Tent camping is already one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have, but when you are able to pair that with your family and plan on going tent camping with toddlers, it can be an even more rewarding experience, assuming you do a little planning ahead and make sure you're properly prepared. We're going to give you some of the key tips you need to know when tent camping with young kids, so read on, and any questions you have don't be shy to ask!
This one is going to be very important for you to pay attention to because it will set the tone for the rest of your trip. It's vitally important that you choose a campground that is going to be toddler-friendly, and in order to do that, it should have a few certain criteria.
Close To Town: You want to make sure you pick a campground that is close enough to town so that in the event you have any sort of emergency you're not stuck in the middle of nowhere with no quick access to medical attention or a decent supermarket.
Recreation Options: A lot of the more family friendly campgrounds offer a lot of recreation activities well suited to toddlers, such as fields they can run and kick a ball or appropriately sized playgrounds. Your toddlers will likely grow tired of being in the same 30-foot area around your tent on occasion so having options to entertain them is very important.
Family Friendly: Chances are if you pick a campground that has playgrounds and recreation options for toddlers it's already going to fit into this category, but best to double check just in case. Some campgrounds that offer tent camping tent to attract a younger or a rowdier crowd who are really looking to party in the woods, and that's not the best environment to take your toddlers tent camping in.
Has Cabins: It's important to note that you absolutely CAN go tent camping with toddlers very successfully, however if the entire process is a bit unknown to you, play it safe and look for a campground that also has cabins just in case you find out that tent camping with toddlers doesn't work for you, you can always move to a cabin and at least enjoy the remainder of your trip.
After you've picked a great campground, the next thing you need to tackle is planning the things you'll need to take with you for your trip, which isn't as hard as you would imagine.
The very first thing we'll recommend is that you check out our camping checklist to go over a list of all the things you might need. You can certainly go through it and eliminate some of the things you won't need yourselves, but it should give you a really thorough baseline of ideas and help to remind you of things you didn't think about.
There are definitely some things you will really want to bring to help make the trip easier, let's list those out for you below:
That last one, headlamps, is something we'll strongly recommend here. If you are out of your tent, make sure your toddler is wearing a headlamp. It may take some getting used to for them, but not only will it be helpful for them to be able to see better at night, but it'll be easier for you to see them.
Above and beyond these things, there are some other really important tips to keep in mind when taking your toddler camping, let's cover those here now.
As a parent, we're sure you already know that kids can be very picky when it comes to snacks, and the last thing you want as a parent is for your toddler to have a meltdown in the middle of the woods because you brought pretzels and they want goldfish instead. Of course, you can't bring your entire pantry, but what you can do is bring a good mix of their favorite snacks so you're best prepared to face a hungry toddler.
Now is not the time to get fancy when it comes to planning campfire meals unless of course, you've already mastered the rest of the things on this list. We suggest sticking to simple meals like hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled cheese, or really any of the simple foods your toddler enjoys. It may not be fine dining for you as parents, but it's going to be a small sacrifice to make to have an enjoyable weekend camping trip.
This one should be fairly obvious but it bears repeating - practice extreme caution when it comes to dealing with toddlers and a campfire. It's a great opportunity to teach your toddler about safety around fire, but still you have to be extra mindful about making sure you never leave your toddler anywhere near an open campfire unattended, especially because toddlers can be wobbly at times and you don't want them to trip and fall into it.
God forbid anything should happen, you need to know that you can quickly and properly address the situation until you can seek further medical care. Not to be dramatic, that also applies to simple things like scraped knees if they fall, or splinters, etc. Most parents keep a stash of band-aids on them anyway, but we recommend keeping a full first aid kit with you when you are tent camping with toddlers - it's small enough that it doesn't take up much room but it will be a life saver if and when you need it.
If you have an outdoor toddler, you've probably got some great outdoor toys they already love like construction trucks or shovels, etc. Bring these along because not only will it give your toddler something to do while hanging around the campground but it will also give them a sense of familiarity and comfort having their favorite toys there with them.
Before you take the leap and actually go tent camping at a campground, give it a practice run by camping in your own backyard. This will give you a great test to see how it works with your whole family sleeping in a tent, and should you realize you forgot something or it just doesn't work, your house is only a few feet away.
If you wind up taking hikes, going for walks, playing, exploring or just spending a lot of time in general during the day with activity, chances are pretty high your little one will need a nap, so make sure you plan on this in the daily schedule so you don't find yourself out on a hike with a sleepy toddler as that won't be fun for either of you.
Also, make sure you plan for no naps - if you do have a day filled with activity, your toddler may be too excited to fall asleep during the day like they normally would, which can mean an early bedtime. As a parent of a toddler we're pretty sure you already know you need to have some flexibility but just to make that point extra clear here, since you'll be out of the normal 'comfort zone' of the house and your daily routine, toddlers can be a little extra unpredictable with their schedules while camping.
There's a few rules of thumb when you are taking your toddler camping that relate to safety and poisonous plants, let's cover those here:
If you would like, we'd also recommend getting familiar with identifying some of the poisonous plants, like poison ivy.
Thinking of some fun things to do with your kids to keep them busy while tent camping is a surefire way to make sure everyone has a great time, and a scavenger hunt is a great way to do that. You can either plan it out ahead of time and bring along some fun treats to 'hide' in the area around your tent, or, encourage them to explore with you and look for animals like butterflies or chipmunks, etc.
Going camping with a toddler is an incredible time to teach them exploration, and show them all of the amazing things they'll uncover in the woods. The are around your campground is most likely filled with a huge assortment of wildlife and untouched nature, so take the opportunity to explore a little and see what you can find.
Don't overdo it when it comes to planning activities, and remember that your toddler will likely be a little less cooperative when you keep them too busy because of all the new things they'll be taking in, so don't try to plan 15 different things in a day, just stick to one or two simple and age appropriate activities for them. Remember, this camping trip is about them, and teaching them to enjoy nature and also getting to spend some quality time with your kids disconnected from the busy world of watching youtube videos and animated cartoons.
In most places, you won't be able to use a stroller, so you should definitely plan on carrying or wearing your toddler often. Plus, if they are of age to walk comfortably, they'll like tire quicker than normal from walking on the uneven ground compared to the normal carpet or wood floors they're used to. If you don't already have a baby carrier, something that just simply straps them to your chest is often a great choice for camping because it's small and lightweight, but if your toddler is bigger or you plan on going hiking at all, we strongly recommend checking out the Kelty Pathfinder Kid Carrier. It's very comfortable for longer treks for both you and your toddler.
There's a lot of reasons why you might not want to plan a tent camping trip with your toddlers, especially if it's out of your comfort zone but let us tell you that going camping with your young family is some of the best memories you're ever going to have. Now more than ever, with the pace of our daily lives getting faster and faster by the minute, taking some time to get away from it all and just be with your kids is something you'll never regret doing.
If you do have any more questions about how to plan a tent camping trip with your toddlers, we strongly recommend just asking us! Either leave us a comment here or visit our camping concierge page and have one of our expert campers help you plan your trip!