A couple of summers ago I wrote a post about camping with infants. But now that I’m the proud mama to a
stubborn passionate 3 year old, that old archived camping post is way outdated for our family. Nowadays, nights in a tent look far different than they did back then! In some ways, this makes things MUCH easier (ie, we all get more sleep!). In other ways, some camping activities are a lot more stressful (ie campfires). If your kiddo is one of the lucky ones that got exposed to camping early and often, transitioning to toddler camping is probably something that came relatively gradually. If an overnighter under the stars is something you’ve been wanting to do as a family, but for whatever reason weren’t able to make it happen when your child was an infant, don’t despair! The curious toddler years are a GREAT time to start camping! Here’s a quick rundown of what our family considers to be the most important logistics for a night of tenting…
BEDTIME ROUTINES: For the first few excursions, try to keep your nighttime tenting routine resembling your nighttime home routine as best you can. Having as much familiarity as possible within an unfamiliar setting can go a lot way towards helping your toddler feel safe and secure in an unfamiliar sleeping environment. You may find that the more your family camps together, the more your bedtime camp routine might evolve to be “tent-specific.” For example, at home C always gets 2 books followed by individual snuggle times with Mommy and Daddy. But in the tent we all just lay down together and look at the stars (or if the rain fly is up, look at the silhouettes of the many creepy-crawlies that have accumulated on the outside of the tent!)
LAYERS: Now that C is older, I don’t worry so much about temperatures, since he now has plenty of vocabulary to tell me if he’s hot/cold/etc. That being said, layers still reign supreme! For warm weather camping, C wears wool jammies and socks, and sleeps in a Ducksday Fleece suit. Sometimes we add a blanket. For cold weather camping (we usually go no lower than 35 degrees), we add a wool hat and a down bunting from Molehill Mountain that he wears as a sleeping bag. He has his own sleeping mat, but he rarely sleeps on it, usually preferring to snuggle up next to one of us instead. 🙂
SAFETY: Come up with a set of guidelines for scenarios that might require extra precaution (such as campfires), and be sure to discuss them together as a family prior to your trip. Many of these safety issues are not specific just to camp life, but can be encountered any time your in the woods (or maybe even outside in your backyard). Make sure your child is clear on the rules about touching snakes and spiders (in our household we don’t do it unless a parent says it’s okay), and understands that we don’t drink water from the creek! It’s also never to early to educate your child about poison ivy, oak, and sumac – C is at the stage right now where he announces that ANYTHING with green leaves is poison ivy…
I’ve had more than a few people ask me if I ever worry about C escaping from the tent at night. My answer is always a wholehearted no! Our sleeping arrangement has a parent at each door, and C in the middle, so that he’d have to crawl over us completely in order to even access the door. The only time C is ever alone in the tent is sometimes for an hour or two in the evening if we’re not ready to go to sleep yet (and even then we’re rarely more than a few feet away from the tent – no way he could slip away without our knowing!) As an added safety precaution, however, we always leave the zippers to the doors up high and out of reach.
WHEN NATURE CALLS: If you camp with any regularity with a child between the ages of 2 and 3, odds are good that you will have to deal with diapers, potty training, or potty mishaps at some point on a camping trip. Go often enough and I guarantee you’ll deal with all three! Diapers are relatively easy to deal with, but can get real gross real quick if you’re not prepared. You can never have too any wipes!!! We found it worked out best for our family to have multiple “diaper stations” – one in the tent, one in the car, and a mobile one in the backpack we were using during the day. The majority of the time we used cloth diapers, and found it easiest to consolidate everything from the car/backpack stations into the big dry bag in the tent at the end of each day. For longer trips without access to laundry we’d just do disposables, and made sure we had plenty of Ziploc bags to ward off the stench til we could find a trash can.
When we began potty training we’d bring along the Potette transitional potty along with us (wherever we went…not just to the crag). It’s basically a plastic ring with legs that pop out to make an instant potty! (More on that later in next week’s post about potty training at the crag…)
BOTTOM LINE: If you haven’t already, don’t be afraid to get out there under the stars with the whole family! If you’re really worried about how the night will go, start in your backyard! Remember that with little folk, big adventures don’t always have to be “big.” (Ironically the same is often true for adults 😉 ). Take a chance and enjoy yourselves, and don’t forget to laugh a lot,
even if especially if things don’t go according to plan! Oh, and don’t forget your camera!
For the veteran family campers, what tips would you add that I may have overlooked? For newer family campers or those still in the planning phases, what’s been the biggest obstacle so far? And just for fun, what’s everyone’s absolute favorite place to camp?