Why wouldn't kids love to camp? There's mud. And bugs. And marshmallows. But there's also fire. Which can make it a less-than-relaxing experience for parents of little ones.
Here are some tips for making those first forays into nature a little less stressful for parents but still plenty of fun for kids.
• Camp close to home: Try out the tent in the back yard before heading out for the first time. It's a great way to get kids accustomed to sleeping under the stars. Call the neighbors and invite them over for some s'mores and non-scary campfire stories. If it doesn't go well, at least you tried and you'll know to wait until the kids are another year older. Or two. (if you're a real nature-phobe, you can "camp" in the living room and make the s'mores in the fireplace. But you can't count that as teaching your kids to commune with nature.)
• Do your research: Find out if there is a grocery store, restaurant, or possibly even a hotel, nearby, just in case. Find out what the campground has to offer and look for amenities your family would enjoy, such as a pool vs. a pond for swimming.
• Schedule carefully: For your first venture into the wild, opt for a less busy weekend (in other words, NOT Memorial Day, July 4th or Labor Day weekends).
• Pack wisely: Besides all of the necessary camping equipment like tents, sleeping bags and flashlights, be sure to bring plenty of extra clothes (you know they'll fall into the creek), plan for different climates (it might be 90 during the day, but 50 at night), and a first aid kid (include antibacterial cream/spray, Band-Aids, peroxide, insect repellent, tweezers, pain reliever, thermometer, sunscreen, medicine for stings, and hydrocortisone cream).
• Be flexible: If your little one gets stung by a bee, gets campfire smoke in her eyes, thinks the woods are scary at night or has any other anti-camping reaction, don't fret if it means you have to pack up and move to the hotel or head home early. That's why you booked the campground near the hotel, remember?
• Cindy Richards is the editor-in-chief for TravelingMom.com and the mom of veteran cave explorers Evan and Tess. For family travel tips and ideas, follow her on Twitter @CindyRichards.