If you follow me on Periscope, you’ll know that my little family and I went camping over the weekend….with our 18 month old. With the bugs, hot sun, and dirt everywhere, some may wonder why on earth any parent would try to attempt this type of weekend trip with a toddler. Some wonder why anyone, kids or no, would go camping. If you are one of those then it is OK if you stop reading now.
For those of you who grew up camping and have the fondest childhood memories in a forest somewhere like I do, then keep reading! I’m sure you have the same desire as I to pass those types of experiences down to your own kids. So much can be learned while camping, like how to entertain yourself without a screen, how to appreciate nature and use it to help you survive. Camping inspires critical thinking and the ability to pay attention to your surroundings. Not only that, it’s incredibly fun.
Yes, it is a great thing to pass down to your kids, but you may be unsure of taking your toddler along for obvious reasons. Well, here are 11 tips for camping with a toddler that may change your mind and give you the help you need to go for it!
Just a note on the pictures in this post. They are all photos I pulled out of storage at my parents of us as kids. No, they aren’t perfectly clear and in focus, but they are precious memories.
Pack layers of clothing. In the heat of the day, you and your kids will want nothing but tank tops and shorts, but when that sun goes down, you’ll be surprised at how a blistering hot day becomes so cool, so fast. To keep your children comfortable at all times, prepare for both the hot and cold, wet and dry.
Bring lots of bug spray and sunscreen! Yes, it is true that one of the biggest discomforts that comes with camping is the burning and the itching that come as a result of being outside all day. I wish I could gloss over things like this and tell the camping non-believers that it’s all peaches and roses, however, it is a fact of life. Even worse than you yourself getting sun burnt and bug bitten, is when your toddler does and can’t express his ailment to you and just cries and throws fits about it. This can be avoided with bug spray and sunscreen and I would suggest you don’t hold back from using a lot of it.
Sleeping may be one of the most difficult aspects of camping. You could be having a great day, but when the sun goes down, and your toddler doesn’t get his normal bedtime routine with a hot bath and familiar bed, you could be in for a rough night. One thing that may help is to bring comfortable bedding. Opt out of the ease of throwing a sleeping bag on the ground and make the extra effort of bringing along a cot or mattress for your kids.
If your toddler is still in diapers (or in the process of potty training) make sure you bring something that seals up really well to dispose of dirty diapers in. You definitely don’t want to be stinking up the whole place with days’ worth of used diapers, and most likely won’t have a sealed trash can nearby. Ziploc bags work well or grocery bags tied up real tight.
Bring lots, I mean loads of wipes. Camping is a messy dirty business and that is part of what makes it amazingly fun for your little ones. They can let their creativity and imaginations run wild without the constraints of a keeping clean like they have at home. Plus, it’s unavoidable. So, my first bit of advice is: don’t worry. It’s just good clean dirt. And second, use the wipes when things get out of control. They also work well for cleaning up before bed.
One of the best camping activities is to go exploring and hiking, but little feet don’t tend to last very long. Bringing along a good stroller if your exploring is confined to paved roads, or wagon, if on rougher terrain, will give your child the lift they may need that is not on your back.
Perhaps the second best camping activity is sitting by the campfire and enjoying its crackling warmth. You won’t feel much of that warmth, however, if you have a squirmy toddler on your lap. Getting your kids child sized camp chairs is a worthwhile investment for the joy it will bring them, and the comfort it will bring you.
Bring some toys and activities. While you may be just fine with sitting back and enjoying nature at a campground, your kids may get restless. Now, I’m not saying to bring an iPad for each of them so they can play Candy Crush all day. That defeats the purpose of camping. Some great alternatives are Bubbles, Hula Hoops, Frisbee, sidewalk chalk, or even just a bucket to collect treasures in. It is also wise to plan your activities for things that would appeal to them, like swimming or participating in a Jr. Ranger Program.
Accidents happen, and this tip should be on any camper’s list regardless of whether there are kids coming or not, but remember to bring a first aid kit especially if you failed to follow the advice from tip #2. It would be wise to include band aids, aloe vera, triple antibiotic, and the like.
We found that on our little weekend excursion that going with a group (where Jordan was the only child) was extremely helpful for watching him and keeping him entertained. While I am fairly lax with my child’s independence, it was difficult to keep track of him constantly and the extra eyes on him definitely helped. Some of the girls also enjoyed playing with him. I think he had a lot more fun with them than he has with Mom.
Involve your kids in the daily chores that come with camping like preparing meals, collecting wood for the fire, setting up the tent, and cleaning up. This is where the learning experiences are golden and they will have a lot more fun than helping out at home!
I have the best childhood memories in campgrounds, and if you can relate, you probably want to pass those experiences down to your own children. Don’t let the daunting gravity of the task of taking a toddler camping stop you, though! If you pack layers of clothes, use bug spray and sunscreen, bring comfy bedding, Ziploc bags for diapers, wipes (and don’t stress about dirt), a stroller or wagon, little chairs, toys, a first aid kit, go with a group of people, and let your kids get involved, you are sure to have a good time. The life lessons on survival and appreciation of nature are too great to pass up. Wouldn’t you agree?
Don’t be afraid to take your kids camping, and have a great time doing so!