How to Introduce Babies and Toddlers to Camping

Do you want to go camping with your infant or toddler but feel overwhelmed by the prospects of it? Perhaps you’re fearful that your toddler might have a less than ideal experience on his or her first camping trip and might not want to go again. Or perhaps it is the logistics involved that have prevented you from taking your infant or toddler camping, even though it used to be a favorite hobby of yours. Don’t fret! There are several hacks to help introduce babies and toddlers to camping.

How to Introduce Babies and Toddlers to Camping

Your Enthusiasm is Contagious – Share It Before You Go!

The most important thing you can do to get your child(ren) excited about camping (and hiking for that matter) is to be excited about it yourself, and let them know how much you’re looking forward to it. Whenever we do anything with Hiking Toddler (2.5 years old) and Hiking Baby (3 months old), we make it well known how excited we are to do the activity. Read children’s books about camping to your toddler before your trip.  One of our favorites is Curious George Goes Camping.

Practice in the backyard

Has your child only slept in his or her bedroom? Then it is time for a backyard camping trip! Camping in the backyard is a real adventure for toddlers and infants, and it is good practice for parents before you head to a “real” campground. Choose a night that has a comfortable temperature. If you want to start slow, do a camping trip in the living room before you do the backyard camping trip. Baby steps!  You’ll have the chance to practice what you’ll do if your little one wakes up at night (use your usual soothing techniques, whether it is singing a lullaby, reading a story, or giving a backrub).  Having your baby or toddler get used to tent life at home makes the transition to camping at a campground a bit easier.

Choose the Right Gear

  • Infant carrier / Child carrier. You’ll likely want to take some hikes during your camping trip with your baby/toddler. A sturdy child carrier is a must. It will free you up to hike at an adult pace; your little one can take a nap; and he/she will have a much better view of the trail. For little crawlers, this is an absolute must have. For toddlers, if you opt against this, plan to go on very slow hikes with lots of stops. Note: toddler-paced hikes can still be lots of fun. They give us adults a whole new perspective on nature and enjoying the outdoors at a slow pace.
  • Bring a Pack N Play. Not only is a Pack N Play a great spot for your little one to sleep inside your tent, but it is also ideal for crawlers. They will be able to view the goings on of the campsite without getting completely covered in dirt.
  • First Aid Kit. Make sure that your first aid kit is well equipped. One of my favorites is the Adventure Medical Kit Mountain Series because it has hospital quality tools as well as the common medications you might need, particularly the After Bite Sting & Bite Relief Wipes (kiddos somehow tend to be magnets for bees and mosquitoes!)
  • Toys. Toddlers and young children need some familiar items from home. I find it best when my toddler brings along his plastic shovel and a bucket to collect rocks, leaves, sticks, and whatever else he might find interesting at our campsite (I don’t let him take it home of course!).

Go Somewhere Local for Your First Trip

How to Introduce Babies and Toddlers to Camping
It is never too early to hug a tree!

There’s no need to make things complicated. If you want to be successful when you introduce babies and toddlers to camping, then avoid long car rides. Choose a spot close to home. If a meltdown happens, you always have the emergency option of simply driving back home for the night.

Plan, Plan, Plan

How to Introduce Babies And Toddlers to Camping
Expect to spend a lot of time exploring your campsite (collecting pinecones, examining leaves, and rocks, and enjoying quality family time!)

Plan ahead. I’m talking about very thorough preparation for your big adventure to introduce your babies and toddlers to camping. Start by making a list of everything you think you will need for your trip. The Hiking Lady Camping/Backpacking Checklist can be a starting point. Then add to your list everything you’ll need for the kids, such as: diapers (lots of extras!), wipes, extra socks (they tend to always get wet!), toys, hand sanitizer, board books, kid friendly snacks and drinks, and of course their favorite stuffed animal (with your phone number sewn in).

Introducing babies and toddlers to camping is well worth it if you love the outdoors, and it really is the best way to get your little ones excited about a childhood and ultimately a lifetime of outdoor adventures!

What do you find most helpful when taking your little ones camping? Please share your thoughts below. Happy trails!

Disclosure: Hiking Lady occasionally receives products or services from companies for free or at-cost for review purposes, and in some cases may receive a small percentage of sales if a product is purchased. As always, companies whose products are being reviewed are NOT allowed to exercise creative or editorial control over content.

3 comments

  1. Debbie says:

    I agree with starting in the back yard. I actually did this with my dog before our first time camping with her (after all she was and still is my baby before my soon to be first born). A tip I got for my dog was to put a glow in the dark bracelet on her collar so I would always know where she was at night and to use a different color for the kids.

    • Hiking Lady says:

      Hi Debbie,

      Great comment. I really like your tip. Once your first born arrives you may want to try what I’ve done…I’ve illuminated our trail stroller with Illumiseen belts. Check out this post at HikingLady.com where I have images of what I’ve done. I find it really helpful when hiking and exploring trails at dusk.

      Happy trails!

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