Tips and tricks for camping with little kids
I have been an avid camper since I was a little kid! My husband did not camp with his family growing up, at all. Together we decided that camping would be good for our family, there are so many great adventures we could have. Well, there are many adventures we are actually having, it’s wonderful!
It was not until the first time I tried it that I realized how much work camping with kids can be! I realized it and then really appreciated what my parents did for my brother and me!
If you have any apprehension about taking your kids camping, I say just go for it! There will be moments that are difficult, don’t expect it to be the same as camping pre-kids! However, if you keep doing it you will find that it gets easier and easier and the kids have an AMAZING time and so will you!
Read on for great tips and tricks plus a free printable checklist!
Decide what type of camping you will do
When you say camping, that can mean different things to different people. I have enjoyed backpacking, tent camping in a campground or the forest, RV camping in wilderness areas or staying in an RV at a Disneyland resort. All these adventures offer a different experience. The first step in planning your own adventure is to decide what type of trip you would enjoy as a family and with little ones!
If you are an avid camper, then you probably already know your favorite style of camping.
Really, kids are quite flexible, so stick with what you love! I prefer camp areas that are not as planned out, so I don’t miss it if there is not a playground. My kids don’t really seem to miss that either. They love just playing in the forest. There are many play structures in nature!
I guess what I’m saying is, there is not one particular type of camping that will be better for toddlers than another! Go with what you like to do.
When I’m looking to stay somewhere new I have found using www.campsitephotos.com has been really helpful. This website covers tons of campgrounds across the US.
It gives a brief summary of the campground and then shows photos of each campsite within the campground! This is helpful because you can get a surprisingly good idea what the site is really like!
Seeing the camp site ahead of time is helpful for finding a site that seems safe for an unstable toddler!! You can watch out for steep drops or dense vegetation or other areas you’d want your toddler to avoid.
The following supplies and ideas can apply to any type of camping trip.
Toddler Basics to Pack
Some of this may be obvious, but when you are busy getting everything ready it can be easy to forget items. Trust me!
Some of the must haves include wipes, lots and lots of wipes. You will start to think you cannot camp anymore without them; we still take wipes camping with us and our kids are well past the diaper stage. I’m talking about the Costco sized packs of wipes. I usually bring an extra pack more than I think I will need. We use wipes for many things, including wiping hands, face, surfaces, etc.
Also remember diapers/pull-ups, diaper cream, and plenty of clothes. I bring two pairs of socks per day and at least 2 extra outfits than I would normally use. If you have any burp cloths these can be handy also.
I recommend packing towels, even if you think you don’t need them (i.e. tent camping and no planned swimming!) I love backpacking towels; we use them in our RV. Backpacking towels pack up small and dry out quickly.
Check out the Syourself towels on Amazon. I love these soft towels!
Sunscreen for kids over 6 months of age is a must when you are headed outdoors! I prefer the mineral sunscreen lotions like Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream or Cotz sunscreen. Both of these can be found at www.amazon.com .
I also have found that the brush on mineral sunscreens are amazing!! I have seen one at Costco seasonally. I order my sunscreen at www.colorescience.com – their “Sunforgettable” brush on sunscreen SPF 50 is fantastic.
I use the brush on sunscreen on myself as well as my kids, it’s just so easy!
These brushes are a little pricey, but they last forever and work really well.
If I’m doing a longer hike or for the day at camp, I do lotion sunscreen, then reapply with the brush.
Hats are a must have also for sun and skin protection!
The Kitchen/Eating Stuff
I find it easiest to have the kitchen things prepacked with the camping gear if possible.
I like the Munchkin Snack Catchers snack containers- easy for little hands to use and not too many spills.
We also used the pouch snacks (like applesauce or yogurt) often, even as our kids got a little older and were not using those at home as much. They are super easy for the road!
Depending on your kids age bring bottles or sippy cups. But importantly, do not forget water cups- we love the Klean Kanteen steel water cups- for toddlers they make a sippy cup lid.
Perfect for making sure everyone gets enough water, tough enough to be out in the dirt!
Of course, the whole family needs plates, paper towels, maybe Clorox wipes. We keep plastic reusable kids’ plates/bowls and utensils in the RV, but you could have a pre-packed storage bin for tent camping too.
I recommend packing a pretty large bag of toys! I use an XL Nylon drawstring travel laundry bag to hold the toys. I got it at Amazon. In there are a variety of toys that are only seen when we camp! These toys are very simple, but really fun when you get to play in the dirt or sand at a campsite!
The types of toys included in the bag are plastic soccer/sport cones, sand/beach toys, dump trucks, balls (soccer and others), plastic bowling set, bucket/pail, butterfly nets, outdoor trucks/cars.
Our girls also love using binoculars. We found some kid friendly ones for ages 3 and up.
Don’t forget the “indoor” or table games too! We have books (I still read them stories at bedtime to help them relax before going to sleep even when we are camping), coloring books/crayons, family games, putty slime (not sticky).
I also love the outdoor portable playard for the younger toddler to play in. We set this up on a tarp and had blankets and toys inside. Our girls loved to be able to get down and play!
When the adults are ready to relax in the afternoon the bag of camping toys may just give you a few minutes to enjoy your camp chair!
Bedtime at Camp
When our kids were small a Pack N Play was great for camping. Nice warm pajamas and the Pack N Play can go a long way to having your little one be comfortable.
By age 3 our kids were using their sleeping bags and a toddler pillow in their own bed. However, if you don’t feel safe using the sleeping bag yet just pack extra blankets or warmer pajamas.
Hiking with Toddlers
We all know that toddlers are not the most efficient hikers, at least my girls like to stop and touch and look at everything possible. You can’t really get too far too fast.
Some of the greatest hikes we have done as a family have been when the girls walk too. It was a new way of hiking for me, more of a meander and stroll. But, seeing the world through the eyes of your toddler is wonderful! Every little thing is new and exciting!
Just be sure to turn back before they start getting tired or start complaining too much (because that does happen sometimes) and try to keep each experience as positive as possible!
Also, you will be surprised just how far they can go!
There will be times when you want to travel longer distances and we used the Deuter Unisex Kid Comfort 2 Child Carrier hiking backpack.
Off to Camp
This camping checklist for toddlers will get you off to a good start camping with your little ones. Just click the link below.
I hope that you can get some new ideas for your family camping adventure based on these tips! Take this list of basics for camping with a toddler and then expand it to fit your family needs. Also, please feel free to print the checklist.
There is nothing quite like seeing the excitement of a camping trip in your kids’ eyes!
Happy Camping everyone!
Please comment below on some of your favorite camping with toddler adventures!