Camping with Young Children: Survival Tips for Ambitious Parents


Camping with Young Children

Before our camping trip a few weeks ago, more than one person told us that we were ambitious about taking children as young as ours. At the time, I just shrugged off the comments, not understanding fully what they meant. Now that our first camping trip with the kids is behind us, I understand exactly what they meant.

Camping with toddlers is no simple feat. And it definitely is not relaxing. Ladybug, a smart and precocious four-year-old, was nothing but helpful when it came to building the fire, getting dinner on the table, and entertaining Buddy while D and I set up the tent or tended the fire. Buddy, on the other hand, was all over the place, one minute wandering off on some solo adventure or becoming decidedly curious about the fire. It was nothing short of exhausting trying to keep him out of trouble. But we survived. And the trip was totally worth it seeing how much he relished every minute of the experience.

In this post, I’m offering a few tips we’ve learned to help other parents who are crazy enough to take their toddlers camping.

Stay close to home

If you’re planning your first camping trip with young children, I suggest choosing a campsite that isn’t too far from where you live. I recommend being within an hour's driving distance. You don’t know how your kids will react to the experience. Now, I’m definitely not against letting your children experience uncomfortable things; that’s how kids learn and grow, after all. However, it’s not necessary to make yourself and your family completely miserable, if you have a choice. If you realize that no one is having fun, being close to home makes it easy to abandon ship, if needed. Also, being within a short drive of home gives you an easy getaway in case of inclement weather.

Another reason for novice campers to stay closer to home is in case of an emergency. Of course, you don’t want to think about the worst-case scenario, but it’s important when you have kids. You never know what could happen and being close to familiar territory is helpful in emergency situations.

Choose a campsite with facilities

When camping with toddlers, especially those who are potty-trained, choosing a campsite with a bathroom (or at least an outhouse) nearby is a wise choice. Make sure to bring your own toilet paper and hand soap in case they are not provided.

Keep toddlers secured when around a campfire

To keep young children safe, make sure to find a way to keep them a safe distance away from the fire. I worried a lot about having Buddy around the campfire, initially. And for good reason- Buddy has an extreme fascination with fire. We made sure that Buddy was always strapped into the stroller or playing in the tent with the window flaps unzipped when he wasn’t being held. The stroller worked well because he could still enjoy looking at the flames while still keeping a safe distance.

Pre-cook your meals before you go

The last thing I wanted to do on our camping trip was spend the whole time cooking. We cooked foil meals for breakfast and dinner and ate sandwiches for lunch. I precooked our dinner before our trip so that all we needed to do was throw it on the fire to heat up. Although our breakfast was a disaster (that was completely my fault and I own up to it) I found foil meals a quick and easy way to eat while camping. The preparation beforehand may take some time, but foil meals free up a lot of time to explore. Make sure to store the dinners in a cooler full of ice until you are ready to use them to keep them from spoiling.

By the way don't forget to get a camping family checklist notebook it's very useful.

Armed with these tips, ambitious parents can have a good time camping with their young children.

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