It’s hard to imagine a better way to vacation with kids than going camping. Camping with toddlers is a fantastic way to foster a love of the great outdoors in your children. There’s nothing like bonding by the campfire while you make smores and sleeping under the stars. Whether you’re a lifelong camper or you’re planning your first family camping trip, there are lots of things you can do to make sure your trip is a success. Here are our top tips for camping with toddlers to help the entire family get the most out of their outdoor experience.
The first thing to consider when camping with toddlers is the weather. If it’s very cold or extremely hot, your little ones will be miserable, and that’s not going to be fun for anyone. Not only that but if it rains constantly, you’ll all be spending your vacation stuck in the tent. Before you choose the time and destination for your trip, spend some time researching the weather so you know what to expect and can plan your getaway accordingly.
Before you head off to the woods with your toddler, do a couple of practice runs in your backyard. Backyard camping is a fantastic way to introduce kids to sleeping outdoors, but you’re still in a familiar place. It will also give you the chance to work out any kinks in your plan. Is your tent big enough? Are the kids comfortable with the sleeping situation? Finding these things out before you head out to the woods will make your camping trip go much more smoothly.
No matter what you do to prepare your toddler, their first camping trip is going to be unfamiliar. Instead of expecting your kids to rough it, bring some familiar comfort items from home. A favorite blanket, stuffed animal, familiar book, and a toy will go a long way toward comforting a toddler in an unfamiliar place.
Toddlers are extremely curious and very likely to touch things they shouldn’t or even put them in their mouths. Things like wild berries and flowers will be very tempting to your little one, so make yourself familiar with any poisonous plants in your camping area. When you get to your campsite, familiarize yourself with nearby plant life, and watch your toddler carefully to keep him or her away from anything harmful.
Most toddlers will not be content to sit around the campsite all day. They have seemingly endless energy and become bored quickly. When choosing your campground and destination, choose a place that has plenty of toddler-friendly activities nearby. A playground, a place to swim, or some easy walking trails to explore are all great ideas.
An easy way to keep your toddler calm and unafraid after dark is to let them wear their own headlamp. This allows them to move around camp freely and most kids will find it a lot of fun. It will also give you a way to find them quickly if they wander off in the dark. Be sure to choose one that’s not too bright so they’re not blinding everyone else in camp.
Don’t forget to bring plenty of kid-friendly bug spray and sunscreen for your toddler. A toddler covered in bug bites or sunburn isn’t going to be happy. When packing your toddler’s clothing for the trip, bring pieces that can be layered so your ready for any type of weather. Long-sleeved pajamas will keep the bugs off and ensure your little one stays warm overnight.
Sleeping arrangements are also key for your little one’s comfort. While you might be comfortable with nothing more than a sleeping bag, that’s probably not going to work for your toddler. Depending on your child’s age, be prepared with a portable crib, sleeping pad, air mattress, or a camping cot to reduce stress and discomfort.
Never assume your toddler will know better than to get close to the fire. Curiosity will likely have your child getting too close. Designate a camp chair just for your toddler and set a rule that that is the closest they’re allowed to get. You’ll still have to watch them closely but teaching campfire safety right from the beginning can help to eliminate accidents.
Unpacking and setting up camp in the dark is challenging at the best of times. If you have tired or nervous toddler with you, it’s going to be even more stressful. Plan to arrive at your campsite while there’s still plenty of daylight so you can set up camp and make dinner before it gets dark. Setting up camp with little ones running around always takes longer, so be sure to allow more time than you think you need.
Having a safe place for your little one to hang out while you’re in camp will make everyone’s life easier. A portable crib is a great option, but a matt or a child’s beach tent with a bug screen will also work.
A tired, cranky toddler can ruin everyone’s fun in a hurry. Try to stick to your child’s normal routine and provide quiet time for naps. Staying busy will prevent boredom, but don’t overdo it to the point your toddler is overstimulated and exhausted. A little advanced planning and forethought will ensure that your family camping trip with your toddler is a complete success.