6 Things to Know Camping with a Toddler

It was 1:30 in the morning when my youngest started screaming. Usually her big brother sleeps through anything but she woke him up, sweat soaked in the too-warm sleeping bag he had insisted on, and he started screaming too, even louder than her. It was pitch black outside (we were camping after all!) and it was raining and the screams were incredible and not stopping. I thought someone was going to come to our tent and kick us out. That didn’t happen (whew). But I did learn a few things that will probably happen when you take your toddler camping for the first time. Here are six things to know about camping with a toddler:


  1. Sleeping: The first night of your first camping trip, you probably won’t sleep a lot. Count on wrestling a lot instead! Being in a tent is super stimulating for your little ones. It’s a little house! Let’s go nuts! Slumber party! Crash! Bang! Boom! My advice is to just wait it out. Let them go all crazy for a while and just try not to get hurt. They will sleep at some point and then they’ll probably have some sort of sleeping bag crisis – getting twisted up, scooting out of it, being too hot or too cold. Nice thing is, you’re right there next to your little crisis, so you don’t even need to get out of bed to help!
  2. Bathroom-ing: Your little ones will have lots of fun pee peeing  in the great outdoors, and it may even inspire or help with potty training. “I wanna pee on a tree!” Yippee! Number two may prove a little rougher; a long car trip combined with starchy car snacks combined with a pit toilet or none at all can make for constipation. We found bringing a little potty for our potty-training girl very helpful. Poop with a view!
  3. Bugs: Count on bugs, and bring not only whatever repellent you feel ok using, but also cream for when they get bit anyway. (we’re still itching!)
  4. Fire: The fire (remember, you need air flow as well as sticks and paper!) will be one of the kiddos’ favorite parts. Who doesn’t love a beautiful (and contained in a fire ring) fire? Introducing children (safely) to making a bonfire is awesome. Just don’t forget the matches (like we did)!
  5. Set-up and take-down: This may take a lot longer than you think. Remember, you’re building your family’s little home for the next few days. To head off impatience, it’s a nice idea to give your kids jobs during this time: tent marshal, fire marshal, etc.
  6. Leaving: They won’t want to leave. But of course, consider that a good thing. You’re are going to forget all the hard parts later and for sure want to come back!

I’m realizing now, I’ve left out the most important one: bonding. You’re family will bond. There is absolutely nothing like eating, sleeping and playing in the great out of doors for you all to get to know each other even better. Fun!

Do you have any camping secrets/advice to share?