Planning for a camping trip with your child that has special needs requires a whole new level of
planning and preparation. While there is a lot that the family can do together and join in on,
there might be the chance to try new options, the need to go at a slower pace and pick alternate
activities. The outdoors offer so many opportunities to learn, stretch comfort levels and try out
new things that are great for children with special needs.
If you are planning a family camping trip and have to plan for a child with special needs, keep
these tips in mind to make sure it is an enjoyable trip for everyone.
The smoothest trips are those that have plenty of preparation for children beforehand, especially
when it comes to a camp out. Watch films or read books that depict children and families
camping out, host a family bonfire in the backyard, try making some camp food with your
children to put together your menu. All of these are great ideas to build familiarity with the idea
of camping and get them comfortable with the concept.
Pack Comfort Items
A couple days away from home and everything familiar can be overwhelming for a child with
special needs, so make sure you take along their key comfort items, or anything they find
familiar and soothing. To help children that need coaxing overcome their own hesitation, pack
items that can be used as rewards to help them get out of their comfort zone and participate.
Plan for Stay Behinds
There is almost always going to be a time when your child is feeling anxious or overwhelmed
and wants to stay behind or sit an activity out. If you are camping with the family, plan on taking
turns for when these instances arrive so that your child is supervised, but also has the time they
need to join the rest of the party. If you will be visiting a specific site or attraction, find out about
all the quiet rooms, waiting areas, or great spots to sit and enjoy the view before heading out.
Doing this ensures that you have a space to take your child when they need some alone time.
Allow for Free Play
Not everything about your camping trip has to be super planned out, so make sure to leave
plenty of time for children to engage in free play and exploration. Be sure to clearly describe
boundaries, but give children the space and time to observe nature and just explore. Sometimes
its the simplest things that catch their attention and leads to a new favorite activity like rock
collecting, drawing nature, astronomy and trail hiking. These free play moments can fill in free
time or be the activity of the day during your camping trip, but just watching what sparks their
interest will give you a good idea of how long or often you should include these moments.