Travel With Kids

Camping With A Toddler Or Preschooler

Mom and toddler at a camp site.
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So you’re thinking about taking a camping trip with your little one? Camping with a toddler can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for parents and their little ones. Whether you are camping with a 1-year-old or camping with a 2-year-old camping with kids can be an unforgettable experience, but it’s not always easy. 

Spending time in the great outdoors, building campfires, roasting marshmallows, and exploring nature can create memories that last a lifetime. Still, as any parent knows, traveling with a toddler requires some planning to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

From packing all the essentials to dealing with tantrums in the middle of nowhere, there are plenty of challenges that come with bringing your tiny human along. But with some planning and patience, you’ll have a good time exploring nature together. So grab your backpacks and some good hiking shoes.

Now let me be a little transparent here. I will take glamping for families any day over tent camping with toddlers!  

Related: Mom’s Checklist For Traveling With A Toddler

Here’s why: Glamping with a toddler is an experience like no other especially when your biggest concern is how do you sleep with a toddler while camping. You get to enjoy nature without sacrificing luxury or comfort (the best part). With luxuries such as comfortable beds, air conditioning, and even private bathrooms, it’s like staying at a hotel in the great outdoors. 

Yup, when you’re out in the wilderness sleeping on the ground these everyday comforts become luxuries.

No need to worry about bugs crawling into your tent or waking up with a sore back from sleeping on rocks. Instead, the whole family can snuggle up in a cozy bed while listening to the sounds of nature outside. 

You’ll find that some glamping sites often offer activities for both adults and children alike. From hiking trails to swimming pools and playgrounds. If that’s not available on site then there are usually plenty of things to do in the area. Like visiting the zoo or going fishing.  

Although my favorite part about camping is a nice campfire, there’s no need to struggle over a campfire trying to cook dinner while simultaneously keeping an eye on your curious toddler. 

Many glamping accommodations come equipped with kitchens so you can make a good meal. If you’re a family that loves the outdoors give both camping options a try to see which one you like the most.  

Let’s get into some tips for camping with toddlers and how to prepare for your camping trip so that you can have fun without stressing out.

Related: A Fun Summer Bucket List For Kids

Camping With A Toddler

Whether it’s glamping or tent camping with kids, a campsite is a place where you can escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerse yourself in nature. And yes camping with a toddler has its perks, let me tell you why. 

Camping with young kids is a great chance for quality family time. You get to bond over roasting marshmallows on an open fire or going on hikes together. Not only will it create lasting memories for your family but it also teaches your child valuable life skills such as exploring new environments and respecting nature. 

Another benefit of camping for kids is that it encourages them to disconnect from technology and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. No iPads or video games are required when there are sticks to collect, rocks to climb, and trails to explore! And let’s not forget about the physical benefits either! 

Camping involves plenty of physical activity which is important for both you and your little one. Whether it’s hiking up mountains or swimming in lakes. 

What I love most about camping with toddlers is the opportunity for sensory exploration which is crucial in a child’s development. From feeling different textures like tree bark or dirt under their feet to smelling fresh flowers along trails- these experiences help stimulate their senses! 

Last, camping with toddlers is cost-effective compared to other vacations. There are no plane tickets or hotels involved; all you need is some gear (which can be rented or borrowed from a friend) food and transportation. 

Related: Creative Summer Preschool Worksheets

Tips For Camping With Kids

The best toddler camping tip I can give is to prepare and prepare well. That’s the key to a successful camping trip with little ones especially if it’s your first time. And I’m not talking about slapping together a last-minute packing list while chugging coffee at 2 am (although we’ve all been there). I’m talking about planning, anticipating every possible scenario, and having contingencies in place for when things inevitably go wrong. 

Here are some tips to help make your camping trip with toddlers as smooth as possible: 

1. Do a test run with your gear–Before hitting the campsite, set up your tent in the backyard or living room so your little one can get used to sleeping in it. 

2. Invest in quality gear–A sturdy tent, durable sleeping bags, comfortable air mattresses or cots–these are all important investments that will pay off when it comes to keeping everyone happy and comfy during your trip.

3. Familiarize yourself with the area. Do your research on the campsite. What it offers and what’s available in the surrounding area. That includes hospital and urgent care clinics.  

I will never forget when my son was 4 years old we went on one of many camping trips and he spiked a temperature of 104 and was so lethargic. He had been having a blast all day leading up to this and then boom. Be prepared for the unexpected.

4. Be flexible–No matter how much you plan ahead, things will inevitably go awry. Embrace the chaos and be willing to change your plans as needed. 

5. Expect the unexpected. Kids are unpredictable creatures, so don’t be surprised if they suddenly decide that sleeping in a tent is just not their cup of tea. Be prepared for some tears and tantrums but remember that it’s all part of the adventure.

6. Embrace the mess. Camping means getting dirty, so no need to clean like you’re at home. Let your kids run wild and explore nature without worrying about their pristine clothes or spotless faces. And when it comes to mealtime, don’t stress over spilled milk (or crumbs). Just enjoy those s’mores by the campfire! 

7. Another thing to expect is endless entertainment. From hiking trails to fishing ponds to star-gazing sessions, there’s no shortage of activities to keep both you and your little ones occupied. Plus, they might even meet some new friends.  

8. Try your best and stick to your routines. If bedtime is 8 pm, while camping aim for an 8 pm bedtime.

 9. Find ways to involve your toddler in tasks like rolling out the sleeping bags or setting up the tent.

10. Lastly, prepare for some heart-melting moments. Seeing your child’s face light up as they catch their first fish, roast their first marshmallow or get excited about seeing a firefly it’s priceless. And cuddling up together under the stars? That’s pure magic, my friend.

Get my printable camping trip planner for your next camping trip.

Camping trip planner.  Showing cover page and meal planning printable.
  • Create your meal plan
  • Grocery list
  • Pre-filled packing list
  • Your to-do list
  • Camping destinations (past and future)

Essentials For Camping With Kids

First things first when thinking about toddler camping essentials pack for every scenario. Sure, the forecast may call for sunny skies and mild temperatures, but we all know that Mother Nature likes to throw us a curveball. So bring rain gear, warm clothes for chilly nights, and plenty of sunscreens. 

Snacks– And lots of ’em. Toddlers are notorious for being picky eaters, so make sure you have plenty of options on hand. Think easy-to-eat finger foods like crackers, fruit slices, and cheese sticks. 

Sleeping– Create a comfortable sleep environment. For sleeping arrangements, your best bet is probably a tent big enough for everyone to snuggle up in together. 

Big Mo Sleeping Bag- The Big Mo 40 Kids Sleeping Bag provides excellent durability, warmth, comfort, and portability all in one package. This sleeping bag packs down to the size of a large water bottle. It’s an excellent investment for parents who want their children to enjoy outdoor activities without compromising on comfort or safety.

  • Designed specifically for kids and can accommodate children from 2 to 4 years old.
  • Machine washable.
  • Open and closed cuff on the sleeve for day and nighttime wear.

Kids Sleeping Pad- For added comfort, you could also bring along a sleeping pad or something like the Lotus travel crib.

  • Durable and compact.
  • Lightweight.
  • Built-in pillow.

Entertainment– Bring along some books or toys that will keep your toddler occupied during downtime at camp (because let’s face it – there will be downtime). 

Camping Busy Box-When it comes to camping with kids, keeping them entertained and engaged can be a challenge. This is where the idea of a busy box comes in handy. A busy box is a container filled with activities and toys that can keep your child occupied during downtime at the campsite. 

It helps prevent boredom which can lead to crankiness and tantrums, and it encourages creativity and imagination. Having a busy box on hand allows parents some much-needed downtime for relaxation or other campsite duties. Whether it’s setting up camp or cooking meals over the fire, having your child occupied gives you some freedom to attend to other tasks without worrying about entertaining them constantly.

Craft and Boogie is our go-to for busy boxes. It truly doesn’t matter which box you purchase because they fill them all with plenty of activities for the kids.

The camping busy box includes:

  • Paper bag kite.
  • Memory photo frame.
  • Decorations for setting up an outdoor table.
  • Bug hunt and scavenger hunt game.
  • Coloring pages
  • Snack recipes.

The Basics

1. Diapers. 

2. Wipes. 

3. Child-sized camping chairs. 

4. Toddler-friendly cookware and utensils.

5. Compact strollers or carriers for hiking with little ones.

6. Sun hats, sunscreen, and bug spray specifically formulated for young skin.

7. Waterproof bibs and mealtime essentials such as cups, plates, and bowls. 

8. Durable outdoor toys like sand buckets, shovels, and balls.

9. Portable potties or training seats for bathroom needs.

10. Kid-friendly flashlights or lanterns to explore the outdoors at night… 

These are all camping with kids’ essentials that you don’t want to overlook.

Melissa & Doug Camping Chair- You can’t forget a toddler camping chair. Let them have their own comfortable chair to sit in during downtime.

  • Bug-theme lawn or camping chair.
  • Cup holder
  • Water-resistant

Oxo Tot Potty Chair–While the Oxo Tot is not compact, it’s my family’s favorite and one of the best travel potties for toddlers.  

If you need a potty chair that is very easy to clean, the Oxo Tot potty chair is it. It’s lightweight, extremely durable to grab and go, and minimizes mess.

  • It has a high backrest that supports the kid’s tiny throne.
  • A seamless seat design.
  • The seatback also features a handle that makes it easy to transport.

Finally, remember that accidents happen – especially when toddlers are involved. So pack plenty of wipes and extra clothes for both you and your little one. 

 Safety Considerations When Camping With Small Children

When you’re camping with small children in tow, it’s important to remember that safety should always be top of mind. So let’s start with fire safety. Yes, roasting marshmallows over an open flame is a classic camping activity, but it’s also a potential hazard when you have little ones running around. Keep your campfire in a designated fire pit and make sure everyone knows to stay a safe distance away (which may or may not be difficult depending on how much your kids love s’mores). 

Wildlife Encounters. While spotting some cute forest creatures can be exciting for kids (and adults), it’s important to teach them about respecting animals from a safe distance. Keep food securely stored away from your sleeping area and dispose of any trash properly to avoid attracting unwanted visitors. 

Sleeping Areas, make sure yours is set up with safety in mind as well. Choose a flat spot that isn’t too close to any bodies of water or steep drops (because nobody wants their child rolling out of their tent and down a hill). And if you’re using an inflatable mattress or other gear that might deflate overnight, make sure you have backup options just in case. 

Arts and crafts at a camp site with kids.
Airplane busy box on one of our camping trips.

Camping Toys For Toddlers

One way to keep your little ones entertained and engaged during your outdoor adventure is by bringing along some fun camping toys specifically designed for them. From mini sleeping bags and play tents to nature exploration kits, light and sound camping lanterns, and glow-in-the-dark flashlights, there are plenty of options available that will make your toddler’s camping experience just as enjoyable as yours. These are some of the best camping toys for toddlers that are sure to enhance their love for the great outdoors.

Camping with a toddler can be a wild adventure full of unexpected twists and turns. But with the right preparation, an open mind, and a good sense of humor, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have as a parent. So pack up that tent, grab some s’mores ingredients, and get ready to embrace the chaos–because with camping with a toddler, you never know what kind of fun (or mess) is just around the corner!

Camping With A Toddler FAQs

How do you camp safely with a toddler?

Safety is the top priority when camping with young kids. Here are some tips to help you ensure a safe camping trip with your little one: 

1. Choose the right campsite: When selecting a campsite, make sure it is child-friendly, secure, and has adequate facilities such as restrooms and showers. 

2. Pack appropriate gear: Bring age-appropriate gear such as life jackets, sunscreen, insect repellent, first-aid kit, and baby wipes. 

3. Set up camp safely: Ensure that tents are pitched securely and away from hazards such as cliffs or water sources. 

4. Keep your toddler within sight: Always keep an eye on your child to prevent them from wandering off or getting lost in the wilderness. 

5. Teach your child about wildlife safety: Educate your toddler about how to behave around animals such as bears or snakes. 

6. Cook food safely: Use proper cooking equipment and store food in bear-proof containers to avoid attracting wildlife to your campsite. 

7. Keep toddlers warm at night: Make sure your child is bundled up at night by bringing extra blankets or sleeping bags suitable for their size. 

8. Plan activities accordingly: Choose activities that are safe for toddlers like hiking on easy trails without steep drops or swimming in shallow waters under supervision.

How do I keep my toddler occupied while camping?

Here are some ways you can keep your toddler occupied while camping: 

1. Bring toys and games. Pack some of your child’s favorite toys and games to keep them entertained while on the trip. Toys such as balls, frisbees, bubbles, and kites are perfect for outdoor playtime. Board games and puzzles will also come in handy when you need to keep them indoors. 

2. Take nature walks. Toddlers love exploring their surroundings, so take advantage of this by going on nature walks around the campsite. Encourage them to look out for animals or interesting rocks or plants along the way. 

3. Go swimming. If there’s a lake or river nearby, take your toddler swimming! They’ll love splashing around in the water and playing with other kids. 

4. Engage in arts and crafts. Arts and crafts projects are an excellent way to keep toddlers busy while camping. You can bring materials like markers, crayons, paper, stickers, or clay for making sculptures or jewelry made from natural materials found at campgrounds. 

5. Storytelling. Incorporate storytelling into your evening routine by telling stories about family members’ past adventures while sitting around the campfire before bedtime! 

How do I keep my toddler warm at night while camping?

Some tips on how to keep your little one cozy and comfortable during chilly camping nights. 

1. Dress them in layers Dressing your toddler in layers is one of the easiest ways to keep them warm at night. Start with a base layer made of moisture-wicking fabric that will help keep their skin dry and prevent chills. Add an insulating layer such as fleece or wool if necessary. 

2. Invest in quality sleeping bags Investing in good quality sleeping bags is important for keeping toddlers warm at night while camping. Look for bags that have the right temperature rating for your destination and season. Sleeping bags designed specifically for children often come with additional features such as hoods and draft collars that help keep heat. 

3. Use blankets. Adding extra blankets or a hot water bottle can make all the difference in keeping your toddler cozy throughout the night. 

4. Set up camp in sheltered areas. When setting up camp, try to find sheltered areas where you’ll be protected from wind and drafts which can lower temperatures considerably during the night. 

5. Choose appropriate gear. Make sure you choose gear that is appropriate for cold weather camping including tents, sleeping pads, and clothing designed specifically for outdoor activities.

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