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Tips For Camping WIth Young Children

Updated on August 21, 2012
Camping in a tent on the beach
Camping in a tent on the beach
Camping in a cabin in Vermont
Camping in a cabin in Vermont

When it comes to planning a family vacation people are often looking for something both fun and affordable. Camping is a great activity for all different kinds of families and budgets. However, the thought of camping with young children, especially toddlers and infants, can be a bit overwhelming. Yes, camping with children can be challenging, but so can going shopping, or going out to eat at a restaurant. The trick, as with any activity involving little ones, is to plan and prepare for anything. Don't let worries about what could happen keep you from having a great vacation, enjoying the outdoors and nature.

One of the beautiful things about camping, is that it can be as primitive as you want. Many campgrounds have different facilities, and amenities, from running water, to flushable toilets and showers, to cabins for rent. You can camp in a tent or bring an RV or trailer. Camping can be whatever you want it to be! Whatever works best for your family. Whatever style of camping you decide on, there are some items that you might want to consider bringing to make things flow more smoothly.

Without question, the most useful thing that I have brought on our camping trips as a family is a Pack N Play. Not only does it provide a familiar place for an infant or small toddler to sleep, but it is also a great place for them to hang out, and still be in on all of the outside action. My 10 month old, like most babies, puts everything in his mouth. That means that if we're outside and I put him on the ground he is eating dirt, chewing on sticks, or chowing down on some grass. This is frustrating for both of us. He gets frustrated because I keep taking away his cool new teething toys and snacks, and I am frustrated because I have to be the fun police. If he's hanging out in the Pack N Play or a play yard type thing, everyone can relax a little more. He doesn't eat yucky stuff, and I don't have to feel like the queen of "no!"

The next most valuable thing in our camping collection is the child carrier.. We like them so much that when we go camping, we bring 3! I bring a soft front pack carrier for my youngest to wear around our campsite, for when he may be tired of the Pack N Play or we're just taking short walks around to do a little exploring. For longer adventures and hikes, we have 2 rigid frame backpack type carriers. We use Kelty brand, but there are others that are cheaper, although I have not tried them. My husband wears our 2 1/2 year old and I wear our 10 month old. The kids love riding in these things! Our 2 year old regularly asks to ride in the backpack, even when we're at home. They're even a good idea for older kids who don't mind walking because if they get too worn out to walk back, you can carry them on your back instead of in your arms.

My oldest in the Kelty
My oldest in the Kelty
What's for breakfast, Dad?
What's for breakfast, Dad?

Snacks and drinks! Toddlers especially, can be finicky eaters, and this doesn't change just because your camping. A child who will normally eat a hot dog, could change their mind on a whim. If hotdogs are all you have packed or planned for dinner, you could be bombarded with "I'm hungry!" over and over until you take them to get something else. Try to pack a variety of food and snack food that you know they like, camping is not really the best time for food experimentation. If your camping in the summer and it's hot, you'll need to be extra careful to keep the kids (and yourself) hydrated. If your kids are anything like mine, they don't always want water, so pack some juice boxes, and perhaps a special water jug that's just for camping to encourage them to drink more.

It is always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. As long as you're not hiking to your campsite, it's impossible to bring too much. You are really only limited to what you can fit in your vehicle. Sunscreen (for children over 6 months) and some type of insect repellant, depending on where you are camping, might also be things you might want to include. If your child or children are in diapers, be sure to bring extra! That goes for clothes too. Camping can be messy, and accidents happen. Plenty of clean dry clothes, and shoes, are must haves. It also never hurts to have a first-aid kit, or at the very least some band-aids packed, for cuts and scrapes.

What if you forget something? If you forget something, try not to sweat it. Stress can wear off on your kids, and make everyone miserable. If it's something small and inexpensive, perhaps there is a local store where you can pick up a replacement. If not, make due without it, make a note of it, and try to remember for next time. Sometimes, it's the little mistakes that make things more memorable, and even more fun! Remember that camping, like parenting, is an adventure! You can't plan for everything, and things don't always go perfectly, but if you keep an open mind and use your imagination, you can make the best of any situation. Sometimes the unexpected hiccups are what make the best memories!


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    • pollobowl profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks! I love it too, and I know my kids love exploring in nature. I think it's something that a lot of kids are missing out on these days with all of the technology and busy busy lifestyles.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Great advice, I loved going camping with my kids when they were little. Voted up and shared.


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