This post contains affiliate links.
A few weeks ago, we went on our first camping trip with our four special needs kiddos. As usual it was packed with crazy adventures. I thought I'd share for those who enjoy following our family fun, and so I'd remember everything for next time.
The trip was kind of a last minute thing. Weather was predicted to be incredibly hot. We thought spending days at the beach and sleeping outdoors would be our best bet for keeping everyone cooled off and pleasant.
Though we had camped at grandparents' homes before, preparing for the real thing in less than four days was slightly more work than anticipated, especially when it came to preparing the kiddos. I was incredibly thankful for the packing list and meal planner I found to help keep me organized, and the Camping Themed Autism Therapy At Home Camp from And Next Comes L to help the kiddos. The last resource is literally the reason I came back from our experience alive.
The Camping Themed Autism Therapy Camp at Home provides many activities that can help special needs kids prepare for their very first camping trip. Some of these include social story videos, behavior expectations, and measuring and solving problems activities and printables.
Our planned time of departure was 2 PM. We actually left four hours later. If I could go back and change anything about the trip, our late departure would be it.
By the time we checked in, purchased firewood and ice, and set up our tent, it was already getting dark. We still hadn't made a fire or prepared dinner.
We prepared Grill Foil Packed Cheesy Fries with Bacon on a Stick, that you could mix and top with sour cream in the dark. The fries and bacon were either burned or raw. Dinomite who had looked forward to this meal most, completely melted down.
Thankfully campfire cones saved the day and our first night ended on a high note. The only other issue we had was helping the kiddos settle down for the night. I've never been so thankful for loud neighbors who covered up all the noise the kiddos were making.
We had only one minor incident during our first night camping. One of our kiddos, notorious for sleep walking, stood up in the middle of the night mumbling, and peed right in the middle of the tent. Thankfully it was in an area where there was no bedding or other items and could easily be cleaned up with a few Clorox Wipes.
The morning went extremely well. The kiddos enjoyed their breakfast of individually packed cereals, and were eager to play or help with morning chores, including the dishes from dinner the night before that we had thrown in the van.
life jackets on our kids who can't swim when at beaches and the pool. It's one less thing I have to worry about, which helps in situations like this.
taco salad in a bag, except that it wasn't in a bag, because the kiddos couldn't quite grasp why we wouldn't use plates. Lol.
Shelby's Snack Shack and Cinderella's Uno while eating trail mix.
We eventually ended up giving her Benadryl to calm her, so that she would stay safe, as our developmental pediatrician has recommended. It wasn't too long before she fell asleep in my arms. Meanwhile Dinomite had retreated to the tent to calm his own anxieties about dinner.
Fortunately, dinner was a huge success. Dinomite and all of the other kiddos loved their bagel pizzas. It was dessert that caused the anxieties our second night.
We tried cooking cinnamon rolls on a stick. The problem was that they kept falling off the sticks. It didn't take long before we changed our plan and cooked them as kabobs over top of our grill basket, so when they fell, they could still be cooked.
All of the cinnamon rolls fell apart, so we ended up having cinnamon roll bites cooking in the dark. Some were burned. Other parts were still a little raw, but with frosting the kiddos loved them.
After dessert, we cleaned up the table, throwing dirty dishes in the car for tomorrow and settled the kiddos down as quickly as possible. We were more successful than the night before, but it was still really late before they quieted down.
The kiddos fell asleep quickly, but Jason and I were kept awake by a critter climbing on the sides and top of the tent. To this day, we don't know what it was, but they did leave a present on our picnic table for us to find in the morning.
Once awake and dressed the next day, we ate breakfast (granola bars and yogurt), and did camp chores. Then we headed to the park for play and a picnic lunch.
It was quite warm out. Everyone was delighted that the park was shaded by trees on all sides.Nutella and strawberry or Sunbutter and raisin wraps. Everyone enjoyed lunch but Bulldozer. He was very troubled and upset over an exchange he had with other children on the playground.
It wasn't until we had all headed back to town for hippotherapy, returned to camp and spent more time at the beach, that he had recovered from the misunderstanding and could enjoy the rest of the evening. He was looking forward to helping Jason build a fire tonight!
The kids were very intrigued by our neighbors as well, but not excited about so many people stopping by to visit them. Anxieties soared.
We made it through our own introductions and were so relieved to learn that our neighbors across the way (staying in a camper), not only had experience with special needs children, but adopted children with RAD themselves. Whew!
Once again, dinner and dessert were late, despite all attempts to be finished before dark. My dear friend Kris and her daughter stopped by to visit. It still amazes me that we managed to cook and eat hot dogs on a stick, macaroni and cheese and S'mores for dessert without someone completely losing it.
All of the transitions throughout the evening had really thrown Princess and Sunshine. Their behaviors were NOT fun to deal with. Eventually we did manage to calm everyone down and sleep that night.
Of course we had to have yet another night time adventure. I was walking back from the bathroom and froze as I saw a skunk right in front of me, and right next to the tent. Thankfully he was startled by my flashlight enough to run away, but not enough to spray.
Sunshine struggled our third night in the tent, waking up frequently. After a rough evening with her, my patience was running thin. Neither one of us received much sleep.
The next morning Jason and I decided that the girls and I would head back home, due to their behaviors. Dinomite, Bulldozer and Jason would stay another night and pack up camp in the morning.
This plan was a good one until there was a threat of thunderstorms and the boys missed their Mommy. Jason and the boys showed up at home around midnight. Lol.
In the morning, Jason headed back to camp and packed everything up before the forecast storms for the next day arrived. And our trip was done.
Will we do it again? Absolutely! Will we change anything? Yes!
1. Leaving camp every day for extra curricular activities and supplies was a HUGE pain. Everyone was struggling with transitions and we always felt like we were rushing. The activities were also what caused us to be so late with dinner each night.
2. We need to practice campfire meals at home, before we attempt them at camp. This would save so many meltdowns.
3. It may be of benefit to stay in a spot that's more secluded, so we don't have to worry about neighbors and anxieties.
4. Lastly, I would bring more components of the Camping Themed Autism Therapy At Home Camp with us. The prep we did before we camped, and the activities we did bring with us, saved us from having so many more behavioral and sensory issue with the kids.
All in all though, we had a fabulous time and can't wait until next year to try again!
If you're interested in more camping themed ideas, activities, and experiences be sure to check out the post below!