I'm a mom who loves the outdoors, but camping ... not so much.
Camping with babies and young children is its own form of insanity. Being a mom is hard enough at home, but camping requires you to mom like a pioneer—without running water, electricity and any modern conveniences that would normally help you get through the day. It's definitely not a vacation, and chances are you will return far more exhausted than when you left.
The thing is, however, kids love it. We recently returned from a Father's Day camping retreat and my toddler keeps asking when we can go again. I must admit that watching him eat s’mores and squeal with delight at being able to sleep in his own toddler-sized sleeping bag was pretty stinkin’ cute. Although I'm nowhere near ready to endure another camping trip in the near future, I have found several ways to help make a camping trip with a toddler more tolerable and even fun!
1. You may want to take a trial run
The first time we ever took a 2-year-old camping, we ended up driving back home in the dead of night. Our little man had no interest in sleeping in such unfamiliar quarters, so after trying unsuccessfully for hours to make him comfortable enough to fall asleep, we threw in the towel and took him home to his bed. The key is to not be too far away from home for this to be possible. You don't want to be miles and miles from civilization if everything goes to hell.
Toddlers may be frightened when it gets dark and there are no lights to turn on. Giving them their own lantern or flashlight to carry can help them to feel secure.
2. Bring lots of layers of clothing
If you are planning on being in high elevations and especially if you plan on sleeping in a tent, don't underestimate how cold it can get. The more layers of clothing you can bring, the better. Also, being outdoors, there’s a good chance they will get very dirty and even wet. Plan accordingly.
3. Make sure to bring a lovey from home, along with flashlights or lanterns
Toddlers can be nervous in unfamiliar situations. Make sure you bring their favorite snuggle item for comfort and some toys to play with while you’re setting up camp and/or having downtime. If your toddler is not walking yet, you will want to bring along a pack 'n' play for sleeping and playing, as well. Toddlers also may be frightened when it gets dark and there are no lights to turn on. Giving them their own lantern or flashlight to carry can help them to feel secure.
4. Bring a first aid kit, sunscreen, bug spray and any safety items you may need in the outdoors
Toddlers can get into trouble in the blink of an eye, and there is no childproofing in the outdoors. Be sure to pack Band-Aids—the cure-all for any minor toddler injury—and an entire first aid kit, just in case. Chances are, there won’t be any convenience stores nearby to pick up something you may have left behind.
5. Try to keep up with their normal routine
A tired or hungry toddler is a grumpy toddler, even (or maybe especially) during a family trip. Try to keep up with their normal routine as much as possible. And don’t forget to bring lots of snacks!
In the end, just try to have fun. Your toddler will feed off your energy. It may be a lot of work for you, but it will be memorable for them. My son won’t stop talking about it.
If camping is your jam, you may want to consider getting a tent trailer at some point. They make camping with kids much easier.