Camping With a Toddler

We just came home from a weekend of camping with our 18-month old.  We’ve taken him camping three times before but he was not yet mobile. This time would be our first with a mobile inquisitive toddler.

The Travel

Driving 7 hours with a toddler can be a challenge and I’m sure for many parents a reason to just not go anywhere.

We are blessed with a child who has a good disposition and we’re told he travels well.

Even so, I made sure we prepared for our drive with several things within reach in the truck.  This included milk, water, snacks, various toys and music.  Here are a few tips for The Travel

  • A variety of snacks.  We had homemade Laurabars, lemon bars, cashews and raisins as well as milk and water.
  • Favorite toys – we had a few favorite small toys within easy reach
  • A new toy – I also bought an inexpensive musical toy for $5.00 that I introduced in the truck.  This kept his attention when the familiar toys got old.
  • Reintroduce old toys. If a new toy isn’t in the budget reintroduce a toy that your child hasn’t seen in a few weeks/months.  It should have a similar effect as a new toy.
  • Books, books, books – a few favorite books are great for passing time.
  • Music and/or videos – I have some of my favorite worship music on my smart phone.  This is great for singalongs.  Children’s music is good too. You can even burn yourself a disc of some of your child’s favorite songs for a family sing along.  As a last resort toward the end of our trip I played a veggie tales YouTube video from my phone.  We don’t have an in-car DVD player though I hear they can be great for long trips especially if your children do not watch a lot of TV on a regular basis.
One final thought on travel: Don’t loose your patience, like I did on the way home.  Your little ones may fuss and they only thing they want is to get out of the car seat.  If you must stop, then stop.  Even a short 5 minute walk for a toddler can be enough to settle them down for awhile.

Clothing and Gear

When you think you’ve packed enough clothing pack more.   Perhaps it is because I have a boy but I am quickly learning that you can’t keep a child clean or dry when camping.  After three days of camping we’ve been through six pairs of pants and five pairs of socks.

One thing I’ve learned from this weekend of camping is that we need easy on/easy off shoes for Wyatt.  We feel he is too young to run around barefoot, plus it is too cold in the mornings and evenings for that but putting on tie sneakers five times a day gets old after the first two days. I think I am investing in a pair Crocs or perhaps off brand crocs, something we can easily slip on, especially over his footie pj’s.

Some highlights on clothing:

  • More is better; especially pants and socks
  • Pack for hot weather and cold weather no matter what season. Little ones will get colder faster than you might
  • Extra shoes – they will get wet and or muddy; I guarantee it.
  • Bring hats, pull over hats, baseball caps, etc.  A hat helps keep their heads warm and out of the sun
  • Don’t be afraid to re-wear those jeans.  If they got dirty playing yesterday you might as well wear them again today because guess what….they’re gonna get dirty today too!
Helpful Gear to take:

  • A backpack carrier is great for walks and traveling especially in places where a stroller might not suit.  We bought ours at a consignment sale for $30 and we love it.
  • Booster seat/portable high chair – great for keeping them immobile in the early mornings when the grass is still wet.  A few raisins or an apple before breakfast should keep them happy too.
  • Pack N Play – our little guy is too young to lay down and sleep unattended in the camper (he wouldn’t sleep – he’d be up and exploring.) We set up the Pack N Play  next to where we sleep and he has his own space
  • Toys – outside toys that wash easy like balls, trucks, old (or cheap) dolls, bubbles, even their own bag toss game.
  • Extra blankets – if you need one, give them two. They toss and turn and get easily uncovered.  An extra blanket with them will be helpful, plus, they are great for snuggling around the campfire!
  • Hand sanitizer - now crunchy mammas don’t panic.  We don’t make a habit of using it at home but when running hot water isn’t available this is a necessity in my book.

The Food

When we camp we are not as scheduled with when we eat especially since we are out and about.  Nutritious meals are possible while camping.  Check out this e-book, Kitchen Stewardship in the Big Woods, for camping foods ideas.

I want to focus on snacks now. I like to have a variety of snacks on hand to keep folks happy between meals, especially the little guy.

  • Homemade pudding in a waterproof container mason jar. Keeps well in the cooler.Make sure the container is waterproof so you don’t get cooler water in there…yuck!
  • Homemade yogurt – same as above.
  • Granola – goes great on in the yogurt or larger pieces make good finger snacks for those little ones.  (I forgot my granola, this was a sad discovery)
  • Homemade Laurabars – better than cookies, just as sweet but also nutritious.
  • Fresh veggies – cut up and served with some dip
  • Fruits – clemetines, apples and oranges travel well. Bananas and/or grapes can be purchased upon arrival.  You can’t recover squashed grapes – I tried.
  • Nuts – they also travel well and make for great finger food. We like peanuts, cashews and pistachios.

Check out this post from Keeper of the Home for 45 snack idea for kids.  Almost any of these are great for

The Set Up

If you camp often and visit the same campgrounds on a regular basis you probably know the layout of their sites.  This is beneficial for picking a spot that can be made toddler friendly.

Sites near ponds or creeks may be out of your comfort level if your child is too young to understand not to stray in the water unattended.

Some campgrounds have various sized sites and you may want a larger site so you have room for your little one(s) to play.

Speaking of play room, I purchased these awesome play yards at a consignment sale for $40.00 and they were one of the best investments we made in child-gear.

We set them up strategically so that our little guy could play freely yet be out of harm’s way from the camp fire and the road which was close to our site when we were in Tennessee.  They also allow for everyone, adults and children to enjoy the fire.  I could sit inside Wyatt’s play area yet still be part of the group.  We mama’s sometimes feel out of the adult loop don’t we?

The Bath

I admit I’m really not sure what to tell you here.  I’m open to suggestions so please comment below.

I tried to give my son a shower the other night and it was a bit of a fiasco. At home he likes to sit down and play.  Not happening on a public bathhouse floor. Sorry. I draw the line there.

I pretty much ended up taking a shower with him which was not my intention but it worked slightly better than me getting soaking wet while fully clothed (with hearing aids in).

Last August, before he was mobile we bathed him two ways.  Once I took him to the shower house but sat him in his portable booster seat. It worked perfectly.  He was in direct shot of the water so he stayed warm, I could shower because I didn’t have to hold him and he was not sitting on the floor.

The next evening, if I recall it was rainy and damp so we washed him up in the dish basin that we use for washing dishes.  He was the perfect size!  This also makes for an incredibly cute scrapbook picture if you’re in to scrappin’.

I believe I am going to invest in one of those bamboo shower mats when we get home.  I am thinking that would be a great way for him to shower as he could sit/stand on it and it will dry easily back at the camp site.

The Rain

As I finish up this post it’s 6:37 am and pouring buckets.  What are we doing to do with a toddler in a small camper with four adults in the rain?

Here’s a few ideas:

  • Coloring books (I should have written this before we came camping, I might have packed them!)
  • Watch some videos. I realize some people aren’t a fan of TV/movies but for our son a few three or four clips of Veggies Tales from YouTube will occupy him.
  • Have church – read from the bible, their bible if you have it, sing some worship songs
  • Make cookies – ok, this might be a stretch but if you’re little one is old enough to help you could whip up a half-dozen oatmeal cookies from scratch and bake them in the camper oven. (Makes some heat too.)
  • Play cars and trucks or dolls – in a smaller space your children might need your attention more so push some cars and trucks around or play with the baby dolls together.
  • Take a nap – ok, this is what I want to do on a rainy day. It might be hard to convince a 2-year-old of taking an extra nap but you don’t have much to lose anyway do ya?

Overall, our first camping trip with a toddler has been a success.  I have learned a few things that I’ll do differently the next time we go but we’ve had so much fun that the little things really don’t matter.  We’ve been blessed with incredible weather for March with only this small bit of rain and we are making great memories with our son.

Do you camp with your little ones? Please share your tips and tricks below!

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

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