Camping is among the most fun activities to embark upon as a family. Over time, it can become a time-honored tradition passed down throughout generations.
To create that rich legacy, it's important to get your young family started early at the campsite. With toddlers, however, that can be a challenge. Their inquisitiveness, fussiness and neediness can seem insurmountable. But with a fair amount of planning, preparation and patience, you can lead a successful outing. Here are five tips to make that happen.
1. Start with a dry run.
When it comes to parenting toddlers, it's important to take baby steps. Consider easing them into the world of camping by setting up a campsite in your backyard or even your living room. That way, if they have a meltdown, you're only steps from a familiar environment—and a houseful of necessary supplies and favorite toys—to bring them back to an even keel (to the extent that toddler's have an even keel).
Ahead of your first dry run, make sleeping in a tent or RV seem like a magical thing—a special privilege. By the time you make the switch to the real thing, your toddler will be used to sleeping in a different place, and you'll have a better sense of what to pack and how to react to whatever toddler-averse situation may arise.
2. Warm outerwear—and layering— is key.
When camping in the early fall, with temperatures that can range between almost bitterly cool to extremely warm, it's paramount to ensure your toddler has access to quality outerwear. Underneath this outerwear, a base layer with breathable fabric is also important.
3. Sleeping bag.
Again, with temperatures that can become cold in the evening and morning, a high-quality sleeping bag is key. While a Cars sleeping bag from your local department store might be your toddler's first choice, opt for a heavier duty one—preferably one with multi-layer construction and an insulated chest and zipper baffle to keep your child as warm as possible.
4. Encourage their desire for autonomy.
Toddlers love to do, to explore, to ask. Plan activities and time to encourage these innate traits. Buy a guidebook to the surrounding area, and be prepared to answer their questions about the flora and fauna around your campsite. Gather sticks with them and allow them to build their own "campfire" (minus the actual fire, of course) as you build yours.
5. Leverage white noise.
Last, but not least, mastering the sleeping stage of the expedition will go a long way to determining the success of your camping trip. Toddlers are notoriously finicky sleepers. To help them—and yourself—get some zzz's in an unfamiliar environment, download a white noise app on your smartphone to drown out the unfamiliar sounds of nature or nearby campers at night.
Follow these easy tips, and make your first family camping expedition one to remember.