to teach them along the way. The kids can help put the slides in, if necessary. Also, let your children know that the RV stabilizers are securely in place to give them peace of mind. As for gear, always pack a windbreaker to keep your body protected from the elements.
Rain: Rain can make camping uncomfortable and extremely wet. If you think you’re going to encounter rain when camping, teach your children how to dig trenches around the tent to prevent water from soaking through. This is an activity they can help with and gives the kids an excuse to play in the dirt. It’s always smart to bring a rainproof or waterproof jacket and extra clothes to change into should you get wet.
Sun: The sun can cause problems quickly if campers aren’t careful. Campers can get heat stroke or become dehydrated quickly when exposed to too much heat. Children playing in the sun may lose track of time and not realize they haven’t had water in hours. Teach your children to drink water regularly, play in the shade and apply sunscreen regularly.
As a general safety tip, kids and parents should wear appropriate clothing for the weather. Dress in layers, bring extra clothes and plan accordingly based on the weather forecast. Never underestimate the power of Mother Nature and treat her with respect to stay safe and have a fun time on camping trips.
Wildlife (Plants and Animals)
Part of the excitement of camping with your family is seeing your kids experience wildlife. It’s fun to see the wildflowers in bloom or squirrels chase each other or a doe watching out for her fawns. But it’s important to teach your kids from the beginning to respect plants and animals and be aware of possible dangers. Here are a few dos and don’ts that’ll help you instruct your kids in what is safe and what is not:
- Do remember you’re in animals’ backyard and natural habitat.
- Do give them space.
- Don’t pet or feed the wild animals.
- Don’t pick any flowers or leaves from the trees or bushes.
- Don’t eat any berries or mushrooms.
- Don’t leave food or garbage in the tent or an open area.
It’s unlikely you’ll have a dangerous encounter with a bear or mountain lion when camping. However, you are in their natural habitat and it’s possible you’ll see them. Tell your children to keep a healthy distance from all animals. No need to scare the kids, but let them know the animals like space and privacy, just like humans do. If you do see a mountain lion or bear, make noises and walk away. Teach your kids this is one time it’s okay to be loud and yell.
Each campground and RV park comes with its own unique terrain. Some campgrounds are in the mountains, others in the desert. Because the terrain is unknown and unfamiliar to children, you’ll want to teach them a few vital lessons about campground safety:
- Don’t wander off alone.
- Always have a buddy and tell someone which direction you are going.
- Carry a whistle with you at all times.
- Stay away from water (lakes, rivers, ponds).
- Watch out for other campers and RVers and respect their space.
- Never go outside without shoes and socks.
These simple terrain tips will keep your children safe and allow them to have a memorable road trip with their family.
The last potential wilderness or camping threat is fire. No camping trip is complete without a roaring campfire, but fire can be a dangerous element. Your kids likely know that fire is hot and that it can burn. What they might not know is that wildfires can spread quickly and start on accident. Before building a campfire, remind your kids about these things:
- Ask the park ranger or RV manager if fires are allowed on the campsite.
- Explain to your children about safe and dangerous fire days.
- Always obey the fire rules of the park or campground.
- Start a fire in approved areas only.
- Teach your children that if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
- Do not touch the campfire and don’t carry any open flames.
These simple safety tips can save lives and acres of beautiful land. Wildfires start quickly and can destroy campgrounds, so teach your children that they can help prevent wildfires from starting or spreading.
6 items to always have on hand in case of an emergency
Teaching your children about these four main wilderness threats is a great start to a safe trip. But accidents happen, and it’s smart to be prepared with the essential materials. Here is a list of must-have items for your RV or tent.
- First aid kit: Keep a first aid kit in your RV or backpack at all times. Keep it stocked with Band-Aids, gauze and antibacterial ointment. You never know when you’re going to get a blister and need a Band-Aid.
- Satellite phone or internet: If you are camping in an RV, it’s a good idea to have access to the internet and calling for any emergencies. Because campgrounds can be located in areas without service, it’s smart to have satellite internet and a satellite phone to use if needed.
- Whistle: Give each child a whistle that they keep with them at all times. This can be used to ward off animals or blow if they are lost.
- Sunscreen: Always bring sunscreen and apply generously throughout the day. Even on gray, cloudy days, the sun can still give children (and adults) a sunburn.
- Compass: Because the terrain can be unknown when camping, it’s smart to bring a compass with you so you don’t get lost. It’s also a great opportunity to teach children about directions, maps and navigating the world.
- Bug repellent: No one likes mosquito or tick bites, so bring bug spray with you when you’re camping. This will keep you and your children from experiencing itchy, swollen bug bites.
Camping and road tripping with the family are the experiences in life that you won’t want to forget. Before starting your vacation, teach your children about these four primary wilderness risks so they stay safe and know the best practices of camping.