How to Survive the Weekend Camping With a Toddler

 In the next few paragraph’s you will learn how to survive the weekend camping with a toddler. Or atleast how we did. I know this isn’t a recipe post… but it’s something I wish I would have done more research on before we left for our big trip last weekend… Camping with a toddler… shouldn’t be too hard, should it?

I like to think that my mind goes out of the box… so all of the extra things I did to make our trip easier really came in handy. I wanted to help all of you other mom’s out there with your camping fears, and share some secret’s I discovered that really make life soooo much easier when camping with your little ones.

{disclaimer: I’m not child expert. These tips worked great for us, but you may need to tweak them a bit to fit your needs. these are just some guidelines/tips to help make everything a little more easy going. }


Helpful tips:

- Freeze juice boxes/flavored waters a head of time. Toss them in the ice box when you are ready to go. They should stay cool the entire trip.

- Glow sticks. These are great for the kids to carry at night vs. the flash light. Why? Well.. because they are fun, and it will cut back on the number of times you get hit in the face with a bright light causing you to feel like you are being interrogated for eating the last of the smores…

- Glow Bracelets. I wrapped a few of these around my son’s arms/belt loops at night to help me keep track of him. For some reason he thought it was hilarious to run through the dark and ‘hide’ from mommy. The glow sticks made it impossible for him to escape my eye sight.


- Don’t forget the favorite blankie! {or woobie… binky… whatever they have that is comforting. It will save you when it’s time for bed}

- Keep in your routine. I know this one is hard. But it’s really important to keep with your routine. Otherwise you’ll be stuck with a grouchy kid, and parent…

- Stay excited. If you are happy, and excited about the whole experience, they will be too. Kids pick up on your ‘energy’.


- Pack healthy snacks!! We were lucky enough to bring a heaping truck load of Buddy Fruit products with us, which made life sooooo much easier. {more about that later}

- Baby wipes have a million and one uses. If you think you packed enough… pack more.

- Be ready for the weather. If you prepare for the worst… you should be good to go the entire time. We had the craziest weather during our trip. Like wind, rain, extreme heat… It was just so wacky. But I had done my research, so we were ready for the rough times, and turned it into a fun game.

- Speaking of games… Pack some. Or outdoor toys. Anything you won’t be too sad about misplacing, or getting dirty.

- Just embrace the fact that your child is going to get dirty. I followed my son around with wet wipes for the first ten minutes… then I watched him dump and entire shovel full of sand in his hair… I decided it wasn’t worth it, and I’d hose him off when we got home.

**Just kidding… I didn’t use the hose… maybe… **

- And finally… FIRST AID KITS. This is so important. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. But enough to help you if you get a major cut or someone has an accident. Band-Aid’s, cleaners, antibiotic ointment… all of the basics.

These are just some things that helped me through the trip as a mom. I do have to give this little guy credit though… he was a trooper. Everyone warned me that he wouldn’t sleep a wink, and we’d all be miserable on day two… but he proved them wrong. He was asking to be zipped in his ‘tube’ by 9, and asleep shortly after every night! We also made it through the weekend with only ONE melt down. {darn dad wouldn’t let him keep his pants off… what’s wrong with him…??}

If you have any tip’s you’d like to add, let me know! I’ll stack them into the list!

UPDATE: Check out my latest Camping with a toddler post featuring ideas from my readers! 

Comments

  1. Joanne says

    I take a plug for the laundry tub with me (purchased at the dollarstore). It makes for a great bathtub, and the kids think it is fun when you add a cup and some toys.

  2. Regina W says

    Be willing to call it quits early if your child does end up refusing to sleep in a tent and makes sure to keep everyone else in the tent up with her. Not that my then-18-month-old would ever do that…. ;)

    Make sure to find a camping spot that actually has some privacy. That way you can put your kiddos down to sleep without the sounds of cars or kids at other campsites waking them up.

    Have an easy-to-use, hands-free lantern for night-time wake-ups. We have a battery-operated LED one that we can have on “dim” or “bright” and is light enough to hang from the top of the tent. Absolutely necessary–especially if you have an anti-sleep-through-the-night kid (or baby).

    • JessecaJesseca says

      Calling it quits is sooooo something I was willing to do. I was just waiting for my son to run around until the early morning because of all of his excitement! We really lucked out!

    • Tina says

      I had to call it quits 2 years ago. Thankfully we were close enough that it wasn’t that bad to come home. We leave for another camping trip in 2 days and my fingers are crossed this time will be better.

  3. Katie says

    My parents rustic-camped with us often when we were kids. One of the best things I have continued to use is a plastic milk jug filled with water with a nail pushed through the side near the bottom. This sits on the edge of a table and any time someone needs to wash their hands, they simply pull out the nail causing the water to flow. Replacing the nail stops the flow of water. A towel attached to the table is also handy!

      • Nanci says

        Put a bar of soap in one of the plastic mesh bags from the produce section and tie it on the handle of the jug. Instant hand scrub….real cheap! The rough plastic will even help rub off tree sap!

    • Mary says

      we use empty large Laundry containers(Tide) with push tops on them for hand washing stations.
      Put them on their side easy clean up for small fingers! Just add your favorite suds!

    • Em says

      This is brilliant! I am going to do this next week when we go camping with our 4 kids (very very scared).

      My husband showed me a plastic milk jug filled with water and put a headlamp/flashlight attached shining inside it and it totally GLOWS like a lantern!

    • Tara says

      Or repurpose an old laundry soap dispenser with a spigot! Just rinse (add some acid like vinegar or lemon juice–lemon drink mix works, too–if you can’t get it to stop sudsing as you try to rinse it), fill it up, and go! I wouldn’t drink from it, but it’s great for washing up!

  4. Jen says

    I filled the dish tub with warm water, added a couple bath toys and my 2 year old played for an hour before I made her stop as her hands were cold :) She had a blast and had very clean hands!

  5. Robin says

    My son takes a small lunchbox filled with little toys. It’s filled with cars, figurines, kid meal toys, really anything stuck between the seats of the van! He tends to wake up first in the tent. We’ve told him that is his special box to play with on his bed. He’ll sit there and play quietly for at least 20-30 min, allowing mommy and daddy to wake up slowly and relaxed. His older sisters appreciate it too! As for sleeping problems, I guess we’ve been lucky. My now 5yo son has slept through a racoon unzipping our tent at the beach and taking a look through his special backpack and also a bear sniffing him through the tent and proceeding to turn over everything on our campsite! Camping with kids makes great stories and great memories.

  6. Martha says

    We camp with three toddler grandchildren. We make sure to bring FOUR trikes so everyone gets a choice. I color coded the kiddos when they were babies. Now eveyone knows which cup towel plate chair is theirs.

  7. tammy picker says

    two things… for little ones put your camp space number on their hand in permanent marker so if they are lost they can be found!

    also for out first camp trip we bought special dinosaurs that are camping toys they stay in camp box all winter and come out only when we are camping, when we first get to camp site. its some thing fun and familiar and keeps them busy while we set up camp… our kids can not wait to play with them as soon as we get there.

    • Theresa says

      Love the space number idea. We’re camping next month and I’m totally doing this. I may write one of our cell numbers on his arm, too, just in case! Thanks!

    • tracy says

      OMG the campsite number & camping dino’s will become part of our repretoire! My two year olds first trip was at 4 months…that was WAY easier than this summer…

    • says

      Similar to the camp space number idea… I bought SafetyTats for for my kids… they’re temporary tattoos customized with my mobile phone number under “If lost, please call:” They have new ones now that come with a pen to write in your own info, like if grandma needs her number on them, or if you’re at a certain camp lot :) very inexpensive and they take baby oil to remove, so they won’t accidentally wash off!

  8. Kristi says

    Our boy gets REALLY excited about camping in a tent, to the point that he’s too excited to sleep. We’ve learned that if we set up the tent in the yard a couple days before we go camping and let him play in it, he gets used to the idea and sleeps fine once we’re at the campsite.

    • Kristin says

      Thank you for this tip. I just took my 18 month old camping and he would not sleep. I have been searching Pinterest to find tips on helping him sleep the next time we go. This is the first sleeping tip I have found.

  9. Amanda says

    When we camping last year we took a dozen or so solar powered patio lights with stakes so that we could mark out our campsite for night time. the kids could find the coolers, the cars, the potty place and they would recharge themselves and be ready for the next night. we used a couple just outside the door to our tent and then brought one in the tent at night for a night light.

    we also brought our infant bath tub to use for things like baths (if they really needed it) and dishes. it was the perfect size to store other things in throughout the day too.

  10. Kayla says

    These are amazing ideas! We are a camping family, I also have a three year old. I was very excited to come across this info, it’s perfect for planning for a camping trip (and very true to how things are). I will definitely have to try the glow sticks, way better than my son losing the flashlight (again). Also, just thought I would mention, we have a plastic bin with holes in the side full of “camping toys”. These are toys that only come out when we camp and the bin can be easily rinsed out for all the dirt it will collect. I look forward to reading more from you.

  11. Sarah says

    I am going on my first camping trip EVER this weekend. At 20 weeks pg and with a just turned 3y/o. These tips are great. Thank so much.

    • says

      Bring the potty chair for yourself!!! I camped last year at about 20 weeks and it would have been so hard with all the nighttime potty trips (for myself) had I not had it.

    • says

      We just camped with our two-year-old and I am 28 wks pregnant. It was hell on wheels – literally, since we were in a 16-ft. camper. I will not attempt to camp with my toddler until he is at least 5 years old. It was that bad.

      • Jamie says

        I have a 9yr old girl a 6yr old boy and 18 month old twin girls we camped for one week and it was a blast! The best thing to do with lots of kids is to set boundary’s with markers and tell them they are allowed to do whatever they want as long as they stay inside the markers and have a time out if they go outside. Also about every 10 min if I couldnt see them I would call out marco and if they didnt reply polo it was timeout time after they each went into time out once we didnt have a problem and with the little girls brought plastic toys and trucks and when it was time to get meals ready we busted out a play pin and the shoes and jackets came off. everyone had a blast and running around each day made them more than willing to go to bed at 9:30

  12. Seussgirl says

    We have 3 boys, 4 and under. We made sure to keep a travel potty (a foldable one that uses ziploc bags) in our tent for mid-training or newly-trained potty goers. We want to make sure to bring toy hammers with us this year so they can “help” daddy put up the tent.
    I know that camping with kids will, in some ways, get easier as they get older, but we want to make sure they enjoy it now so that they still enjoy it when they’re older!

  13. Sara says

    Bedtime is particularly hard when they are so curious and the camper is someplace new. When all else fails for getting them to sleep, take a drive in the car. Usually within 10 minutes, my 2yo daughter is fast asleep. We don’t even battle anymore, we go straight to the car. She falls asleep and we just lift her out and put her to bed.

    Also, we use one of those big playyards around the fire to prevent any quick approaches to the dangers.

  14. Jennifer says

    I made temporary tattoos (on the computer) with our campground, site number, and my cell number in case we were separated (Yosemite is a big and busy place). Luckily, “black holes” are few in CA, and most campgrounds have cell service.
    We always make sure to reserve a spot within sight of the restrooms and near a water spigot to make clean-up and hand-washing easier. We also pack some stuff in a big plastic container that can be used as a bath. But my personal favorite is the coin-op shower. For the price of 1 shower, both Mom (or Dad) and Toddler can get clean.
    And maybe I’m a bit mean, but when the fire’s going my son is in a harness (not one of the cute ones, but a heavy duty contraption that buckles on) with a retractable dog leash (to keep him from getting within reach) held by a responsible, alert, and attentive adult (too many of our friends seem to think camping = partying)

    • JessecaJesseca says

      Ok, these are GREAT ideas! I LOVE the temporary tattoos, and the harness! (not mean at all by the way. Just looking out for your little one!)

  15. Lisa says

    Love all the ideas! Going with our 1 and 3.5 year old- Im nervous and excited at the same time- need these hints and tips! :)

  16. says

    I always take the potty chair with me. Saved me when I was pregnant and didn’t want to find the bathroom at 2 am. Saves me 10 year old and 4 year old during the night. Totally worth it. We have a “garage” attached to our tent where we leave all the shoes and the potty chair stays in there. Sounds grosse but at 2 or 3am, noone is going to care!

  17. G Sherman says

    We used to camp all the time. One favorite thing to do is pour milk directly into the single serving cereal box. The waxed paper that seals the cereal keeps the milk in perfectly. Easy clean up! Also jiffy popcorn poppers work great over the stove or fire. Fun for kids. Watch out for glow sticks with chewers. My three year old bit through and her mouth glowed for the rest of the night. Don’t even ask what kind of toxins are in that. Probably offset every organic food I’ve ever fed her! If you don’t have a potty chair, a box with a grocery sack lined with paper towels works in a pinch. How do I print tattoos on the computer? Would love to know. Thanks!!!

  18. Candace R says

    I love the idea of putting your site number on your kids–I had never thought of that before.

    Camping with kids is really easy if you just let it be easy, and even more so if you start young. We camp once or twice every year (except for while I was pregnant with #3 last summer) so my two oldest started going each before their 1st birthday when pretty much anything goes, so it is not such a shock for them as toddlers when the routine becomes a little more rigid.

    If you have never camped befor with your kids I would recommend starting someplace close–really close–like your back yard so they can get use to sleeping outside and some of the sounds they are going to hear. It’s a good idea to get all your gear out, set up, and airred out at the begining of the season anyway, let the kids explore it and check it out before you leave.

  19. says

    – You can buy a water jug that has a spout that opens/closes. We leave it at the end of our table and use it for everything from washing hands off to filling water bottles. Very handy.

    –Keep a camp box filled with all essentials, bug spray, paper towels, small cutting board/knife, pot/pan, can of PAM, bottle opener/wine corker, travel coffee mugs, coffee french press, first aid, glow sticks/toys, table cloth, trash bags, tongs/spatula, matches or lighter, nylon rope for hanging wet stuff, WIPES, citronella candle, ponchos, small dust pan and brush for your tent and we have camp specific plates, utensils, sippy cups.

    –We make a list everytime we go of things we forgot or may want next time and as soon as we get back, we buy and replenish what we used. The box is all ready to go next time without much thought.

    – And we bring a battery operated sound machine or CD player to play music to drown out the camp noises while the kids are settling down for the night.

    • sarah says

      The extra tent is great! The kids were constantly playing in it. Kept them contained. We had glow bracelets, and my son had a tonka truck- perfect for collecting dirt and leaves. Also, if you’re not in a bear area, keep food in your car. Raccoons will even get into sealed containers. If there are bears, there should be bear lockers for food. Use those!

  20. Kathy says

    A few more tips I’ve learned with my 3 kids:
    -plan something fun to do while the adults clean up and pack up the campsite. We save a scavenger hunt, with a prize, for that time period.
    - make your first meal (likely dinner that night) an easy one. Or assemble it before you leave your home.
    -enforce some quiet play or alone time. The kids need to decompress too.

  21. Maggie says

    We always buy a new box of playdough to take camping, the kids can play with it outside no mess for you and its cheap enough no matter how dirty or mixed up it gets by the end of the trip you can toss it and not feel bad. I also will pick up little new toys to keep them interested or entertained for a few days at the dollar store, this is a great life saver if you may have rain on your trip and be locked in small areas with your kids tell it clears up.

    Tell your kids to always stay where they can see your campsite, or cabin unless they have an adult with them, and when you walk away with them see if they can tell you the way back to camp, teach them to look for landmarks and observe where they are at.
    Oh and if you have curious little toddlers watch the key in the 4 wheelers :)

  22. says

    We went camping a few weeks ago with our 21 month old, and the two things we made room for in our car were the box fan and the pack ‘n play. Our son sleeps with a fan in his room, so the box fan put him out at the normal time with no problems, and the pack ‘n play was AMAZING when we were trying to set up the campground. Instead of us taking turns setting up, we put our son in the pack ‘n play with some toys while my husband put up the tent and I unpacked everything else. He was happy, and we were able to get completely set up in about 40 minutes :)

  23. Meegan says

    One of the best things we did when our 22 month old granddaughter came camping was to bring one of those play-yards that are self standing and you can configure how you want…we put it around the campfire so that she could see it, but not tumble into it. Grilling was a bit tricky, but it was better than the “what if”!
    Thank you all for the great tips!!

  24. Phoebe says

    We’ll be camping each night on a road trip before staying in a cabin for a week. Instead of unpacking all suitcases for clothes I’ve got one bag with all of our “travel” outfits, toiletries, swimsuits. That way we just have to get one bag out when we set up the tent and outdoor kitchen area. We don’t bring a border of any kind for the fire because our girls (5 and 4) learned from an early age that they don’t run near the fire and if they are near the ring of chairs around it they either back up or sit down in a chair and sit still. When they were younger it meant lots or reminders and hand holding near the fire but now they understand campfire safety and even help us start and properly extinguish our fire!

  25. Sarah says

    We have camped with our kids since each was a baby, (5 years on down). The big things that have helped us are the pac n play, we move it in and out of the camper depending on where the baby wants to be, we have a battery powered white noise box, we use them at home and now the kids can sleep anywhere, and we also pack “camping” toys that are only used for camping so they are new and exciting, toy shovels and dump trucks are the biggest hit. We pack the toys in a laundry basket. I was also a kid that was tied to the bumper of the pickup while we camped and I’m not scared for life, so that’s a great idea too.

  26. Alicia says

    Based on my most recent experience (this weekend) DON’T PURHASE DOLLAR STORE GLOW STICKS!! Of the 10 I purchased (for 6 children and anticipating some duds) only 4 worked. :(. The few dollars I saved were negated by the tears and pleading and arguing that proceeded. YES buy glowsticks, YES buy extras, but NO to dollar store glowsticks.

    • JessecaJesseca says

      Oh man! I’m so sorry the ones from the dollar store didn’t work out for you!! We’ve had that happen a couple times! I think I’ll stick to the ones from Walmart from now on!

  27. Miss Bonnie says

    We are a camping family…..LOVE tent camping. 3 little boys (& a 15 year-old tomboy daughter). The biggest life saver I think I discovered was on our 10 day trip camping in Sequoia National Park. Wonderful trip!! My boys were 1, 3 & 5. Bought about 8 packages of army guys from the dollar store. BEST PURCHASE EVER!!! There were about 30 guys in each package, but I doubt we were able to find more than about a dozen total when we came home. These boys took them all over the campsite…playing with them every day! We now make sure to keep stocked up. I buy them up whenever I am at the dollar store & take a few bags with us every time. Hours of entertainment!!

  28. Edie Boudreaux says

    we have learned with 3 kids growing up and 2 newly adopted boys…. that walkie talkie’s are the best,,,,, we each had one while camping and everyone had a code name, mine was “mother goose” of course….. so the older children could go ride their bikes or hike in the woods as long as i could call them and they answer back immediately…. if no answer ,,,,, i was going looking for them,,,, and then they had a timeout for a while….. only took a couple of times of not answering mom before they responded every time….. no one wanted to sit by mom while sister and brother was out exploring….

  29. Irini says

    We just got back from camping last night with our 2yr. I took this weekend as an opportunity to potty train. Any “accidents” were washed off in the lake. Saved our couch and carpets at home. A great success!!!! At night I used a solar shower, bought at our local camping store. Worked great and our little girl loved it!

  30. Lauren says

    Thank you so much! We’re about to go camping with our almost 2 year old, and I was a bit nervous. Now I feel more prepared thanks to you and all of these lovely comments!

    • JessecaJesseca says

      Lauren,

      I’m so glad it’s helped you out! I know I’m amazed at all of the great comments that have been left!

      Jesseca

  31. sharon kelly says

    A really good camp shower is a garden sprayer, painted black. Fill with lake water and set in the sun. be sure to test the temp, set in shade to cool it down, when it is warm enough you can “hose” down.

  32. Mary says

    A good road trip or camping potty idea. A 5 gallon pail with a lid. Add clumping cat litter and use a child’s potty seat. When not in use just replace the lid. Works for adults with a bit ( or a lot) of overhang! lol

    • Katie says

      Hi, An Australian here, so I hope don’t use any unknown words my post, as I’ve not understood some references above, but here goes…
      My eldest child was toilet trained way earlier than I had anticipated and due to a really good discount on disposable nappies just prior, I had many left over. I cut sides, front and back off each nappy, and kept the absorbent area. They are just perfect to put in a rubbish bag-lined bucket with a firm fitting lid, as they absorb the urine quick smart, meaning an easy, liquid free disposal the next morning, and no mess if accidentally knocked over.
      I also cut up the absorbent pad into smaller pieces and put a piece into a zic loc bag. I always had a few of these in my handbag when my son was toilet trained but too little to ‘hold on’. For boys it’s easy for them to pee into the bag, the pee is absorbed almost instantly and the zip loc prevents any smell until you can find a rubbish bin. Saved me many a time when there was no toilet around. Girls of course can use it too, but not so discretely.

  33. Kailey says

    If you pack your stuff in a large plastic bin it makes a great bathtub for kids. Just remember to bring a pot to boil some water in…Ice cold baths suck, and if you have to bathe multiple children just remember to do the cleanest one first and the dirtiest one last so you don’t have to change the water constantly.

  34. Alana says

    Awesome! Thanks. I had totally forgotten about glow sticks and necklaces. What cheap fun from the dollar store!

  35. Pam says

    When my son was little and we went camping, we kept mealtime simple (for the most part). Pack a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, buns (rolls), cold meat and string cheese. Also cereal that your child will eat “dry” like cheerios etc. are a good snack.

  36. TaiLeah says

    An automatic bubble machine (there’s great ones for around $15 and can be used at home too) is great for entertaining kids. We had 18 months old to 7 year old kids and all of them had a blast with this for a good couple of hrs.

  37. says

    We have taken our only daughter (now 2 1/2) camping since she was 2 months old. She absolutely loves it. We have a tent trailer that we usually take and her pack ‘n’ play fits in the space where the table usually goes. (We eat at the table outside for most meals). When cooking or other things she would play in the pack and play and love it. She also did well with her afternoon naps in there…just a diaper on to keep her cool. However we realized from about 9 months until 18-24 months she didn’t want to sleep by herself…we changed our sleeping plan a bit. We found a nice place for her to sleep next to us, but in her own little sleeping bag. We put her down first in the pack ‘n’ play around 8pm and once we’re ready for bed later we’d slide her over next to us. We usually go where it’s cooler at night. Footie pajamas with a onsie on underneath works great. She slept all the way through the night after that. Now she is big enough to sleep in the pack ‘n’ play by herself and really likes to have her own sleeping bag, just like mommy and daddy’s.

    Next weekend we’re camping with 3 other toddlers so I think I will bring a small “play tent” for them with toys and other things while we are cooking or otherwise busy. We also have a honey bucket, but the cat litter idea is great! It can accumulate a lot of liquid. I’ll pick some up this time around.

    Last word of advice…try to keep nap time SACRED! No planning things during this time. This is needed SOOOO much more when they are out playing all day and more tired than usual.

  38. Bev says

    My tips:

    4 kids, (2 older, and twins now 4)

    Older…give them walkie talkies, farther the range the better, so you are always in touch. Take the video games, Ds’s…you will have rain.

    Twins…we don’t leave without there fav blanket, and stuffy (rule…it stays in the trailer/tent) Special box of camping toys, dump trucks…are huge hit.

    Bathtime…our kids have camped since babies (6mths+) We do campfire baths, at bedtime, fill a large rubbermaid container (same one we pack all the toys in, double duty) fill with warm sudsy water, they have a couple bath toys, we place them near the fire so they are not chilled, and then off to bed.

    Beachtent, is great for them having a nap while the older ones play in the water.

    I bring a craft box…funky scissors, paint, tape, markers…they love it. Playdoh too.

    We also have a camping tv…I wish we could fill there day with enough activities, but sometimes I need a moment to myself for dinner, washing up etc…while they relax and watch some favorite videos, esp if its raining.

  39. Amy says

    These are all great tips! When we were camping in May, my cousin brought a small inflatable kiddie pool for her 6 month old daughter to play in. Instead of filling it with water, she put a bunch of her daughters toys in it. The sides of the pool kept her from escaping, and since it was inflatable it was nice and soft. It gave her a clean, safe place to play ~ genius!

  40. says

    I was at a campground in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan), and chuckled as a couple of moms and cousins had their own “parade.” Each of them had some kind of toy or handmade instrument, and come early evening, they walked around one of the campground loops tooting their horns, strumming their drums, clanging their bells, etc. What a wonderful memory for the kids!

  41. says

    Going camping with our 2 year old and 4 other older kids 14-10. These tips and ideas have been life savers! I have not camped in over 13 years! I don’t remember what is involved! Luckily there are lots of other families and friends going too in case I forget something. thanks for putting this page together, too many moms aren’t sure what to take and ideas and forums like this certainly help, INCLUDING the food ideas! :D

  42. Cami says

    My family goes camping 2-3 times a year in big groups. We have 4 kids of our own that we need to keep track of. I assign each child the same color (bold/bright) t-shirt to wear each day. Example-Day 1-Everyone wears red, day 2- wear green, day 3-wear orange, etc. This allows my husband and I to quickly find and identify our 4 children amongst their cousins and in a natural colored forest. Dark colored clothes like brown, camo, or jean and good for their pants, but keep their shirts in a noticable color (avoid yellow though). It helps if mom and dad wear it too so they can find us! I also do this is crowded places, like amusement parks, etc.
    Kids should also carry a whistle with them to use for emergencies when exploring the campsite(lost, hurt or see a bear). Do the buddy system & assign someone to watch the little one at all times. Switching off for breaks. Bring books, games, outdoor toys and sand toys! Don’t forget to use sunblock and chapstick.
    We camp off-site for privacy and space, which means no toliets. For our bathroom needs, we set up a potty tent (from camping store). Inside we have a hole dug and place a bedsitde commode on top of it. Just insert a heavy duty trashbag (cut at both ends) through the toliet seat in place of the basin. The bag keeps your unrine off your legs. After camping-just bury the hole! I hate squating, this works much better and the kids aren’t afraid of it like portapotties. It is placed away from tents for obvious reasons.

  43. Melody Benschoter says

    We camp every summer with a big group of families (this year we had 17 kids under 9)- our own kids are now 4, 2 and 6 months.

    We have a multi page excel spreadsheet with every conceivable item we need to bring listed. We update it as needed and I refer to it in the days and weeks prior to leaving. I use it for all of our meals and snacks too, so I never forget the spatula I need for pancakes or the ketchup for our hamburgers. It is so helpful to have it to refer to each year.

    I find it helps to have a high chair (we have one that hooks onto the table) for the baby or young toddler stage- it’s a great way to keep them nearby during meal prep or while the adults are playing cards (and they can eat in it too).

    All the kids love to play in the dirt with buckets and shovels and trucks so we always bring plenty of those. This year I bought squirt bottles for each kid at the dollar store- they squirted every tree and rock in our camp site for HOURS. We even let them “wash” the cars. Next year I’m bringing extras. They work better and hold more water than squirt guns too in case the older kids are having a water fight. I bring some cheapie binoculars- the kids love going for walks and using them to see nature. A bug catcher kit is always a big hit too- you never know what fun bugs you’ll find!

    We’ve had the best luck with crocs for the kids’ camping footwear, they are easy to keep clean, don’t stay wet, and protect their toes better than sandals would.

    We always use glowsticks for them at night (not the bracelets which they could chew through) around the camp site and for a little light in bed. We let the kids practice sleeping in their sleeping bags on their beds several times before we go camping. At home we have music and a twilight turtle in each kid’s room, so we bring those to help make bedtime more familiar. We’ve tried a variety of bedtime strategies- staggering putting the kids down, putting them down at the same time, putting them down when we go to bed, putting them down at their normal bedtime, letting them stay up til they drop, yada yada. We still haven’t come up with a workable routine- we just resign ourselves to very little sleep when we’re camping. :( This year we did go for a 3 hour drive one day to give our kids a good afternoon nap. It was well worth however much that gas cost us!

    I bought each kid a water bottle from the dollar spot this year- the kind with a sports cap. That way they had plenty of water available to drink throughout the day, they didn’t spill easily, each kid had a different color, and if one gets lost it’s not a big loss.

    I agree that you can not bring enough wet wipes- we use them for everything from bottoms to the tablecloth to dirty sippy cup spouts. We don’t worry much about dirty kids or baths while we’re there though. The kids splash in the creek and they’re dirty again five minutes later anyway. We just try to clean their hands and feet and faces every so often and call it good enough.

    I love the potty seat idea for night time- even for mama! I’m totally bringing one next year!

  44. Kristin says

    I also use a big plastic container that can hold supplies during the day and can be used for baths for little ones. It’s perfect! You can also use Safety Tats. These are tatoos that you can write on (cell number or unit number) and they are waterproof and last up to a week. I also use these when we go to amusement parks. You should also take a picutre of each child when you get there in case they do go missing. You have the most current photo of them available.

  45. Erin says

    We did a camping /RV trip for 2 weeks in Alaska, Our biggest lifesaver was the Kelty framed babypack (don’t knkow the offical name). He could walk when he wanted but when it was time we had the backpack so we could venture on. Believe me you there was plenty to venture on and see! A good heavy warm rain/snow jacket was also a must, because the boy wanted to play outside, even though it rained 11 of our 13 days there. Getting dirty?? It’s just a part of the adventure!

  46. Erin says

    Also when our son was just 17 mo. and not saying very much daddy took his own hand to see where a tolerable, but uncomfortable “hot” was at the campfire and then took our son’s hand to that place and said HOT! until he stared to whine. To this day he respects fire of any sort, and it’s his favorite word.

  47. says

    We have a 20 month old boy that is obsessed with any type of ball. We bought a tetherball online to hang from a tree while we are camping and it REALLY helped to keep him occupied for a while before he would get bored and decide to take off! All he wants to do it play with balls but he either throws them or kicks them and then we have to follow- tetherball stays put!

  48. Amy says

    I have 3 kids, 1,3 & 5. Have found that the KISS method is best for us. We keep everything, especially meals, very basic. Mt. pies, hot dogs, cereal, I know, not always the healthiest, but your camping, so it’s okay to diverge from the norm. Also have toys like dump trucks because kids love to move dirt, will keep them busy for hours. Can never pack too many wipes either. We also take a large water coolerand everyone has their own water bottle to reuse. Cuts down on the amount of trash.

  49. Laurie L Bowen says

    Two of my grandsons are in Cub Scouts. We camp a lot and have taken their now 2 1/2 yr old sister to every camp with us. Wipes, a Bucket/potty, a wagon (for long treks), and toddler size table and chair makes up some of our musts! Each child (and myself) has a water bottle that clips to their belt. This past fall was our only scare ever with little one, when she ventured toward the water while I was breaking camp (It’s always the kids and I- hubby and their momma are not into outdoorsy stuff lol), so this year will be including the harness and life vest too. The 8 yr old is Autistic and was afraid to be in the tent before me until I gave him a glow-stick. Now he grabs his glow-stick and heads to bed without me, which is great because I need my “unwind by the campfire/put sister to sleep in my arms” time. In addition to the 2 cub camps we do a yr the kids and I go at least 6 more times a yr. We have a storage bin that keep sleeping bags, spare bedding, and sleep mats yr round. Then another bin keeps non perishable foods, cookwear/plates, utensils, flashlights and the extra first aid kit including allergy meds, tylenol etc.. This way if we get the camping bug at the last minute we can grabs clothes, coolers, bins and tent; load up and roll out.

  50. AJ's Mommom says

    We have found a wide based tricycle with a helmet is a must. When your 2/3 yr old wakes up full of energy at sunrise, or isn’t quite drained for bed, make a few laps around the loop to expend some energy. It’s good exercise for both the toddler and the adult walking with them.

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  52. Randie Shaffer says

    We camp every year multiple times a year. I told my son the first time at 2 months. We have never had to call it quits. He is now 4 we are making our first trip of the year this year. 1 thing j have learned that is most important is pack any medicine that your kid might need. Tylenol, ibuprofen, allergy med, etc. Another thing I have learned is packs tons of clothes and shoes! I just change my son every meal and wash his hands then no need unless he getting ready to eat. The number 1 thing that saved me 6mons- 2yrs was I bought a travel highchair. You know the ones that strap to chair. You fasten it to a picnic table bench. We put my son in it if we need to do something and let him have a snack. Like setting up and tearing down camp when its hard to keep a 100% eye on your kid. My son hasn’t napped since he was 1 yr so this was a life saver! Amazing how much faster a tent goes up when you don’t have a kid sitting in the middle of the tent or moving poles or whatever else he decides to do.

  53. Caroline says

    We just got back from a camping trip yesterday and are leaving for another one Wednesday. We have an 8 month old and a five year old. It was a blast. We brought a pack’n’play and laid a blanket on top and bungee corded it on. We flipped the excess blanket up so Lee could still see everyone through the mesh sides. He was able to crawl around and hang out without getting buggy or into anything. It was awesome. We put him in his carseat to sleep in the tent and pulled the mat out of the bottom of the pack n play for our 5 year old to sleep on in the tent. The stroller we used for walks and a make shift high chair sp we could feed the baby at meal times. This way we didn’t haveto bring nine million baby accessories with us. A small back pack filled with odds’n’ends was enough to satisfy the older one. I definitely recommend bringing paper towels soaked in baby soap in a baggie when its timeto shower so when you are holding a slippery baby youonly need one hand to get him lathered up. Also clorox wipes make life easier and convienient. Put a plastic table cloth on the picnic table so you can actually wipe it off before and after meals. I can’t wait to take the boys camping again this weekend. We bring as little as possible and enjoy the activities the park has to offer instead of worrying about cutting up and preparing meals….MAKE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME.

  54. Robin says

    To protect your child from tripping at night on the strings that attach to the tent – paint the strings with a glow in the dark paint or wrap the strings with tin foil. Also, you can wrap the tinfoil on dangerous, hard to see rocks that your child can trip on throughout the campsite. DO NOT paint anything in the campsite/nature with glow in the dark paint and remove all tin foil from the rocks when you leave.
    Remember to practice camping at home so, your child is comfortable with the tent and being around a campfire.

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  56. Sara says

    I have also found that Johnson and Johnson makes sturdy disposable “washcloths” that contain baby soap. We use these for our 4 year old and for our 15 month old when camping. Also, many have mentioned a rubbermaid container for baths…If you have a dark colored one, fill it 1/3 to 1/2 full with water in the morning, put the lid on, and set it in the sun. By evening, the water will be warm enough for bathing the kiddos…you may even have to add cold water!

  57. says

    When they were under 2 I had my kids sleep in the pack & play to protect from the cold of the ground. It gets really cold at night where we camp so I doubled up on PJs, long sleeve/long pants and then footies over that. Then a blanket down on the mat of the pack & play and drape a heavier blanket or quilt over the whole thing to trap the body heat. We left it open one one end like a foot or so for fresh air.

    In Devil’s Tombstone with 2 four year olds, a two year old and a 16 month old there wasn’t much for them to do. The trails were too steep, and not much of a clearing ‘play area’ with just two swings. The kids spent two days happily digging with sand toys, buckets & shovels, creating adventures & digging for imaginary treasures. I also break out the buckets/shovels for snow play in the winter!

    The easiest way of washing up is with soap in a pump. I suggest baby soap because it’s so mild it washes off super easily. Don’t forget to pack a couple of towels & a couple of washcloths.

    For coffee, either pre-brew & bring iced coffee or wrap a cup’s worth of grounds in a coffee filter & tie with string (or unflavored dental floss) – instant coffee (tea) bag!

    I also bring a folding card style kids table. The kids like having their own space and my son is famous for tumbling between the bench & top of the picnic tables at camping spots & bonking his head on the tabletop in the process.

    Target & Michaels sell a tube of 15 glowsticks for $1. They keep freshest if you store them in the freezer (I like keeping them in the house for power outages too). They make a great nightlight. I also attach a bracelet to everything: the zipper on the tent flap, the tent stakes marking off the tent lines so noone trips in the dark, anything you don’t want people to trip over or fall in. And of course, the kids too, haha.

  58. Wendy says

    wow. I took 5 kids camping by myself, youngest being 1. It was a blast. I also use to camp while pregnant with my 2 yr. old. If your not use to being outside and roughing it, it would be difficult. I’ve tented, and used a motorhome. Doesn’t matter. The kids love it.

    Remember to pack bug spray, sun screen!

  59. Kailey says

    Make sure to bring a play yard with a good bottom and a cheap easily stored highchair, especially if older children are running around. It keeps them from getting dirt/pine needles kicked in their faces. Also if you’re camping any where near water find a life jacket in the right size…. never know when they’re going to get adventurous around water…better safe than sorry.

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