5 Must Know Tips for Camping with Toddlers

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Are you heading out to the campground this summer with a toddler in tow?  Below you’ll find our absolute best tips for camping with toddlers.

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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 has brought a greater sense of security and made camping with toddlers a little bit less overwhelming for us.

 

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

 

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.

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.

You could get fancy 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 sufficient.  Just re-write it as the marker fades over the duration of the trip.

 

Entertaining campsite diversions

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

Just a note here:  It has come to my attention that many tenters really hate to see kids playing with bubbles at a campground because apparently the bubble solution can lessen the waterproof coating on the tents.

Some families use screen houses with a blanket and toys inside as a means to keep the toddlers from wandering too far.  It will also keep them protected from the bugs, sun, and the campfire if needed.

Here’s an article with other camping activities for you and your family.

You might also want to bring along some special camping themed story books for special quiet time diversions.

Bear bells for toddlers

Yes, this tip may be a bit noisy, but it is 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 know 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 we brought our 18 month old on vacation and found ourselves in large crowds all the time.  But those little squeakers led us right to him every time!

 

Don’t forget your first aid kit

I will assume you already have a camping first aid kit with your camping gear.  Here are a few items to make sure are tucked into your supplies:

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.  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.

Sleeping Situations

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 questionably clean toilet!

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.

Side note:  Have you ever seen Hatley pajamas?  They’re super cute and they have a wide variety of outdoorsy themed sets, perfect for camping!

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.

You might also be a family who would be interested in a sleep pod contraption for inside the tent or camper.  We have used this phil & ted travel bed on many adventures.  I also know of families who use and like this peapod.

The most important toddler 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 could be hard!

 

Water, treats, and sweets

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 intake 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.

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.  It’s 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.


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.

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

 

What should you do now:

Other camping posts you’ll want to read:

 


 

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13 comments

  1. 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:)

  2. 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. Hi Jessica, You’re right! That is a great camping with toddlers tip! I’ll admit, I have used that method when driving long distances and we can’t find a bathroom. We’d just have them use the potty in the van and seal it up in the bag afterwards until we found somewhere to dispose of the bag. But, yes, for sure, I bet that would also work perfectly at the campground;) Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. 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:)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. “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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