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How to Survive Camping with a Toddler

5 minutes read Sep 16,2013
How to Survive Camping with a Toddler

It's hard to fight the pull of the outdoors.  The number of family camping trips with toddlers and children is climbing each year as families venture into unknown territory.  The idea of roughing it and tent camping with a toddler, or doing a little RV camping with kids might make your eyes go wide but it's far more doable than you thought.

It just takes a little unusual prep when you go camping with a toddler.  You have to cater to the kids first over anyone else.

Preparation for Camping with a Toddler is Key

A lot of families avoid venturing too far from home when they're camping with kids; staying local is appealing because you can rush home if you need to.  Truthfully, there are few things at home that you can't pick up on the road if forgotten.

The exception being the woobies and other special toys.  Prep properly for your camping trip and that will never be an issue.  Good preparation will also help you avoid bored kids and toddler meltdowns while hitting the campground.

Hit the dollar store and pick up paper lanterns, bubbles, cheap toys, and things that are easily disposed of.  More than likely your toddler is going to chase fireflies and want to throw sticks into the fire while smashing s'mores into their face.

But it's always good to have some back up things to keep their attention if you need them.

A big prep item to remember:  turn a pup tent into a poop tent.  If you're tent camping and you don't have an RV, 5th wheel or cabin rental with a toilet then you're not likely to be close to a bathroom.  You might get lucky and have a port-a-john near your campsite... but those aren't built for parent+squirmy toddler.

Invest in a small tent that you can turn into a campsite potty.  Put a kid toilet inside and place an electric lantern inside along with sanitary wipes.  This way if there's a potty emergency with your kids you have the solution right at your camp site.

Keep the Lights On

Depending on where you camp, it can get pretty dark at night.  Even at many camping resorts you're removed from civilization.  It's great to see all the stars but kids can get terrified when you combine pitch-black night, noises and a strange place.  Stock up on lanterns, flashlights and plenty of glow sticks!

Don't Go Rustic Camping

Unless you're 100% certain you can rough it without issues and you're fully prepped for the vacation weekend (or longer), avoid rustic camping.  Many modern camping resorts and RV campground provide sites with full hook-up service - that means electricity and water.

Close-by water comes in handy for cleaning hands, bodies and kid cups.  Having electricity is ideal for charging electronic devices, including cell phones and the Leapster that keeps the boredom at bay for little minds.

Throw your Camping Agenda Away

While planning out the timing of your stops and trip features seems logical, it can be a miserable experience for a lot of children.  For little ones that drag their little feet, a short hike can turn into FOREVER because they want to stop and touch, taste, feel, see, chase everything.

You'll have a lot more fun doing campy their way instead of your way.

Keep The Camping Experience Simple

You might be tempted to make a big list of necessities the first time you go family camping with your toddler.


Not only does it take longer to get your site set up (while your child huffs and kicks the rocks out of boredom) but you're missing opportunities for fun.

It might be depressing to smell other people cooking bacon on their camp stove, but keeping the first few trips simple will let you focus on having fun.

Bring the Critical Items on Your Family Camping Trip

We're not talking about first aid kits and food.  While those are critical, you want to remember the toddler-specific critical items.  That means packing wipes, diapers/pull-up's, extra clothes, medications and the all-important security item.

It might be a blanket, a stuffed animal, a pillow - don't leave them home!

Spend some time brainstorming the items your toddler absolutely needs if you're away from home more than a day.

Kids Wander - Be Prepared

If you thought it was hard to keep track of your kids around your home, wait until you're in a wide open campground or RV resort with no fences or walls.  Since kids wander, take steps to help keep track of your kids.

Glow necklaces, bracelets, family shirts, id necklaces/lanyards are all great ways to pick your kids out among the crowds of families or trees.  If you're in a resort campground with a full staff and a lot of other families, consider marking your kids hands with your site number in case they manage to get away from you.

Remember Family Camping is About Having Fun

When you're planning a family camping trip with a toddler or young children, go in with no expectations other than to enjoy the day, weekend, etc.  You'll see wild life, your children will see things they've never seen before, you'll cook over a fire and have boundless teaching & bonding opportunities.