The Best 5 Camping with Toddler tips you absolutely need to know!

How do you know your toddler is ready to go camping? How do you know you’re ready to go camping with a toddler? For some parents this idea is either super exciting or super daunting.  

Below you’ll find our absolute best 5 tips for camping with toddlers. (Seriously, these are good tips!)

But if you’re looking for more guidance, check out this article: Your ultimate guide to bringing toddlers camping with everything else you might want to know: gear, food, play, safety, and so much more!

looking down at a toddler eating off a tray at the campground

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For some of you super moms out there these tips might not be new.  But over the years each one of the tips below, along with only packing the essentials, has brought a greater sense of security and made camping with toddlers a little bit less overwhelming for us… and hopefully these tips will prove helpful for you too!

Tips for Camping with Toddlers: Safety, Fun, and Preparation

1. Write the site number on their hand

This one is so simple and easy, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this!  Sure, you don’t expect your toddler to wander away, but if they do, your site number is written right there on their hand.  Keep a permanent marker in your camping tub for this reason.

If you want to be super cautious, you could also write your cell phone number on their hand (if your campground has cell service).

This tip is good for older kids too.  Sometimes campsites are confusing and if they go off exploring and need to ask for directions, they’ll always know the site number where they’re staying.

Fancy mom tip: You could take this a step up and use clear nail polish over the writing to ensure it stays on or make special ID bracelets, but really, using a marker will be fine. 

Remember: Just remember to re-write it as the marker will fade over the duration of the trip. Hand-washing, playing in water, and using hand sanitizer or wipes will all make the marker fade quicker.

Permanent marker tip: Alcohol will break the pigment down quickly. Try using an alcohol based hand sanitizer lotion to remove the numbers when you’re back home.

Toddler's hand with a campsite number written on it
Best camping with toddler tip: campsite numbers on hands!

2. Have some camping toddler activities on hand

One trick to keeping toddlers from wandering away is to have interesting and exciting things for them to explore close by.  If you’re not camping with older kids, this might not be so much of a concern.  However, if your toddler is watching the other kids leave the site and explore, they’ll want to follow.

Having a special play game or toy at the campsite might help distract your toddler when the older kids go off to play.  You might want to pick up one of these light-weight pop-up play houses as a special camping surprise.  A few other easy diversions to bring along are a bucket and shovel, a giant ball, some toy trucks, or sidewalk chalk.

Little boy wearing a play hard hat playing with toy trucks and tractors outside in the dirt
Hours of campsite fun! … safety first, don’t forget the hardhat!

Some of our toddlers’ favourties: Our tent-type playhouse saw many many years of camping love. Below are the exact brand of kid binoculars that we have… they’re durable, and they actually work! And, as for camping toys… this set is too cute not to share! But, as you see in the photo above, our kids preferred toys to play in the dirt.

Our Favourite Top 3 Toddler Camping Toys:

If you’d like to skip the reading and just get to the top 3 suggestions, here they are!

A neat idea that some families will do when camping with toddlers is use a screen house with a blanket and toys inside as a means to keep their littles from wandering too far.  It will also keep them protected from the bugs, the sun, and the campfire if needed.

This is our Screen Tent:

We have this particular screen tent. And, while it does take a few adults and strong hands to put up, it is very sturdy and designed well. A picnic table fits inside or a decent circle of chairs. I really like the skirt along the bottom that stops bugs from entering.

READ MORE: Get even more camping games and toy ideas here: great camping toys and games for kids and families.

You might also want to bring along some special camping themed story books for special quiet time diversions or have printed out a campground scavenger hunt to do with your littles.

3. Shoe bells for toddlers

Yes, this tip may be a bit noisy, but it’s just genius!  As long as your little one hasn’t pulled the bell off, or stopped moving, you’ll know where they are around the campsite.

If you’re camping with only your toddler, locating your child should not be too challenging.  However, if your camping trips are like ours, with three families, and a gaggle of roaming kids, locating a toddler can be a bit of a test sometimes.  So attach a bell and even if you can’t see them you will hear they’re close by and when you do need to find them you’ll have an advantage.

toddler's blue running shoes with a bear bell attached to them
Using bear bells is a way to keep track of busy toddlers at the campsite

We use bear bells because they come on handy Velcro straps, make a relatively loud and clear ring, and are available for purchase everywhere around here!  While the bears might be habituated to their sweet tinkling sounds, you will not be.

You could also try using squeak-making shoes as a way to keep an ear out.  I hadn’t realized the bonus of these squeaky shoes until vacationing with our 18 month old.  Those little squeakers led us right to him every time!

4. Toddler-up your first aid kit

I will assume you already have a camping first aid kit with your camping gear. I think the things that have been most handy over the years are the tweezers (mostly for slivers) and the bug sting wipes that quickly calmed bee sting pains.

Here’s a run down of what we like to keep in our kit or handy when camping:

You don’t need to go overboard here, but it does pay to be prepared.  And you can always bring more first aid supplies if being prepared is your thing!

In fact, you might want to consider putting together a small tin of a few supplies to always have on hand in your purse or bag. 

READ MORE: If you’d like to read what I carry around for regular adventures from home, you can read about carrying a well-stocked mom purse here.

5. How do toddlers sleep while camping?

This is a biggie!  How will your toddler be sleeping at the campsite? … in their own sleeping bag, sharing yours, on an air mattress or cot, or using a sleeping pad?  And, what will they wear?  Will they be warm enough, what are the logistics of night time bathroom trips?

There’s nothing worse than trying to help a potty-training toddler use a dirty, scary outhouse in the middle of a cold, dark Jasper night! 

Oh, wait, yes, you can make it even worse if said toddler is wearing one-piece pajamas.  This means you will now need to remove their coat in order to get the jammies down; make sure the jammies don’t touch anything suspicious as they hang half-worn; help your cold toddler back into their jacket; and then hoist them (and their sagging pajamas) up onto the scary, dark, and questionably clean toilet… all while holding a flashlight in your mouth because you forgot the headlamp!

So, if this is a potential scenario you could see yourself in, make sure to bring two-piece pajamas!  Yes, the onesies are generally cozier, cuter, and warmer, but just consider your bathroom logistics when packing.

If you are worried about warmth and still want a two piece option, try using base layers (thermal underwear) as pajamas.  Something made from merino wool will be best as it is super warm and will wick away any moisture from their skin as  they sleep.  Another option is to skip the sleeping bag and just have your toddler sleep in their snow suit and some blankets if it drops to freezing and your toddler is the type to kick off covers.

For temperatures that are not as cold, you could use a sleep sack to prevent them from escaping the covers.

The most important camping with toddlers sleep tip:  Practice! 

Your toddler should be either very easy going or have slept in a tent, or in their travel bed at home before arriving at the campsite.  Trust me… camping is super exciting for toddlers and getting them to settle down for the night can be hard!

6. Bonus tip – Water, treats, sweets and a special chair

Here’s a bonus tip that I’m adding… make sure to bring along your child’s special sippy cup or their own leak-proof, kid-friendly water bottle.  Make sure your toddler is drinking frequently throughout the day.  If it’s really hot, juice boxes, juicy watermelons, and freezies (if you actually have electricity and a freezer) will entice them to take more fluids.

Then, for food, you’ll want them to eat their healthy options.  Camping for us usually means lots of treats.  And, it can be easy for kids to fill up on sweets and be less-willing to eat their fruits and vegetables.  So, make sure your toddler has access to healthier options first and bring along lots of healthy camping snacks.

Camping can be busy and the new surroundings and distractions might make it hard for them to sit down and focus on eating.  You might want to consider a special toddler camping chair for them, a lightweight portable high chair (like the plastic Ikea ones) or even this cool collapsible camp high chair.  These last options have the ability to contain your toddler making it more likely they’ll sit longer for eating. 

A toddler seat is also a safer way to keep them contained around the campfire if you happen to have a toddler that’s really interested in getting close to the fire.

Our Favourite Toddler Camping Chairs:

These chairs are both super high-rated and I see them all the time at campgrounds. They fold down nicely for space-saving and are easily cleaned. I prefer the shorter one for less chances of tipping on uneven ground.

There are a lot of variables that can make or break a camping weekend.  The weather, the bugs, the stuff you forgot to pack, your kid’s behavior, neighbors late night partying, and so on.  The more you can control, the greater the chance of your family having a fun and safe time.  I hope you find at least a few of these camping with toddler tips helpful for your next family trip.

Read More: Are you planning a camping trip soon?  You might want to check out how to simplify the packing for your camping trip by bringing only the basics and using a camping checklist.

Looking down on a toddler eating food off a yellow lap tray, while sitting in a folding chair at a campsite
Toddler shoes with a bear bell attached to keep track of them at the campsite

19 thoughts on “The Best 5 Camping with Toddler tips you absolutely need to know!”

  1. Oh my God, your tips are insanely good! Thank you! We’re planning on our first trip soon. Tim is sleep trained (with Susan Urban’s book: – liked it a lot) and we’ve had few sleepovers to see how is he doing outside home. We have all the gear completed, lots of games prepared… But I would never thought of these things! Thanks again.

    1. Was Susan’s book enough? Cause I’ve used exactly this one and I’m hoping Melanie will sleep with no problem.

  2. Thank you for telling me that I should include antihistamine and pain relievers in the first aid kit I’ll be bringing for our camping trip. My daughter requested that we go on camping instead of eating out for her 6th birthday so my husband and I are trying to look for an RV park if there’s anything near Allegheny National Forest. I hope we won’t forget anything and make this a memorable experience for my daughter.

    1. Hi Zoe, yes antihistamines are always handy to have along. I even bring and antihistamine cream as well for bug bites. Best of luck finding a camping spot. What a wonderful birthday present!

  3. I really appreciate that you brought up the fact that you should make sure your children eat healthy even when camping, and that they are comfortable when it’s time to sleep. My new husband and I want to do a camping trip with our combined families and each other’s kids so we can get to know each other more, and I think these tips are really great! We will have to find all the accessories and look at RVs to make sure we have nothing but fun that week.

    1. Yes, for sure! It’s not fun to have little ones up all night long at the campsite. I hope your family camping trip goes well:)

  4. Here’s a little camping potty tip for toddlers. You can bring their potty chair and grocery store plastic trash bags. I wrap the department that captures the pee and poo with a plastic bag and then put the potty seat on top. So mommy doesn’t have to walk around the campground late at night with our toddler. We handle it at the site and dispose of it in the trash.

    1. We always carry there potty chairs. I always carry a bread bag with a wet soapy wash cloth besided a wet wash cloth to rinse Inside, then I have an hand towel that dries. I always carry 2 for each son, just in case they poop. Then when we stop for gas etc. I take the wash cloths rinse them out & start over. I was happy they got older, they came out with wipes, then we got a couple vans, then we got couple truck camper, toll behind then our self Containe van, are 3 grandchildren, even our friends & neighbors kids. We enjoyed everything. I would like to get just another van again to start camping with my 13 yrs old Jack Russell. dog, she love camping. I have a friend said she would go with me some times. Only thing is she a smoker & 2 German Shepard’s, we will try it there still puppies never been.

  5. this was so helpful thanks for sharing. im going camping this summer with for the first time and i have 2 little ones so this is a life saver

    1. Hi Cristina, I’m so happy this toddler camping tips were helpful! I do hope you and your littles have a great time this summer:)

  6. It’s true that every camping even with or without children still needs you to bring your first aid kit and camping gears. Thanks for educating me about the things to do when you bring your toddlers and kids camping. Our whole family will be having camping next week, and we are now looking for first aid kits and camping gears to use. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  7. Very informative! Introducing your toddler to nature and to the outside is incredibly fundamental to the child’s development. Yet they do need to be especially looked after. Thanks for sharing! I don’t have kids but if anyone does, they should definitely read this thoroughly.

  8. These are great tips for me to take my grandchildren camping, thanks! I took my 3 children camping but you gave me some new ideas. Writing the space number on the toddler’s hand is a good tip. At my age, writing the space number on my own hand is a good idea, ha!

    1. Hi Janice, I’m so happy you found some helpful camping with toddler tips. And with the size of some campgrounds these days, we could all benefit from a quick reminder;) Happy Camping!

  9. “There’s nothing worse than trying to help a potty-training toddler use a dirty, scary outhouse in the middle of a cold, dark Jasper night! Oh, wait, yes, you can make it even worse if said toddler is wearing one-piece pajamas.” – You totally crack me up!! I mean I’m only laughing cause nothing even a little bit like that has ever happened to me before, but I can imagine! I do love the bearbell tip though, I had never heard of that and definitely wouldn’t have thought of it, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Mallory, glad to hear you enjoyed the post… you say nothing like that has happened to you… well, it could! I totally over looked this once and actually brought very cozy one-piece pajamas for myself on a very chili October trip once. And, yes, there I was in the cold, dirty, dark outhouse trying to take my own winter jacket off, while not dropping my mittens down the toilet or let the tops touch the floor… while trying to distract my toddler from touching anything while she waited in the corner… because when you have a toddler you never get privacy in the bathroom.

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