Tent Camping With Toddlers and Infants Takes Extra Planning and Preparation!
Tent camping with very young kids, like toddlers and babies. or even infants requires a lot more thought, planning, and attention to detail than usual, but with the right preparation, your camping trip can be the memorable and enjoyable outdoor experience you want it to be.
Just remember that kids see “Nature” a lot differently than adults or older kids. This is where pre-planning and camping checklists can save the day. These tips, tools, and resources will help make your sure camping trip goes smoothly.
How to prepare for camping with toddlers and babies:
It’s all about planning and confirmation. Make lists of what you need to know about the site where you will be camping, and how long it will take you to get there, then make sure you have the answers.
Make a master checklist of the camping gear you need to take, and use it. It should be the last thing you double-check as you pack the car. Here is a link to a camping with toddlers checklist you can start with.
Some camping with toddlers basics:
• Dirt will be everywhere, and your kids will get dirty, so relax, dirt is not a bad thing, it’s a natural part of camping outdoors, and it can be washed off when needed.
• Kids under 4 years old will put anything they can get their hands on in their mouth. Even dirt. Don’t freak out, it won’t taste good and they will make a face and spit it out. Unless you stop them. Then they will continue to try to eat it until they finally get a taste. So let them get it over with early.
• When you want to relax is when they want/need the most attention.
• A toddler’s attention span for anything will be seconds, or at most minutes – not hours, so be prepared.
• Naps are a must! As an experienced camping with kids camper, let me say that again. Naps are a must! If not, your early evenings will be a battle between cranky kids and an early bedtime – where they will want you with them.
• When toddlers don’t want to walk – you will have to carry them.
• Nighttime and nature’s noises will be very scary to them. Make sure you have something familiar, like; a favorite blankie or doll, nightlight, (tent light), or musical toy.
• It is almost impossible to “over-pack” when it comes to toddlers and camping.
• A “Pack-N-Play” playpen will be the best piece of camping gear you ever packed.
Where and when to take toddlers camping:
The “when” is easy – warm to cool shirt sleeve or light jacket weather. Remember your young campers will be outside most of the time, and they will be all over the ground – both upright walking, and on all fours crawling. Winter camping with toddlers is only for the most adventurous and experienced camping families.
The “where” depends on the type of camping you want to do – primitive vs. public campground; your purpose – just a fun and pleasant family outing, or a serious immersion into Nature, and also what campsite amenities are important to you. ie. flush toilets and/or bathhouses, playgrounds, and age-appropriate trails and activities.
- Public campgrounds with flush toilets and running potable water are the best choice for camping with toddlers and infants. These types of campgrounds also usually have a camp store, or nearby shopping opportunities for those critical items you forgot or ran out of. This type of camping environment will be a much more relaxed and enjoyable, (and less stressful), camping experience for the kids, and you.
Experienced camping parents take toddlers and infants on enjoyable primitive site tent camping trips all the time, but the keyword is experienced. Primitive site camping is much more challenging, and planning and preparation are much more critical to success.
Once you determine those needs you can pick a camping area that matches your expectations.
See some examples of jingle bells to use
Don’t laugh. Put something that jingles, (like ball bells), on the kids. You will be amazed at the peace of mind you have when that “jingle-jingle” reassuringly lets you know where the kids are. And, they also give you a prod to check on them when you don’t hear it! We all know that when toddlers are quiet – they are up to something.
You may have some of those inexpensive ball bells around the house, (usually Christmas decoration escapees), or you can get them at craft stores – very cheap. You can pin them on clothing, tie them on shoelaces, or even make an ankle or wrist bracelet with them. If you don’t have a local source, here are some “Jingle Bells” available on Amazon. Crafting Jingle Bells
When toddlers go camping, whether it’s a weekend of tent camping or just an over-nighter, there are some must-have and should-have items you don’t want to forget.”
The three most important pieces of “must-have” camping gear you will need:
1. A “Pack-n-Play” playpen:
*Click images to see available prices
- There will be times you need to confine the kids. You may need to do something that takes your attention off them, or just need a few minutes to yourself.
- They may misbehave and need a time out.
- It is a familiar and reassuring space they know that can be used for rest periods or naps.
• If you don’t already have one, thrift stores are a great place to find them cheap. if you already have a good one you use at home, you might want a second one just for camping. (saves a lot of cleaning) If you don’t have access to thrift stores or such. Here are some selections on Amazon. Note most Amazon orders over $25 ship free! See available toddler and Baby Pack-n-Play Playpens
- This may seem like a “nice-to-have” extra, but when that toddler refuses to walk anymore, and you have to carry them in your arms – all the way back to camp, you will soon realize this is a “must-have” piece of camping gear when you take toddlers and babies camping.
- Or when you are in an area where safety dictates the kid’s movements be controlled. One of these carriers will make life a lot easier and enjoyable for everyone.
- As above, thrift stores are a good place to look for inexpensive ones for your camping use. But if that isn’t an option – here are some selections on Amazon. Note most Amazon orders over $25 ship free! Toddler and Baby Backpack Carriers
- This inexpensive piece of camping gear is worth its weight in gold if your campsite is besieged by biting insects. Can you ever be sure yours won’t be? It can be draped over the Pack-N-Play or almost anything else, (even the backpack carrier), to protect your young campers from the misery of bug bites. Adults might grumble and carry on when the mosquitoes swarm, but toddlers and babies will be in agony if they are not protected.
- You will probably only be able to find mosquito netting in dedicated outdoor sports stores, (or online). The price range is usually $6 to $20 dollars. here are some examples available online. Camping Mosquito Netting.
Young skin is much more sensitive to the sun and bug bites – be prepared with:
- plenty of good sunscreen, long sleeves and pants, and a shaded play and nap area
- baking soda and Benedryl (for bites and stings)
- bandaids – sometimes that’s all it takes to make them “all better”
Camping toddlers don’t know about poisonous plants like Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac, or biting bugs like spiders – so it is up to you to survey your campsite to make sure these hazards aren’t a problem.
They also won’t know the dangers of a campfire or a camp kitchen or cooking area – so make sure you explain them to the kids, and enforce the camping-with-kids safety rules.
You can see an example of a “kid-safe” campsite layout here.
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Camping with Toddlers Tips and Resources:
When toddlers go camping, whether it’s a weekend of tent camping or just an over-nighter, there are some must-have and should-have items you don’t want to forget.
When you go camping with kids, safety and first aid are always a top concern. Make sure your first aid kit has these must-have items. Specifically listed for kid-type first aid needs.
This “Bad Weather” Survival kit will help maintain everyone’s sanity when bad weather forces kids, (and you), inside a tent or cabin for long periods of time.
Here are some handy resources and pieces of camp gear you might be interested in:
Save the arguments – every kid needs their own camp flashlight, instead of arguing about who gets yours or who has had it the longest and whose turn it is now.
(ps. this is a great camp light for kids, but you can just pick some up at the Dollar store if you want)
Kid’s Camping Flashlights
Here are some other samples of camping gear, accessories, and tools that will make your outdoor camping trip as fun and enjoyable as you want it to be. And you will be surprised at the value when you see how inexpensive they are when you buy them online.
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