Whether you’re an experienced camper or you’re looking for a new way to spend family time, camping with your toddler can be wonderful and exhausting.
Here are a few things you can do to make your trip a little less stressful and a lot more fun.
Toddlers are food-focused. Let them experience some of the fun, traditional camp foods but try not to let their diets travel too far from the norm. Keep chips and other munchies out of the reach of little hands. Not much brings on a good dose of regret like a two-year-old vomiting hot dogs and smores all over your tent.
Make safety your top priority as you pick your location and plan your trip. (Now isn’t the time to camp along a river, for example.) By doing some good research, you should be able to pick a campsite that offers a flat terrain and doesn’t have water flowing nearby. While it’s possible to keep your little one safe near water, this might involve tantrums and constant attention. Make your trip as peaceful as possible with a location that doesn’t add to the stress.
Pack a first-aid kit with special bandages and toddler medications. Keep the kit far from your child’s exploring hands. Know where the nearest hospital is located just in case someone in your group needs medical attention.
Be aware of plants in the area that can be harmful. Know how to identify things like poison oak and dangerous snakes. If your child touches a poisonous plant, wash them immediately with a product like Tecnu. Watch for any signs of a bad reaction.
Let your toddler in on the adventure of camping. If you’re worried about keeping them clean, camping might not be the trip for you. Adventure is messy, especially when you’re talking about toddlers. Bring along a few toys that will keep your child entertained. Toy trucks and action figures are great fun in the dirt. Buckets are wonderful for collecting treasures.
Take walks and talk about the flowers and animals you see along the way. Remind toddlers not to touch poisonous plants and things with thorns.
Keep your expectations toddler-friendly. Long hikes up steep hills will probably be a bust. Even if you carry your child in a backpack, sooner or later they will grow antsy and will want to walk. (And they will walk slowly.)
Don’t expect the campsite to stay quiet. Your toddler will tear up the ground and make sure everything you bring is covered in a thick layer of dirt.
Ending the Day
By the time the sun sets, you’ll be exhausted but your toddler will most likely be raring to go. They’re likely to have had a nap at some point, and staying up to watch the crackling campfire will charge them up further.
When you’re ready to tuck them into the tent, start with a bath. Stand your toddler up in a big bowl or tub and rinse dirt off before sliding them into their pajamas. This will keep the tent slightly less dusty and indicate that playtime is over for the day.
Bring along a favorite book and try to stick to your bedtime routine when possible. If you lie down with your child at home, do that here. If your toddler has a special stuffed animal, be sure to bring it along (even though it will get dirty).
You may be tempted to put off your child’s first camping trip until they are older, but don’t! By being prepared and having appropriate expectations, camping with your toddler can be rewarding and memorable.