Camping is synonymous with great family time for many people. First-time parents could find it a tad overwhelming to embark in their first adventure with a youngster though. In this complete guide, I will teach you all you need to know on how to go camping with toddlers so that you can ace it like a pro.
1. Benefits of Camping With Toddlers
Taking your children camping from a young age is good for everyone. Besides quality family time and a chance of bonding at a deeper level with your youngster, going camping with toddlers comes with a wealth of additional benefits.
For instance, have you ever thought about how much time your kid spends outdoors?
Research has found that most young kids spend more time in front of a screen, watching cartoons or playing videogames, instead of experiencing the world around them.
Educational toys can help infants and toddlers develop their motor and cognitive skills, but they can’t replace mother nature.
What benefits will you draw while camping with toddlers though?
Here is a detailed list:
Fresh Air and Sunshine
Spending time outdoors, enjoying fresh air and soaking in the sunshine can improve your mood and decrease your level of stress. Outdoor time has the same effect on toddlers too, making them happier and less cranky. Not to mention natural vitamin D kids can get for the proper development of their tiny bones.
New Things to Experience
Camping is an outstanding experience for toddlers because it’s different from everything they’ve ever done. Your kid will discover a whole new world made of textures, sounds, and colors they are not used to see every day. At the same time, you’ll get to enjoy the excitement of your little one.
Most toddler books, educational toys, and educational TV programs teach young children about nature, animals, and stars. By taking your children camping, you give them the opportunity to learn firsthand about these things. You can turn your camping experience into a fun and educational one by asking your toddler to search and spot a few different bugs, find a couple of different flowers, or look after the brightest star.
It Teaches Kids to Adapt
Camping with toddlers is a great way to teach your kids how to adapt to new – and not always favorable – circumstances. They will have to deal with being away from home, sleeping in a tent or RV, and eating camping food instead of their favorite meals.
Kids nowadays get used to technology from a very young age. Camping is a great way to detox them from too much time spent in front of a screen. By letting your devices at home, toddlers can take a break from smartphones, tablets, and TVs, and enjoy a real kid’s life, like catching frogs or climbing trees.
2. Packing For Camping With Toddlers: An Essential Checklist
Packing for camping with toddlers is not that different from packing for any other camping experience. Besides standard camping gear though, there are a few essential things to take with you.
Here is a quick checklist for camping with toddlers:
Toddler security items: Be it a pacifier, stuffed toy, or blanket, your toddler will most likely need a comforting thing in the new environment. These security items are useful especially before nap and sleep time when most young kids look for their home security and routine.
Entertainment: Toddlers need both travel and in-camp entertainment. Pack coloring books, family board games, an assortment of toys, balls, as well as your kid’s Pack-n-Play portable play yard to use when the kid gets tired or when you can’t supervise them.
Meadow mat: A meadow mat can successfully replace a blanket and is usually waterproof, giving you the perfect playing ground in the morning, when the grass is full of dew.
Sun protection items: We are all aware of the harmful effect UV rays may have on us, and young kids are more prone to develop sun rashes, sunburns, and even skin cancer. Age-appropriate biodegradable sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above is your best bet, alongside a sunhat with wide brims and breathable shirts and pants.
Insect repellent: The only way to keep your kid safe from itchy bites is by applying a good insect repellent. Again, make sure it’s age appropriate.
Toddler disposables: Perhaps you’re already taking a diaper bag with you anyway, but check it to include all essentials your baby might need for a few days. Make sure you have sufficient diapers, baby powder or lotion, baby wipes, and enough clean clothes.
3. Activity Ideas For Camping With Toddlers
Camping with toddlers is all about engaging in fun family activities. Kids crave action, especially when out on such an exciting and new adventure.
Activity ideas for camping with toddlers include:
Fun hiking activities: Engage your toddler in fun I Spy game by printing lists of items they must spot in nature. For instance, you could include a bug, a yellow flower, a bird, and a mushroom. Another great idea is to organize a Scavenger Hunts game by hiding a few things around the campsite for your kids to find.
In-camp games: Card and board games are a great way to keep toddlers happy when not exploring the campsite surroundings. Magnifying glass inspections and blowing bubbles can also entertain young kids for hours.
Involve them in camping activities: Let them come with you and gather sticks to build a bonfire or help you dig a pit. Toddlers love to be involved in adult activities too, not to say this is an easy way to make them feel important.
Bonfire stories: When the night falls, gather around a bonfire, roast marshmallows, and tell toddlers some stories. You can surely hook up your kids with the magic of things.
Stargazing: Although some toddlers may be too restless for such an activity, other kids will most likely appreciate an opportunity to look at shiny stars. Whether your toddler will like it or not, it’s worth giving it a try.
Besides all the above, don’t forget to take a lousy weather survival kit with you. These are games, and activities toddlers can enjoy in a tent or RV if rain starts to pour.
4. Best Food For Camping With Toddlers
Chances are you won’t be able to take with you or prepare your toddler’s favorite foods when camping. Having your child try new foods could turn either into a rewarding experience or a nightmare if yours is a picky eater.
You can easily make toddlers try whatever they’re given by serving them foods that look fun and attractive.
Some of the best foods for camping with toddlers:
Hot dog spiders: Slice some hot dogs, roast them on a stick, and serve the “spiders” to your hungry toddler.
Campfire breadsticks: Are easy to make with bread dough rolled around a stick, then baked over the campfire.
Campfire monkey bread: A foil pan, dough balls, sugar, and a sprinkle of cinnamon can make a tasty monkey bread toddlers will love.
Corn on the cob: A classic everybody likes. Just make sure to roast some marshmallows for your toddlers first, so they don’t get bored while waiting.
Campfire stew: Evenings can sometimes get quite chilly, and a campfire stew can keep everyone happy.
Campfire breakfast skillet: You can prepare quick and nutritious meals for breakfast in a skillet, including the iconic egg muffins your kid might love.
5. Best Places to Go Camping With Toddlers
You can go camping with toddlers pretty much anywhere, but there are a few things you should consider when picking the place.
My advice is to start small and pick a campground near you if this is your first trip with your little one. Many county and state parks offer a bountiful range of facilities to families, from on-site restaurants and pools to low site fees and free showers.
Staying close to your home is also a good idea in case your toddler gets sick. Health-wise, you should also make sure the campground is close enough to a hospital or care center.
If your toddler is already used to camping, you could opt for a more rustic experience or plan a trip further from home. In such a case, try to hit the road early in the morning around your baby’s wake-up time, to avoid getting to your destination with a tired and fussy toddler.
Below, some of the best places to go camping with toddlers:
Mammoth Lakes, California: A lakeside organized camping that offers a variety of toddler-friendly hikes and amazing sceneries.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina: Is perfect for kids of all ages thanks to its impressive biodiversity. The park holds over 6,000 species of plants and a wide range of animals toddlers can discover and learn about.
Douthat State Park, Virginia: A camping equipped with lodges, cabins, as well as campsites for tents and RVs. There is cellular service, and kids can join fun on-site educational programs .
6. Essential Tips For Camping With Toddlers
There are many ideas for camping with toddlers around, but the success of your trip depends solely on preparation. Tiny humans love routine, but you can easily take them out of their comfort zone and make them enjoy the outdoors using a few smart tricks.
Here are some hacks for camping with toddlers you must know:
Practice sleeping in a tent before going. Pitch your tent either in the living room or in the backyard and teach your kid that’s a sleeping arrangement. Sleep together in the shelter for a few nights before hitting the road and after you learned all about safe co-sleeping.
Take comforters with you. Babies love routine, especially right before their nap or sleep time. Their favorite toy, blanket, or pillow can make a nap and sleep time less of a struggle for everyone.
Pack your toddler’s favorite snacks. Camping food may be new for your toddler, but you’ll still have to be able to give them something they like to avoid crankiness. Think of all possible snacks the kid enjoys and bring them all on your trip.
Buy appropriate camping gear. From a toddler cot to adequate garments for your little one, make sure this trip doesn’t catch you unprepared. It is also essential to have a sleeping bag of the right size to avoid the risk of death through suffocation if your kid is on the younger side.
Plan flexible itineraries. Remember toddlers can get tired or lose interest fast. Plan short hikes or account for regular stops if you want to walk a longer trail. Also, be flexible and change plans and itineraries based on your toddler’s mood.
Going on trips is undoubtedly one of the best ways to spend quality time with your family. I hope the tips and ideas above have helped you know how to go camping with toddlers. Now, you can leave the guesswork out of the question and plan a family trip that is truly worthwhile.
If you’ve enjoyed this guide, please share it with your friends on social media. I’d also love to hear from you. Have you been camping with your toddler? How was your experience and what other tips do you have? Share your thoughts or ideas by leaving a comment below!