So you're heading into the Great Outdoors with your toddler in tow? There's no doubt about it, camping with toddlers for the first time can be a daunting experience. What if they wake up in the middle of the night and wander? What it they get hurt and you're not close to a hospital? How to you keep their little toddler brains occupied?
Before you overwhelm yourself with worst-case scenarios, take a deep breath, grab a cup of hot tea, and let me walk you through 10 tips that will make camping with toddlers a breeze.
Safety FirstBefore you even begin to pack your gear into the vehicle, sit down with your toddler and lay down some ground rules. Talk to them about the importance of camping safety. Show them pictures of poison ivy so they know what not to touch. Realistically they may not retain everything, but if you make it fun-- they're more likely to remember the basics.
Scout Out Your LocationAs soon as you arrive at your camp ground, take a moment or two to thoroughly scout out your location. Are you right next to a patch of poison ivy? Is your campsite next to a lake? Pay special attention to your surroundings. Make sure you set up boundaries for your tots and pay extra attention to them. Enforce strict rules. If they step outside the boundaries, punish them accordingly. Otherwise, they'll ignore your boundaries and toddle straight into danger.
You know how you go shopping without a checklist, and then inevitability end up at the grocery store 3 or 4 times within a week? Camping without a checklist is much worse. Because once you're in the wilderness, odds are their won't be too many 24 hour Harris Teeters for your to run to for extra baby wipes, or God-forbid, bug spray. Though your campground is likely to have a small grocery store for necessities, the highly inflated prices will make you wish you had used a checklist.
Use a Checklist
Because I believe sharing is caring, I've put together this FREE printable camping checklist so you can ensure that you've packed everything you'll need for your camping adventure.
(To download, simply click on the image. The image will open in a secondary window, where you can hit save or print).
Don't Forget the PottyNothing is worse than stumbling through the woods, wailing toddler in tow while you're attempting to locate the "pit of doom toilet" in the middle of the night. You can avoid this simply by remembering to pack your child's potty. This is especially important if your child is in the middle of being potty trained. You don't want to interrupt their potty-pattern or worse, traumatize them by forcing them to use a camp-ground potty pit. Take my advice and pack your child's potty. You'll thank yourself later.
The family that Lays Together...Stays together. Or something like that. When you're camping with toddlers or small children, it's always best to keep them close by when sleeping. Position your sleeping bag between your tot, and the tent entrance. This way if your tot has any ideas about taking a midnight stroll, they'll have to get through you first.
Mind The FireKids, and adults for that matter, all love a good campfire. But those flickering flames can spell trouble for young children who don't quite understand that playing with fire isn't the best idea. Set up a perimeter around the fire and make sure that an adult (more specifically, a sober adult) is always on watch.
Play Time IdeasCamping is the perfect time to ditch the electronics in favor of fun, family- oriented games. Now is the time to dust off all those old board games that have been stuffed into the dark crevices of your attic. Fun toddler approved games and toys to consider:
Chuttes and Ladders
Rope (for learning how to tie knots)
Bring Along PlaymatesLet's face it, while your child may love you, they also love spending time with their peers. Turn your camping trip into an adventure for the whole family by going camping with another family. With more adults, keeping your eyes out for your little ones will be a bit easier. Besides, if you forget to pack the sunscreen or extra wipes, odds are the other mother has you covered and vice versa.
Layer UpMother Nature can be a mean, well, Mother. Come prepared by packing multiple layers for your family, but especially your toddlers. Keep in mind that toddlers like to get messy, so while one jacket might be fine for yourself, you may want to pack an extra for your tots, just in case.
Stock up Your First Aid KitLet's face it, toddlers are potential hazards with adorably chubby cheeks. Though you may not want to use it, in the event that you have to, it's incredibly important to make sure that your first aid kit is properly stocked. The Red Cross recommends that your first aid kit include the following:
2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
5 antiseptic wipe packets
2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
1 blanket (space blanket) [Available on the Red Cross Store]
1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
1 instant cold compress
2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each) Scissors
1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches) [Available on the Red Cross Store]
5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches) Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
2 triangular bandages
So there you have it, camping with toddlers doesn't have to be a nightmare! If you prepare and pack accordingly your first camping trip with your tot will be a cherished childhood memory you both can reflect fondly upon.
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Until next time,