Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Toddler Tuesday! 5 tips for camping with a toddler.

Toddlers are wild and crazy, you might think that taking them out into the wild would be as natural as breathing, but it is really a lot of work. There are more ways for your snuggly little tsunami to hurt themselves out in the woods than there are in a public restroom! However, getting your favorite bunny-hopper out doors is good for them too. You might not be able to enjoy the peace and solace of nature like you used to, but with a few tips, navigating some of the common pitfalls will be much easier.

1. Child-safe bug repellent.
Coppertone Bug & Sunscreen With Insect Repellent, Kid's Formula, SPF 30 is the highest rated bug repellent for kids on www.goodguide.com, however I prefer a more natural approach. I bring a spray bottle with 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon eucalyptus oil and 2 tablespoons lemon oil in it. Then while we are camping, I mist his clothes and hat with it every morning, and as soon as the air starts to cool off each evening. I am careful not to get it in his eyes or near his mouth, and always shake it up before each application. This seems to work well in combination with long loose-fitting pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a cotton hat. I try to keep one outfit for him to wear each evening and morning over his regular clothes so that I only have a couple of things that are covered with the smell, which while not unpleasant, can linger in clothing long after it has been washed.

2. Safe play area inside tent.Secure all of your dangerous camping items in containers you can keep outside your tent, and keep the inside area clean and organized. This way, if you need to take a few minutes to start the fire or chop up some potatoes, you can put your toddler in the tent with a few books or toys, unzip all of the windows, and close the main door flap. Your child will be contained and safe while you finish doing whatever it is that you have to do, then you can let him out and resume the chase around the campsite. Make sure your tent is secure and stable before placing your child inside, and never allow yourself to be out of sight or earshot in case your baby needs you.

3. Bring a high chair or booster seat with a buckle.
If it is feasible for you to lug this type of equipment out camping with you, it is a great idea. It's hard enough for your little explorer to hold still long enough for you to get a good picture, let alone long enough to down a whole meal. If you can strap your toddler into a secure seat for 10 to 15 minutes, it will be a lot easier to make sure he is eating and drinking enough. It is also another place you can secure your bouncy one while you do food prep or work on the fire.

4. Pack proper camping attire in place of over-using sunscreen.
Sunscreen is a good idea whenever you and your toddler are outside, but sometimes sunscreen wears off, and it provides no protection from biting insects or rash-producing plants. I recommend that parents pack lightweight long sleeved shirts and long legged pants for sunny camping days. The material is a good way to reduce sun exposure, and it is protective of your child's sensitive skin. Remember to bring a hat, preferably one with a chin-strap to keep it on your toddlers head through wind or rambunctious play. Of course, if you intend on wading in streams or swimming, bring water shoes, a bathing suit, water-safe diapers towels and sunscreen.

5. Pajamas & bedding.
When it comes time to go to bed for the night, you may have the same problem I have. Do you have a wiggle worm who will find a way (while completely asleep) to get out from under any type of blanket you put on her? If so, to make sure she will stay warm enough throughout the night, layer on the pajamas. Several layers of warm pajamas will keep your bundle of kisses warm while allowing a full range of movement. As long as she has a soft comfy surface to sleep on she should be able to stay comfortable until morning, in spite of the cool night air. I like to bring our portable baby cot, but we tend to camp at drive-up sites where this is more feasible.

Camping in the great outdoors, is a wonderful way to share a love of nature with your small child. Though there are many pitfalls awaiting toddlers, if you come prepared for the most common ones, you'll be able to have a much more relaxing time together. Enjoy the summer safely, and you can revel in your little explorer's sense of adventure and fun! If you found these tips helpful, please forward them to any parents of toddlers you might know. Happy parenting!


  1. I hear you, my daughter always kicks her covers off! Thanks for the tips : )

    Thanks from your friends at happyhourmom.com

  2. My son is 2 and he's always slept in a crib or pack n play. Did you have any issue with putting your son down in a tent? I keep imagining a very distracted little boy that will not go to sleep when we go camping. Also where did you find your baby cot?

  3. Hi Lauren,
    We did use a portable crib. For most of his naps and night sleep it worked great. However, my son also knows how to climb out of it, and one night he woke up after sleeping for about an hour and it took nearly 2 hours to get him to go back down, because it was more exciting for him to get out of the crib and explore the tent.
    If I were to do that night over again, I would have gotten him up, and brought him out to sit with us around the camp fire for awhile. I think the additional mental stimulation of watching the fire, and listening to the adults talking would have tired him out faster than just my sitting in the tent with him, singing and reading stories.
    Also, if you have a small group that is camping with you, it will be easier to keep everyone quieter after you put your baby down. We had a rather large group camping with us, and it was hard for everyone to remember that the baby was sleeping just a few feet away.
    Try singing campfire songs with everyone for a while after your baby goes down. I hope you have a good time! It is a hard thing, to camp with a toddler, but it is a lot of fun too.