Talk it up: Starting a few weeks in advance, bring up camping and how fun it will be. Read books about it (for us, “Curious George Goes Camping” did the trick). Some families pitch a tent and camp in the backyard first, but we didn’t have the time or the space for this.
Space the treats: Throughout the trip, have markers where something special will happen. For us, we had s’mores after dinner. We brought out headlamps at night.
Involve the kids : Getting 2½-year-olds to help pitch a tent can be as easy as convincing them to clean up their toys. But have your kids assemble the poles, or spread out the mat. Anything to get them engaged.
Create diversions: To convince them to keep walking, have them hunt for a walking stick. Have them collect rocks or jump off logs. Talk about the final destination. Be on the lookout for animals. Anything to get their mind off how tired they think their legs are. When all else fails, break down and carry them (for us, we always hiked with an Ergobaby carrier). Also, don’t forget to bring snacks.
Be flexible: We’re normally fairly insistent on naptime. But naps are nearly impossible while camping. We relished when they slept in the car between hikes, but that’s hard to count on. And it might not get dark until well after
9 p.m., so normal bedtime will be stretched. Just hope that they’re so tired they go right to sleep when they get the chance.