BY Nick Bulanda
Published January 19, 2021
Camping with Toddlers: Everything You Need to Know
One of the standard traditions of many American families is camping. It’s something that so many of us had passed down, and something that we continue on through the generations. On a more basic level, it’s just a plain old good time for the entire family. That includes toddlers, though it’s important to take special care when bringing someone so young camping. That’s what our guide here is for. With it, we’ll offer up plenty of advice that we hope you’ll find useful when camping with toddlers.
We try to cover all of your bases here, from simple but important things like safety and food to tips on what to look for in a campground and more. Stick with us, and we’re willing to bet it’ll have a positive impact on your next camping trip. We truly believe that it’s not only possible to have a good time bringing your toddler camping, but that it can be fundamentally good for their childhood development. See what we have to say, and you’ll be ready to start planning the next family adventure!
1. Safety Comes First
In our opinion, there’s nothing more important than safety when camping with toddlers. We all know how quick on their feet they can be, and they’ll need special attention and care throughout your stay. Every parent knows how to best care for their child, but camping can be an unusual locale. It pays off to always keep an eye on your little one running around, or at least to always have them with someone you trust, like other members of the family.
Additionally, make sure that you pack along plenty of layers of clothing as well as blankets to keep them warm. Beyond that, it’s all about knowing your child. Are they the type of toddler that bolts at the first available opportunity? It might not be a bad idea to outfit them with a bell or something similar that makes noise on their clothing. A play-pen or pack-and-play is a strong thing to consider packing as well. Additionally, you could write the number of your campsite on the child’s hand in case they get lost and someone else nearby finds them.
2. Always Keep Plenty of Water On Hand
This one applies for more than just toddlers. However, it’s even more important to keep enough water around when you do have a little one with you. Does your campsite have running water? If so, you’re in luck! If not, make sure to bring along as much as you can reasonably fit in your vehicle. Bottled water is fine, but if possible you may want to get a big jug of water and some reusable cups. That’s much better for the environment, and it means you won’t have to worry about collecting a bunch of empty water bottles before you go.
Not only is it important to bring enough water; you always have to make sure to actually drink it! Dehydration is much more common than many people think, and it can definitely be dangerous if not taken care of. The best way to avoid it is to stay hydrated throughout the day! Help your toddler learn healthy habits like drinking enough water and you’ll be setting them up for a positive future.
3. Bring the Right Sleeping Arrangements
Unfortunately, toddlers can’t easily sleep in a normal sleeping bag like you or I. That means you’re going to have to find them their own comfortable sleeping arrangement. Thankfully, there are plenty of great options available out there. We recommend searching based on your little one’s age as well as size. After all, a 12-month old isn’t going to need the same sleeping bag as a 24-month old. Manufacturers make plenty of different sizes and styles, so it’s just about picking the one you think is best for your family. Consider the quality of the item’s material, as well as safety information, price and more. Finally, before you buy, take a look at customer reviews and see what they have to see about the product. They can be quite insightful!
There are a number of reasons it’s important to invest in one of these products. The most important reason is for your child’s safety. You’ve got to find a bed that’s suited to their body. Additionally, if you want them to stay comfortable and sleep easily through the night, you’ll want to make sure it’s something they enjoy. Like we said, there are tons of options out there. We have a lot of confidence you’ll find a sleeping bag your little one will love.
4. The Best Meals and Snacks for Camping with Toddlers
Bringing the right (and enough) provisions can be a challenge for any camping trip. It’s even more difficult when you’re bringing a young child along. Think about what kinds of foods they enjoy, and see if any stand out as being easy to bring along without refrigeration. You’re going to need stuff that’s non-perishable and can cook over the fire, or even some things that don’t have to be cooked at all. Think about breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks when you’re choosing.
Make sure to consider how many people are going with you, and to pack accordingly. It’s okay to pick a few things that need to stay cold if you’re bringing a cooler. However, make sure not to bring too much to fit easily with your drinks and ice! It’s not a bad idea to make a few real dinners, but try not to go overboard. Keep it simple and everyone wins!
Our recommendation for the best foods when camping with toddlers are: fruit (fresh and dried), trail mix, PB&J sandwiches, a healthy cereal, and maybe their favorite meal that you can cook over the fire as a special treat one night!
5. Carefully Pick the Right Location for Your Trip
Not every location is perfectly suitable to camp with a toddler. For instance, it’s probably not the best idea to camp right next to a body of water, as it’d be too easy for your child to wander into quickly. We also encourage you to look for places that aren’t too far out in the wild, and where you can camp right next to your vehicle. If there’s a restroom nearby, that’s even better. In general, it’s not usually the best idea to try and rough it when you’re camping with toddlers. Take a look at family campgrounds for some inspiration as to what you’re looking for. By choosing one of these, you’ll know that you’re in a place that has what you need for your child. Plus, you’ll be around other families, possibly giving your little one(s) some other children to play with!
In addition to the campsite itself, think about the general region you’re visiting. Perhaps a desert camping trip may be better off in a few years when the kids are older. How’s the weather going to be? Camping trips with rough weather can become even worse when you have a toddler along, as they don’t do well in the cold or rain. Try to pick a location that will offer weather that’s in your favor, as well as fun activities for your child to enjoy (more on that soon!).
6. Toys and Games Ready to Go
Unfortunate as it is, most toddlers won’t quite be satisfied just by the experience of being in the outdoors. Bring along some toys and games to occupy their time! Find some of your child’s favorite outside toys from back home. Pack them up, but use your own judgement on how many to bring. Additionally, it could be a good idea to pick up a few new options for them to play with. Whether it’s tossing a football around with the whole family, a toy car, or even a kid-friendly card game, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Activities for the whole family can be a blast. The real trick is finding one that even toddlers can join in on the fun with.
The temptation is probably there to bring along a phone, tablet or maybe even a computer. If you’re looking for our advice, we say it’s best to leave the digital stuff at home. However, we believe all parents have to make their own decisions and set their own boundaries when it comes to screen time. Once your child is old enough, talk to them about the importance of getting away from screens once in awhile. That can help benefit them later on in life, as we see more and more children growing up with real and serious digital habits.
7. Getting Camping Gear That’s Made for Toddlers
Did you know that there is actually quite a variety of camping gear meant for toddlers to enjoy? It’s true! You can find great options like toddler camping chairs, clothing, and even toys that resemble real-life camping gear. If you have the extra room in your family’s budget, we definitely encourage checking out some of these products. They can really improve your young camper’s time. From having their own little place to sit next to the campfire, to having fun imitating you as they put up their own small tent, there’s no limit on the amount of fun they can have.
If your child is old enough to talk, bring them shopping with you, either in-person or online. Let them pick out some of the styles and colors that they like best, and use it to get them excited about going camping! This can be extremely helpful if your child seems a little hesitant to go out on this trip. Picking out their own gear might totally change their outlook on the situation, getting them prepared for an amazing time.
8. Know Your Campground and Nearby Campers
Once you arrive at your destination, we strongly recommend getting to know the area you’re in. That means both your immediate surroundings, as well as any major locations nearby. Try to familiarize your kids with this if they’re old enough to grasp it. Walk around the area together and get them used to the setting. This can help avoid any confusion, and help them (and you) get around the campsite in the dark. If there are bathrooms, learn where they are for sure. You’ll certainly be heading there often enough.
Additionally, it pays off to get to know your surrounding campers. In addition to hopefully finding some good people, it’ll also help out in case your child decides to try and make a break for it. If you’re surrounded by people you can trust, it’s worth knowing about. This is yet another reason why it’s a good idea to pick a family campground, especially if this is your child’s first time out camping.
9. Try a Test Camp-Out in the Backyard
As long as you have a backyard with enough space, setting up the tent and camping out at home is a great first step for a toddler. Every child is different, and not all of them will be able to adjust right away to sleeping outside the home. By trying this out, you’ll give them a sense of what it’s like to go camping, but without any of the potential downsides. We recommend doing as many camping activities together as you can, such as having a fire, setting up the tent, and of course sleeping out there. There’s a very strong chance they’ll have a fantastic time with this backyard adventure. If they don’t, at least you’ll know there’s still some work to do before heading out on your camping trip!
See how your child reacts to this test run. It may even be a good idea to try this out a few times in the weeks and months before you go camping. Some kids will certainly take to it right away, and you may find them begging you to let them camp in the backyard! By finding this information out before you actually leave for your trip, you’ll be able to better prepare yourself and your little one. Camping with toddlers is something we think everyone can enjoy. It’s just a matter of making sure that they’re ready for it, and this is a great way to learn.
10. Remember to Have Fun!
The last major tip we want to leave you with is one that’s easy to forget. Don’t get too concerned with your child that you forget to have fun yourself! If that ends up being the case, it defeats the entire purpose of a family trip, after all. We strongly believe that it’s possible for you to both watch over your toddler and have a good time. It’s just a matter of setting them up for success. If you follow our tips, you should not find too much trouble with this.
A vacation is supposed to be relaxing, but parenting is often the exact opposite. The real trick is finding the right balance between the two. Camping is good for this, because you’ll have access to plenty of fun activities to do together. Additionally, you won’t ever be too far from your little one. Just be sure to grab some fun things for the adults to do as well! You’ll need something to pass the time after the kids head to sleep!
Make Memories by Camping with the Whole Family
Here at Campr Click, we have a very strong passion for camping. It’s a time-honored tradition, and one that’s good for both your mental and physical health, and that of your child’s. Especially in our modern era, it feels as if there’s a growing disconnect with the outdoors. We wholeheartedly believe that establishing a healthy relationship with the wilderness and exercise is an important thing to instill in a child. Camping is an awesome way to do just that. If they get used to spending time out there, and grow to love it, they’ll want to keep coming back for more.
Additionally, camping can create truly lasting memories. So many American families go camping each year, so it’s no surprise that many of us have our own early memories of spending time in the wild, or at a campground. There’s something in that experience that brings us back to our childhood, and we for one could not be more excited to pass that feeling down. You could even be creating a family tradition that lasts for decades or beyond!
Don’t Forget: First Aid and Bug Spray
One of the last tips we want to leave you with is a reminder to pack plenty of bug spray and a first aid kit. These are some of the essentials that often get forgotten and left behind. However, they’re very important, especially when you’re out camping with toddlers. Bug bites can be incredibly annoying, and in some situations even potentially dangerous. Bug spray can help everyone on the trip have a better time, so make sure to grab some before you head out. If you’re lucky, you’ll be camping near a general store or someplace similar that will have these items for you. However, you should never assume that to be the case unless you know for sure.
A first aid kit is equally important. Even if you’re camping in a populated area, it’s key to have some basic essentials on-hand for quick relief. We all know how kids, especially toddlers, like to get into trouble. With a first aid kit, you’ll easily be able to take care of those cuts, scrapes and bruises that come naturally with being a kid.
Taking Care of the Natural World Around Us
Whether you’re on a campground or in the wild, you should always take extra care not to leave trash or anything else behind when you leave. It’s up to us to take care of our environment, and nobody else is going to take care of it for us. When you first arrive where you’re camping, take a look around and find the nearest trash receptacle. Depending on where you are, there may not even be one, or might be special restrictions. Find out what you need to do to get rid of trash, and make sure to bring garbage bags with you!
There you have it, folks! Going camping with toddlers is a phenomenal experience, but you just have to make sure you’re totally ready. By following our tips, you should have an excellent time ahead of you. If you have any questions for us, or want to share additional pieces of advice, our comments section is right down below! One of the best places to learn new things is from the other members of our community, both online and in-person. Good luck, be safe, and have fun on your next camping adventure!