Toddler Camping 101

My husband and I both LOVE to camp & fish, so planning vacation getaways was always a really easy task – find a good lake & go!  Then our son came along … and camping took a LOT more planning.  I’m no expert by any means, but we have carefully planned our camping trips over the past two years to transition our little man to life in a tent.  I wanted to share the things we’ve learned along the way …

1. Have A Back-Up Plan.    We took Jackson on his first “camping” trip when he was 15 months old.  This camping adventure consisted of setting up a tent in the yard of my aunt’s cottage in Door Courty, WI.  That way, he got to sleep in the tent for a few nights, have campfires, and play outside, but we had access to the cottage all day for bathroom, cooking & escape from the sun whenever we needed.

This year, we ventured out a little further since he’s a “big boy” now (he’s 2!).  We set up camp for Memorial weekend at Two Lakes Campground in Drummond, WI. We had a walk-to site on the lake in the heart of the Chequamegon National Forest, so we were really camping!  But, just in case, my family’s cabin was on the other side of the lake (which we ended up only using to filet the fish we caught).  Have resources available to you just in case.

2.  Keep Them On Schedule.   Kids thrive on their schedules when they are younger, so we didn’t want to deviate from Jackson’s day-to-day schedule while we were camping.  It’s no fun when you’re trying to fish & your two-year-old is trying to jump off the boat in protest because he’s hungry & tired (yup, we had that problem this year!).  We still put him down for his afternoon naps, whether that meant taking a drive around the lake so he’d fall asleep in the car or putting him in his pack & play and letting him wear himself out.

3.  Take Rest Time.   Their overall overnight sleep schedule may be difficult depending on your child.   Remember, it gets light out REALLY early in the summer and the birds wake up with the sun.  We are lucky parents to a toddler who loves sleeping in, but kids are likely to wake up earlier than normal when sleeping outdoors.  All this to say, take a nap or rest time with your child!  You both will be much happier!  Even when my older step children are with us, we still carve out a part of the day for resting.  It will be much needed after long days in the sun & fresh air.

4.  Don’t Over Plan.   We only had one plan for our 4 day/3 night stay over Memorial Day & that was to visit my grandfather’s grave and have dinner with my grandmother.  Toddlers will be out of their element in new places, so forcing them to be constantly traveling around will be difficult for them – AND YOU!  Just go with the flow and let the day happen.

5. Involve Them.  Jackson loved to do camp “chores”.  We brought plenty of activities for him (coloring books, glow sticks, bubbles, etc), but he also wanted to help.  Find tasks around the site that they can help with:  picking up kindling, dishes, setting the table, sweeping the tent.  Keeping them busy while you are cooking around the fire is helpful so they aren’t running off or your food isn’t getting burnt!


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