Children love to be outdoors, and spending time in the wilderness is also good for their mental health and intellectual development. So we would encourage familyies to go camping as often as possible. These safety tips and guidelines will help ensure your family camping trip goes as planned.
The most common camping accidents and wilderness hazards
- There is an increased risk for child drownings, since people often camp near the water.
- Children can suffer fall injuries, ranging from broken bones to fatal falls from a cliff.
- Sometimes children are backed over or run over by a car during camping trips.
- Falling trees can cause a hazard; every year people are killed when tree branches fall during a storm and land on a tent.
- Children can suffer campfire burns if you’re not careful around the fire.
None of these risks are likely, and children can be injured just as easily in their own home. Yet these accidents do happen, so families should take precautions to avoid them.
Child safety around the campsite
- Be sure to check around your campsite for discarded needles, knives, razor blades, and other hazards. Campsites can sometimes be spots for partying and/or drug use, and the aftermath they leave behind is often not cleaned up.
- Survey campsites ahead of time for any dangerous rivers or cliffs that would warrant extra precaution wherein your kids are concerned.
- If you have younger kids, always have an adult sleep across the front opening of the tent, so that children do not wake up before you and wander off undetected. Many toddlers and preschoolers have been killed because they snuck off before the adults were awake and drowned in the river or otherwise got themselves into trouble. Also do this if you have an older child who sleeps long.
- Pay attention to where you pitch your tent. It should be around 200 feet (or about 70 steps) away from a lake, river or stream. Next, look around for potential falling objects: never pitch a tent beneath old dead trees or large, suspended branches. You should also avoid rock fall zones, such as beneath steep hillsides or cliffs that could send a boulder tumbling your way if it rains. The tent should be laid out on a durable surface, and you should avoid depressions in the land where rain might pool.
- Be sure to use all tent anchors and ensure they are securely affixed to the ground or another object. Never use rocks to hold down anchors, as the wind can pull them free. Much like bounce castles, strong winds can send an unsecured tent airborne, injuring the children inside.
- Don’t let children run or play around the campfire. Print a campfire safety coloring sheet for your child
- Try to put up physical barriers around the campfire that would stop a child who is running and playing from accidentally falling into it. Something as simple as a bench or lawn chairs can provide physical barriers. Clear the area around the fire of any rocks or debris that could pose a tripping hazard.
- Have kids sit several feet back from the campfire since an explosion in the fire could send a hot coal flying several feet away.
- When finished with a campfire douse it with water or cover it with dirt to ensure it is completely out. Many forest fires are ignited when campers leave a fire they mistakenly assume has burned itself out.
Camping safety rules for kids
- Teach children the dangers of drinking water out of a river or stream.
- Teach children that if they ever get lost, they should “hug a tree” meaning they should stay put where they are until help arrives. A lost child often takes longer to find because they continue moving, getting themselves more lost, and sometimes doubling back to areas that rescue crews already searched.