Thinking about a camping trip with your toddler? Camping with toddlers is fun, but it also takes some planning. Following a plan and keep it simple. In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to camp with a toddler. And I’ll share with you some valuable tips for extra enjoyment.
Ready? Let’s jump straight in.
Related Article: Camping with the Family
How To Camp With A Toddler – Picking The Right Camping Spot
First things first: you need to pick the right camping spot. When picking a campground and spot, consider the following:
Campground Close to Home
When it comes to family camping with a toddler it is nice to pick a campground close to home. This is especially true for their first camping trip.
For starters, not all little ones enjoy long car rides. I have one who does and one who doesn’t. Our 4-hour drive last year for camping ended with a lot of pit stops and crying on our drive home.
Second, if you run into any problems like bad weather you can drive home. You can also go back to the campground later or the next day.
Choose a Camping Spot Close to a Bathroom?
If your toddler is potty trained being near a bathroom can be very handy. I like this for myself as well.
In case there are no washrooms close by, you can bring your own potty.
Park and Beach Access
Being within walking distance to the park is ideal, I have not met a toddler who does not like playing at the park. It can be a nice break for a parent to make dinner if the others go play at the park. Being close to the beach is also nice. Two of the campgrounds we frequent have a long walk to the beach and that is the one thing I wish was different. For safety reasons, I would not choose a beachfront camping site.
Site set up
Picking a site with a shady spot within the campsite is a great option for UV protection when outside all day. It is also nice to have a grassy area for your toddler to play instead of all gravel concrete or mud. If you can look at a picture of your site before booking do. Most campgrounds will at the least have a short description of the site.
How To Camp With A Toddler – Be Prepared and Plan Ahead
If this is your first trip do a test run at home in your backyard or even basement. Backyard camping will ensure you know how to set up your tent or camper. And how to use any cooking equipment you are bringing. You will be able to figure out if you have too much stuff or might need to buy or borrow some extra gear. My older kids and little ones love backyard camping so it is an adventure in its self!
It’s important to make a list and not forget anything. Preparing for your camping experience will make you feel better if you are at all anxious. It will make you feel more confident. Plan for all types of weather that are typical in the area. The weather can change very fast one day you check the forecast there is no rain the next it’s raining all weekend.
How To Camp With A Toddler – Camping Essentials
You need a few essentials for your toddler before you head out into the great outdoors. Fill out the toddler checklist for your family camping trip. Depending on weather and location you will have different needs.
- Lightweight, layering clothing.
- Swimming clothes
- Sun hats and sunglasses
- Warm clothing for mornings and night, like a fleece sweatshirt, or coat, hat, and mitts
- Sleep sac or blanket
- Rain gear
- 2 pairs of shoes, or rain boot and shoes
- Extra days worth of clothes and socks
First Aid and protection
- Bug spray for kids
- Children’s Tylenol and Claritin
- Sunscreen for kids
- Kids polysporin
Extra camping gear for toddlers
- Seat for eating – we have a clamp on chair
- Toddler plate, bowl, utensils, and water bottle
- Bucket and shovel – a few toys
- Bug net or dining tent if a lot of bugs around
- Carrier or wagon/stroller
- lantern or glow stick
- life jacket
- Diapers and Baby Wipes
- Potty chair
- Portable crib or air mattress
Camping with Toddlers – Activities
There are many simple activities that you can enjoy when camping with your toddler. Where to start? Here is a list of some of the activities that can be enjoyed when camping with toddlers.
- Children love reading while camping. Pack a few books along, outdoor-related or animal books are perfect.
- Hiking and walking around the campsite. Exploring the new scenery bird and animal watching. Scavenger Hunts, laminate a printable scavenger hunt this is a favorite for my boys.
- Sandcastles and beach activities, if your campsite has a beach this is a great fun activity.
- Campfire stories, laminate a funny campfire story for before bedtime.
- Fishing or rent a boat or canoe if available.
Camping with Toddlers – Food
Planning and cooking camping meals can be a lot of work. Try to keep it simple especially for your first trips. Plan meals that your toddler loves don’t try new foods. Meals that make less of a mess to clean up are a great option. My kids love oatmeal so this is our go-to breakfast. Sandwiches and hotdogs with fruit are a simple lunch that most kids like. Make-ahead meals or one-pot meals for dinner are great and easy.
Also, consider first what they eat at home; most likely, you’ll be able to stick pretty close to that. Do not try new foods that you are unsure your toddler will like. Also, bring lots of snacks. Having a snack cup is great for the car trip.
Toddler Sleep – Camping Tips for Sleeping In A Tent
This is the most challenging aspect of camping for our family. Toddlers are hard enough to put to sleep at home. Try not to worry too much the first night will be the toughest. After that, your busy toddler will be tired from your fun day outdoors.
If your toddler still sleeps in a crib a pack and play would be a good choice if it fits in your tent. And it can also come in handy as a safe play space. If they are in a bed you can buy a foam sleeping pad or blow-up mattress.
Make sure they have everything to stay warm. Some toddlers will not keep blankets on. I would dress them in a large sleep sack and a jacket or sweater depending on the temperature at night. A merino wool base layer is a great option for pajamas as it can be hot at bedtime but cold during the night. Wool helps regulate your body temperature. Warm socks, and long sleeves, a hat, and mitts in case it gets cold during the night. With warm clothes, a sleep sack, or a sleeping bag. Your small child will sleep even if it gets very cold throughout the night.
Camping with Toddlers – Naps
Don’t be too ambitious and overfill your day with activities. If your toddler naps, plan to just relax at the campsite during the afternoon. Though they may not nap when camping. Especially if they are used to a dark cool room. Remember every toddler is different and will respond differently camping. Try to stay positive and have extra patients if they don’t fall asleep.
If they are having a meltdown you can try a nice scenic car ride or carrier hike that may end in a nap. If you have older children you can plan for one parent to take them to the park or beach, so the campsite is quiet.
- Plant Safety talk to your toddler about not eating any plants or berries in less you give them to them. Last year we picked saskatoon berries beside our campsite yum. But right next to the bush were dogwood berries which should not be eaten. Watch out for plants on the ground that cause irritation. Such as poison ivy, St. John’s Wort, poppies, or philodendron.
- Tent safety If you have a toddler, a parent should always be in the same tent or camper. Make sure your young child can not leave the tent without you.
- Campfire safety: young kids need to know ahead of time the rules of being near a fire. No running around the campfire and have a set distance that they are allowed to go near.
- Water safety. Teach young kids what water is safe to drink. Many campgrounds have designated drinking water fill-up stations. Other water is NOT for drinking. Have your toddlers wear a lifejacket or floatation device if swimming or on a dock at the beach. Remember to always be watching them.
Let’s Wrap It Up
OK, so what have we learned?
- Choose a campground close to home for your first few trips.
- Be prepared and plan ahead.
- Keep your meals simple.
- Dress in layers and pack for the weather.
- Protect yourself from the sun and bugs. And pack all your essentials.
- Don’t sweat if your toddler doesn’t sleep like an angel.
- Teach your toddler camping safety rules.
Enjoy your family camping trip!
Kelly grew up in a small beach town in the boreal forest. Now she is a mom of two adventurous boys. Before deciding to stay home with her boys she worked as a financial associate at a credit union and has always been very frugal. Living in Manitoba Canada near the Whiteshell, trails were plentiful and outdoor adventures always waiting.
Whether it’s biking on single tracks or swimming at the beach, summertime or winter, she jumps at every chance to escape the city and get back to nature.
Kellys other interests include cooking and more cooking