Where Every Family Matters

Camping Adventures with Your Little

It demands a little prep work, but taking your toddler on an adventure will set you free.

Camping with toddlers can be fun and liberating, but it can also be intimidating. Camping’s not just for the childless. Here are tips and encouragement from toddler-camping veterans to inspire you to give it a try.

Why Bother?

Sarah Lambert is a seasoned family camper who started both her girls camping as babies, and she even camped while she was pregnant. “I think my life is easier when we are camping, and I have more time for fun and adventures with my girls,” Lambert says. She captures the paradox: although it takes a lot of preparation, taking your toddler into the wild can ultimately break you free. You leave behind the pressure to make everything perfect and get to see how well your family and your brain thrive on simplicity. While parents get restored by laid-back hikes and starry skies, infants delight in watching the trees and birds. Toddlers love exploring this new world of bugs, rocks and sticks. Fretful minds unwind away from the multitasking demands of home.

Enjoy Camping with Toddlers

Conquer camping with toddlers by having realistic expectations and packing wisely. Those are the keys to unlocking the top three challenges of toddler camping:

1) SLEEP

Yes, it will be hard, but after a period of adjustment, peace will come. Be ready to try different things, and give it time. It may take two nights of thinking the apocalypse is nigh before your little one finally believes tenting is OK. You might find sleep on the third blissful night. In addition to bringing a variety of familiar, soothing stimuli, keeping close to usual schedules of bedtime and naps (even short ones on walks or drives) helps toddlers to re-establish rhythm. Starting a bit early with a relaxing bedtime routine in the tent also helps prime the pump for comfort and rest.

2) COPING WITH CRYING

Given that your toddler’s experiencing a major adjustment, meltdowns are inevitable. The great news is that many of the best toddler-soothing strategies are intrinsic to camping like focusing on sights and sounds like a babbling stream or the wind in the trees.

3) REGULATING TEMPERATURE

Pack clothes in multiple layers of quick-dry fabrics with warm features. Expert campers Ryan and Verena Tarves have another elegant solution. They pack a few pairs of synthetic body suits and use them as a light outfit for splashing and roaming around in the midday heat. They also use them as a dry under layer at night. For cool evenings and sleeping, they top the suit with a hooded and footed fleece suit with fold-over hand covers.

Another smart move: plan the location and the season of your trip so it will not get too cold at night. Tennessee days and nights are warming up, but night temps can still get low in spring and early summer. Heather Lee Leap managed to keep her toddler warm on a substantially cold night. “We camped in the mountains around freezing at night with a toddler. We bundled her in polypro long johns, a fleece shirt, leggings and her fleece snowsuit … with the hood up. She slept between us, and we didn’t worry about her getting out from the covers!” Once you’ve conquered these three camping conundrums, you’ll be ready to find your family’s bliss in the woods. Pick up that baby, pack up that tent and go have a wonderful, relaxing time in the bush.

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