Why My 4-Year-Old Loves Camping and Essential Survival Must-Haves!

As the temperatures rise, we shed sweaters and jeans for tank tops and shorts. For my 4-year-old daughter, Paloma, Summer means longer days, more time outdoors with her cousins, and camping in the forest.

Before I was a mother or a wife, I loved traveling. Now I love traveling with my 4-year-old and my husband.  Aside from going to family vacation destinations like Disneyland or places like Seattle, San Francisco, and Mexico City, we also go camping. My husband’s family does a budget-friendly cam[ping trip that has become a tradition. It is something that all generations can enjoy doing, from grandparents to grandchildren.

There is something magical about being surrounded by nature.  My family and I love to hear the birds chirping melodiously, creating a harmonious soundtrack in the background of our day. The smell of fresh pine and fir trees combined with the smell of the campfire and the sweetness of melted marshmallows are enough to engrave memories of sweet summer vacations and are some of the reasons why my 4-year-old loves camping so much.

Location: Finding your Camping Site

Camping gives our whole family a chance to be outdoors and be screen-free and offline. This is one reason my 4-year-old daughter loves camping, and I love it too. One of the things to consider before going camping is what amenities are most important to you and your kids.

I would recommend that you make sure that there is a restroom. This is especially true if they are preschoolers and/or you are trying to potty train them.  You don’t need running water if you bring water with you.  

Many websites will help you find campgrounds, but to enjoy nature to its fullest, try to find a place without an internet connection or cell service.

Here are some websites that will help you find a campground:



Must-Have Supplies


Girls playing with a bucket full of water.

Another reason my 4-year-old and her cousins love camping is all the fun they have. Kids need toys, but the saying “less is more” is right on target when you go camping.  Paloma, and her two cousins, who are three and five years old, can have fun with literally anything. For instance, on this last family camping trip, the kids found hours of entertainment in a bucket full of water.

However, we still need to bring toys to help keep the kids entertained because a bucket will only be fun for an hour or two.  

Here is a list of toys for camping that can be bought at Dollar Tree, Walmart, Target, or Amazon.

  • Coloring books and crayons (I like to put the crayons in a plastic pencil box. It keeps them from rolling away and for easy pick up).
  • Water toys (it’s fun if you are camping by a river, lake, beach, or someplace hot.  You can get squirt guns, splash tubes, etc.).
  • Glow sticks (I like to get necklaces and bracelets for the nighttime).
  • Bicycles and scooters.
  • A rubber or plastic ball to kick or play with.


  • When we go tent camping, we prefer to pack the necessities like eggs, hot dogs, cheese, ham, bacon, pickles, etc., which we store in a sizeable ice chest.
  • To keep the eggs safe and prevent the egg cartons from getting soggy, we use a plastic egg holder from Walmart.
  • When we’re not roasting hot dogs over an open campfire, my husband cooks and prepares most of the meals on a portable gas camping stove.
  • Another reason my 4-year-old loves camping is the snacks.  I make a point to pick up J.R. Dippers Cheese Dip & Bread Sticks from the Dollar Tree.
  •  I also like to get mixed variety packs of chips and of course chocolate, Graham crackers and marshmallows to make s’mores!  
  • Tortilla chips and the Wholly Guacamole Minis from Costco, because they make a perfect healthy snack, being prepackaged in small cups also makes it easy to keep safely in the cooler.
  •  My go-to fruits for camping are mandarins and grapes because they are easy to eat, little kids can easily grab them, and they keep well without the need for refrigeration.
  • When going camping, especially during the summer months, it is important to stay hydrated.  For my daughter, I like Honest Kids lemonade and Fruit Punch because it is not chalked full of added sugars or unnecessary ingredients.  We also make sure we have enough bottled water and Liquid I.V. packets to make sure we have enough electrolytes


Here are my essential must-haves to help you make a fantastic trip for you and your family:

Camping Equipment

  • Tent (for our family of three and our miniature schnauzer a 6-person tent works well.
  • Nightlight (I bought this nightlight for my daughter at Home Depot. We use it in her room, and it is super practical for camping and works well as a night light in the tent. Plus, it gives her a sense of home).
  • Water jug This comes in handy for washing dishes, hands, etc. if you don’t have a nearby freshwater source.
  • Flashlight.

Cooking Supplies

  • Gas camping stove or some sort of portable grill if you prefer cooking with wood or charcoal.
  • Propane bottles.
  • Dish soap (I like to buy from Dollar Tree a sponge with a dish soap dispenser to put the dish soap in).
  • Hand soap.
  • Paper plates.
  • Cooking utensils (knife, spatula, mixing spoon, etc.).
  • Paper towels.
  • Plastic cutlery.
  • Magazine holder (I use this to hold the paper plates to keep them organized, so they won’t fly away).
  • Cabby (I use the three-divider one to organize the cutlery, salt, pepper, etc. in it).
  • Ice.
  • Cooler.
  • Chocolate bars.
  • Graham crackers and/or Chocolate chip cookies (s’mores are a staple when camping.  If you want to take your camping game to a new level instead of using graham crackers use your favorite cookies instead. You can think big like going to Costco and buying Chocolate Chip Cookies or going to your favorite bakery and getting your favorite cookies to make s’mores with.  The sky is the limit. But please share in the comments so we can also try them next time we go camping).
  • Marshmallows.
  • Skewers for roasting (alternatively you can find a suitable stick to use, just make sure the sticks you pick out are not poison oak).
  • Wood.
  • Lighter/matches.
  • Lighter fluid is optional or anything you want to use to start a fire.

Packing List

  • Make sure to pack clothes according to the weather where you are camping.
  • Bug spray.
  • Bug-repellant bracelets (I like these bracelets because I get eaten alive by mosquitos and the bracelets seem to help a lot).
  • Sunscreen.
  • Cloth hamper (this helps me put the dirty laundry when it is time to go home, I just put the hamper in the car, and I don’t worry about repacking).
  • Stasher bags (These silicone bags are unique, not just for camping, but for everyday life. For camping, they will help keep your items cold while keeping the water from the cooler out.  You can also use them as ice packs or make snack bags for the kids in emergencies.  I highly recommend them.)
  • Toilet paper (just in case).


Depending on where you go camping, the activities could vary.  On this camping trip, it was unbearably hot, and luckily, there was a small river accessible from the camp. We spent much of our time relaxing and floating in our pool toys with our favorite beverage in hand. 

The most memorable part of the trip for me had to be the kids splashing around in the bucket full of water.  Our campground had access to running water, and since the temperature was well into the 90s, the kids grabbed one of the buckets we brought and took turns splashing each other inside the bucket.

Another day, they decided to soap themselves with hand soap and jump in the bucket.  They came up with their shower idea.  So, if you want to bathe your child while camping, you might want to take a tip from Paloma and her cousins.

My 4-year-old loves camping because of all of the fun activities she gets to do with her cousins. Aside from getting wet with the bucket here is a list of Paloma and her cousin’s favorite activities to do while camping:

  • Swimming in the river.
  • Catching crawdads.
  • Riding bikes.
  • Playing with the ball.
  • Age-appropriate game boards (Uno, puzzles, Bingo, Go Fish, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, etc. Again, less is more, so only bring a few games).
  • Running around.
  • Coloring.
  • Hiking (you can do a scavenger hunt, find fairies, find flowers, etc.).
  • Looking up at the beautiful night sky.

The Moral of the Story

When you are camping, you must be prepared to embrace that feet, hands, and faces will be dirty.  Children will fall asleep from exhaustion from running around and playing. There will be no schedules, rules, or screen time, and it will be a messy but happy trip.  One of the most important reasons to choose camping in the wilderness as a vacation is to disconnect from city life and our possessions and to get in touch with nature’s magi which is the main reason not just our 4-year-old but our whole family loves camping.

If you want more tips on traveling, click here to read my blog on our trip to Disney World.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Anayanci says:

    Thank for the thorough list of supplies! And the you all went to looks very fun!