Camping with kids: Choosing a campsite, safety, boundaries

Camping with children is a rewarding experience to share, but it can be a nightmare making sure that they follow boundaries and keep safe.

Selecting a family campsite with full facilities and a child play area. Consistently enforcing boundaries whilst camping with younger children, including water safety, 4-foot restriction zone near cooking and open fires. Not approaching any unknown animals or eating forged food without an adult authorisation.

1 – Find a family campsite

There are so many campsites available; it can be hard deciding on the one for your family holiday. Campsites aimed toward families will have secure play areas for children or places to play without causing problems for other campers.

During the day, kids can be noisy because the campsite for family camping it does not matter. Campers that do not want to mix with children will avoid these sites.

Selecting a campsite with good toilet and shower facilities makes life easier—no worrying about how you will keep your kids clean or having to buy a toilet and privacy tent.

Check the area for local attractions as kids will get bored staying on the campsite all of the time. Either beaches, amusements, woodland walks, and other site seeing attractions.

2 – Setting boundaries for safety

Setting boundaries for kids whilst camping is essential for their safety and your sanity. Give your child a whistle to blow if they are in any situation where they need help, are lost or feel unsafe.

  • Always inform you where they are
  • No leaving the campsite
  • Always be in eye view
  • Never go into an unknown person’s tent
  • No running through other camper’s pitch areas
  • Stay with other children
  • Never leave a younger child on their own
  • Approaching unknown dogs

3 – Fire safety – Set rules near BBQs and firepits

Children will always want to explore. BBQs, grills, portable gas cookers and fire pits are no exception. Whilst everything is turned off or unlit, allow your child to explore, dampening their curiosity.

Set a 4-foot boundary rule around fires and cooking areas, mark with chalk but be aware that this may wash away if wet. Or you can use medium size stones, but not so they cause a trip hazard.

I often use camping chairs a the boundary area for cooking facilities. Chairs are more evident to over-excited kids.

  • No playing near a fire pit or BBQ
  • Inside the boundary is off limits
  • No running
  • No throwing toys or clothing
  • No leaning near open fire or grills with loose clothing

Explain clearly and keep reinforcing the rules, especially stop, drop, roll if there are any incidents and no panicking. Keep any lighting devices, matches or flammable liquids locked away safely.

Set windbreakers around your area to avoid children from running into a firepit and BBQ. It provides you with some privacy, but it is an extra safety measure for other children on the campsite.

4 – Water safety – Not allowing kids near the water with an adult

Older children are sensible near water, although they need to have rules reinforced, especially in open water and with friends.

  • No inflatables in the open sea
  • If any balls or play objects drift out to sea they have to be left to drift away
  • Be aware of the currents
  • No swimming in fast-moving streams or rivers
  • Don’t dive into unknown waters

Younger children, either open water or streams, need to have a responsible adult with them at all times.

  • Always wear a life jacket
  • No playing near water
  • Always have an older child or adult present
  • Always ask permission of an adult to go into the water
  • Stay near the shore but only when with an adult

5 – Respecting other campers

Children love to have the freedom to run around and play. They can get so carried away they will not think about other campers. Explaining the basic underlying camping rules to your children will avoid annoying other campers.

  • Respecting privacy
  • Not running between, near other people’s tents or camping areas
  • Keeping noise to a minimum after a set time
  • Ball games away from cars and tents
  • Bubbles – not playing with bubbles near tents as the chemicals damage tents
  • Politeness to other campers

6 – Nightime rules – Pitch near toilets or use a bucket

Setting boundaries at night is essential as you don’t want younger children leaving the tent without you. If they need to use the toilet during the night, use a bucket or request a pitch near a toilet block. If you’re near the toilet block, it is easy to pop out to the toilets.

Keeping the same nighttime rules with younger kids will help them settle quickly. Kids camping can go either way when trying to get them to go to bed.

The first night they may be over-excited and challenging to settle, but often they are overtired from their days’ activities. It will not take them long to fall asleep. Or younger children will ask to go to bed earlier, as they want to curl up in their sleeping bags because it is all new to them.

Campsite showers will often wake a younger child up more than a bath. So I make sure showers are about two hours before bedtime, giving a chance to let off steam. If you have an IPad, download their favourite movies, it is a great way to get kids to calm down.

7 – Respecting wild animals and approaching unknown dogs

Whether animals are wild or people’s pets, as soon as children see a cute animal, they will want to approach and make a fuss.

You don’t want to encourage your child to fear animals but discourage them from approaching. A majority of animals will run away as soon as they see anybody. If toddlers see a cute animal, they may be tempted to run after them.

Teach a child from a young age not to approach animals. Explain that not all animals want to be fussed, especially wild animals.

Many people take their dogs camping, and the rule is that dogs need to be on their lead on most campsites. Often this is not the case, so children must be aware of chasing or approaching.

Only if a child is with an adult and authorisation has been given by the owner should a child approach a dog. Often the owner will say that the dog jumps or is not sure. Explaining to a child why they cannot approach the dog will help teach them about approaching unknown animals.

If you are taking your dog camping for the first time, you cant expect them to settle straight away. Especially if they are reactive dogs and be unsettled with children running around, approaching. You can prepare your dog in advance for your camping trip by camping locally for one night and gradually increasing. Ideally, during the early season when there are fewer people around. Plus choosing a campsite that is both suitable for your children and your dog.

8 – Don’t eat food you find

Younger children will not consider the potential dangers when eating food, especially if they find lovely juicy berries in bushes. If they have been blackberry or raspberry picking and allowed to eat them, they will assume that they can do the same with anything they find.

Explain to children that they cannot eat or touch any food, berries, or fruit they find. Only food you give to them. Ask them to show you what they have discovered by taking you to the place, not touching. This provides the perfect opportunity to explain why they cannot eat what they have found.

If you are camping in woodlands, you will often see mushrooms growing on the ground. Discouraging children from touching and eating them is essential. You would expect your child to fall ill shortly after ingesting poisonous mushrooms, but this is often not the case. The effect can be from 4 hours to several days.

If your child has been playing in the woods and falls ill, vomiting, stomach pains, headaches and hallucinations, seek medical help urgently.

9 – Local A & E

Always check the location of the A & E department just in case of an emergency. It is doubtful that you will need this, but it is reassuring to have this information to hand. If there is an accident, you can call an ambulance, but often it may be easier to go to the A & E department rather than wait.

What age can you take a child camping

Providing you feel comfortable, you can camp with a baby from a young age. A baby must be kept warm, as they will feel cold quickly, so a suitable hat, warm socks and baby grow. Dress your baby in layers that can be removed easily if they become overheated. It is best to camp during the warmer weather, but be aware that temperatures will drop at night.

Don’t place a baby in a sleeping bag due to potential suffocation. Use baby quilts and blankets; layers can be removed easily. If your tent is large enough, you can use a travel cot or a baby basket. Ideally, don’t place it directly on the floor due to coldness from the ground.

What should be in your first aid kit for camping

First aid kit for camping should include:

  • Inspect replent
  • Anti itching cream
  • Plasters and bandages
  • Cold compress and heat pack
  • Asprin, calpol
  • Suntan lotion and after sun cream
  • Steril wipes
  • Allergy tablets and medication suitable for younger children
  • Eye wash


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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