Itching to take your little one camping? See our top tips for camping with toddlers to make sure even the tiniest campers stay safe and have fun outdoors!
Are there any new-parent campers out there who are worried that the newest family addition is going to put a cramp in your camping lifestyle?
I don’t know about you, but I got some pretty funny looks from friends and family the first time I told them I wanted to introduce our very young daughter to camping.
My daughter was 14 months old when she went on her first camping trip and she has a blast.
Don’t let the naysayers get you down. I firmly believe that camping is for everyone. Camping with toddlers is not only possible, but it can be a ton of fun!
While RV camping with toddlers is much easier than tent camping, you can still take your tot with you and enjoy tent camping! With the right considerations and preparation, even a toddling two-year-old can join in on the outdoor adventuring.
Let’s take a look at 10 tips for camping with toddlers to make your toddler’s first camping trip a breeze!
1. Try Camping With Toddlers At Home First
You may be wondering: what is a good age to take a child camping? The answer to that question is: pretty much whenever they (and you) can handle it!
If you’re trying to figure out for certain whether your kiddo is ready for their first camping trip, one great way to do so is by doing a test-run at home first.
Using the same gear that you’ll be taking to your camping destination, set up a practice campsite at home in your backyard. You can even set things up in the living room if you really want to ease your toddler into the experience.
Let your little one help set up and explore the tent. Sleeping in it overnight will help them get used to the feel of sleeping on a surface that’s different from their crib or bed.
2. Choose Your Campsite Carefully
When you’re booking your campsite for the family, look for things like proximity to bathrooms and shade. Your site’s proximity to campsite amenities can really improve your toddler camping experience.
Research the terrain and plants in the camping area so you know if you need to take any additional safety precautions. Avoid areas with steep drop-offs or lots of poison oak.
Make sure you choose a campsite with plenty of options for activities. Areas with well-kept trails and family-friendly beaches are especially great for entertaining a toddler.
Some campsites even have visitor centers with kid-friendly activities scheduled during peak tourism seasons.
Our first camping trip had a playground on site and a magician who did a free show on the weekends!
3. Bring Camping Snacks and Food Your Toddler Likes
One thing is for certain when you go camping with your toddler: they are going to be active! Since they’ll be burning extra calories, don’t be surprised when their hunger knows no bounds.
Make sure you add some tried and true food favorites to your camping food list. Your toddler is going to be pretty out of their element and regular routine, so now is not the time to spring too many new camp recipes on them.
4. Pack the Right Clothes for Camping With Toddlers
It’s always a good idea to research the weather where you’re going, but always bring a variety of clothes for your toddler regardless of how hot or cold it will be during the day. Temperatures can fluctuate drastically from day to night, especially in higher elevations.
When it comes to dressing for the cooler temperatures, layers will be the key to keeping your toddler comfortable. The best way to know if they are dressed warm enough is to dress them how you’re dressed, and then add one additional layer.
I recommend bringing some thermal underwear sets for your toddler. Forget the onesies at home, because they make middle-of-the-night potty trips a lot trickier (and chillier!).
Don’t bring any clothing you don’t mind getting dirty, and make sure you bring some backup outfits. Lastly, regardless of where you’re headed, bring some waterproof clothing and a hat for your littlest camper.
5. BRING a Toddler-Friendly First Aid Kit
Don’t forget the first aid kit in your camping packing list. Camping with toddlers is a great reminder to update your kit and add a few kid-friendly essentials to the mix.
When you’ve got a toddler along for the adventure, you can probably expect a few more bumps and scrapes while they’re—quite literally—gaining their footing. Band-Aids to the rescue!
Here are a few other items to add to the kit:
- A sting/bite ease stick
- Deet-free bug spray
- Liquid pain reliever (like Tylenol) in kid doses
- High SPF sunscreen
6. Set Up Camp During Daylight
Arrive at your destination with plenty of sunlight left to set up camp. This will ensure that you are able to show your toddler where things are and establish some campsite boundaries.
Keep in mind that it might take you a little longer than usual to set up camp with a toddler running around! Thankfully, a busy toddler is a happy toddler.
If you’re looking to instill a lifelong love of camping in your toddler, involve them in camp setup. Have them carry some things from the car. They can even hold on to some tent poles while you set up the tent.
If you’d rather set things up without your “little helper,” bring some specific activities to entertain your little one while you’re getting the site ready. We have tons of camping activities for your toddler that you can do!
7. Make Things Fun by Incorporating Some Toddler Camping Gear
One of the biggest barriers for parents of young children to go camping is not knowing how to make it “fun” for the kids. How do you entertain a toddler while camping?
It’s actually a lot easier than you’d think. Many toddlers will love to explore the dirt, finding sticks and rocks!
The first thing you’ll want to do is to establish an area at your campsite for your toddler that feels safe, familiar, and entertaining. Setting up their very own play area with some familiar toys from home is a great place to start.
You can use a play mat or waterproof picnic blanket with a playpen, or even a popup play tent or screen house. It’s a small enough area to keep them contained, but big enough for them to move around and still feel like they’re part of the action.
If your toddler isn’t much of a hiker yet, this wearable baby backpack with built-in shade is a great way for them to take in the sights while you get your hike on. If your little one is able to nap in a carrier, consider planning hikes during nap times.
Helping your toddler stay busy with activities is a great way to guarantee that they don’t have any time to get into mischief around the campsite!
8. Take Safety Precautions When Camping With Toddlers
Of course we hope that every camping trip goes smoothly, but the safest camping trip is one where you’ve planned carefully and taken all safety precautions. This is even more true when you’re camping with toddlers.
It’s especially important in an unfamiliar area to have eyes on your toddler at all times.
If there are multiple adults around, it’s easy to assume someone else has eyes on your kiddo.
Designate one adult as the toddler-buddy, and then intentionally hand-off those duties to each other periodically to make sure someone is watching your toddler at all times.
Here are some other ideas to keep your camping adventure safe with a toddler:
- Set clear boundaries for your campsite and make sure to tell them what areas are off-limits
- Write your cell phone number and/or campsite number on their shoe or on the collar of their shirt
- Tie a small bell to one of their shoes so you can hear where they’re walking
- Give them a whistle and teach them to blow it if they can’t find you
- Bring a headlamp and plenty of flashlights or lanterns
9. Set Up a Toddler-Friendly Campfire
I think we can all agree that some of the best camping memories are made around the campfire. Your kid’s first s’more is a magical experience that neither of you are likely to forget!
And yet, open flames plus a toddler might be causing you a little anxiety.
If you’re worried about your toddler running wild around the campfire, contain them fireside with a portable, foldable toddler high chair.
10. Make Your Toddler’s Camping Bedtime Cozy and Familiar
It’s pretty typical that the most challenging aspect of camping with a toddler is figuring out how to make sure that they—and you!—get enough sleep at night.
Camping is going to stretch your toddler’s comfort zone, so it’s important that you keep some aspects of their routine consistent. This is most important at bedtime after a long and active day.
Bring the comforts of their home bedtime routine with you to the campsite. Yes, that means you should pack all of their required sleep-time stuffed animals and blankets, and even a white noise machine if they’re used to sleeping with it.
Know that sleep during camping probably won’t be as good as it is at home. Try to lower your expectations before you go, and roll with it if you have a bad night of sleep or two.
What do toddlers sleep in when camping?
The answer to that question will vary depending on the size of your family tent as well as how your toddler sleeps at home.
If your toddler is still in a crib, and your tent is big enough to hold it, then bring a portable play yard to keep their sleeping environment similar.
If your toddler shares the bed with you at home, then they will likely want to cuddle up next to you in the sleeping bag!
If you’ve already transitioned your toddler to a bed and have space, you might also consider using this breathable, enclosable travel bed for your toddler’s camp bed. It allows your toddler to sleep close to you and still have their own contained, cozy space.
We are fortunate nowadays that there are all sorts of camping gadgets and gear on the market. Thankfully there’s plenty of family and toddler-friendly camping gear to make camping with toddlers lot easier and more fun!