as i mentioned before, tim and i have been camping for years and we were determined to keep up this tradition when brooke was born. so determined, in fact, that her first camping trip was at 5 months of age - which was actually the easiest age to take her away since she couldn't move around. to be honest the hardest time to camp is from toddlerhood on because their independence has set in and it can be quite difficult while a child is crawling or walking unsteadily, and too young to understand a lot of instruction - although it is doable and can still be enjoyable.
plus toddlers love the outdoors and what better way to get them exploring than to take them to the big wild forest.
i've compiled some tips to help you make camping with a toddler a safe and enjoyable experience ::
- pack appropriately. think comfort and things you don't care about if they're torn or stained. no beautiful dresses and expensive sandals. more is better, specially pants and socks. extra shoes are a must since they will get wet or muddy at some point. a hat that will help keep their head warm and another for the sun. and when you think you've packed enough, pack a little more. i learned quickly that it's nearly impossible to keep a child clean or dry while camping.
- put together a first-aid kit. include things for a variety of possibilities: bug bites, cuts, stings, temperatures, and so on, and make sure there are things for both adults and children. don't forget the sunscreen and brings tons of wipes.
- know the dangers. it's a fact of camping that there are dangers around for kids - campfires, a lake, stream, river or the ocean, cooking facilities, cars, wild animals - and you need to know what they are and how to either avoid them or reduce the risk.
- make specific boundaries. make a clear boundary that your child is not to cross. this takes away any room for doubt, and makes things safer and easier to monitor.
- always make sure your child is supervised. especially if you're in a group, it can be easy to assume that 'someone' is watching out for your child. but don't assume. if you're doing something else or leaving the campsite, specifically ask one person to watch your child.
- forget the dirt. it's inevitable that your child will get dirty when camping. give them a wash at the end of the day, before bed, but until then just ignore it. it'll make your life easier, and your days more relaxing. last time we took a little portable tub to bathe her in at the end of the day but found it much easier this time around to just shower with her at the campsite showers.
- don't underestimate a child's ability to entertain themselves. take a few small toys and books as a backup or for some quiet play in the mornings and evenings, but for the most part let your child explore. it's amazing how much fun a child can have with dirt, sticks, water and space to run.
- stick to some routine. using the same bedtime routine (for example bath, teeth, story, bed) will help make your toddler feel more comfortable about their new surroundings. if your toddler still naps during the day, factor this time into your plans. brooke usually naps twice a day still but we found it easier to just give her one long nap in the middle of the day so evening she was spent and ready for bed.
- bring enough helpful gear. if your toddler is toilet trained, or being toilet trained, you might like to consider taking either a potty or a special toilet seat for them. a backpack is great for walks and beats lugging around your stroller. a booster or portable chair is great for keeping them immobile while they're eating. and lastly a carrier such as an ergo is great for long hikes/walks and your little one starts getting tired or fussy.
- use it as a fun way of learning. camping is an opportunity to see new things, whether it's wildlife, a different environment or new experiences, and toddlers will be amazed by them all. point things out, talk about them and watch those little faces light up in awe.
have fun, relax and enjoy the great memory making experience!