Camping with Kids - Part 2: The Littles

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Little = one being under the age of two years 

I've tent-camped, VW-bus camped, cabin-"camped", and tent-trailer camped with Littles and I have to say that it doesn't really matter much where you're sleeping...camping with a Little is pretty much always the same: MESSY.

 Be prepared for it and then just let it go.
Your kid is going to be filthy. Head-to-toe dirty, sticky, crusty filth.
And they may even end up going to bed that way.
Their clothes will be disgusting (no matter how many you bring) and their hair will get matted and knotty, and their fingernails will gather enough dirt to grow herbs. 
But it's okay.
Embrace it.
Because Littles are the messiest campers but they're also some of the most enthusiastic campers.

They get so excited about the dirt and the trees and the pinecones.
No one squeals with as much delight over a squirrel sighting as a Little.
For the most part they love hanging out in hiking backpacks, eating breakfast outside, and touching the slimy fish that Daddy catches. 
Littles are so much fun to take camping.  

However, I've found that many parents are fearful to take their Little camping.
I can understand that - the environment is unfamiliar, you don't have any of your usual "stuff", and your regular schedule is disrupted. But, again, with a little preparation and an "no-expectations" attitude I really believe everyone should at least give it a shot.  

It's best to go somewhere relatively close for your Little's first camping trip. That way, if things really are disastrous (and they sometimes can be), you can head home at 2am and not have a long drive. 

Also, I think it's much more fun to allow yourself to throw your normal schedule out the window. Kids are much more adaptable than many parents give them credit for. And believe me, if they skip their afternoon nap they might be a 3pm terror, but guess who's going to sleep like the dead all night long!

I think the best way to share my camping advice is to go through a "typical" day camping with a Little.


- I don't know what I would do without my clip-on highchair. I stick that thing on the table and Parker eats bananas while I cook up breakfast

- Post breakfast playtime: Lay out a big picnic blanket and some toys (remember that bucket of toys from the car trip). I also throw out a few other awesome camping toys:
*sand toys (bucket, shovel, rake)
*nature - sticks, large rocks, leaves

- They don't always stay on the blanket and that's okay. Let them explore. This is the time to get messy (and tired!)


- Typically this is when Parker gets stuffed into a backpack for an afternoon of hiking or fishing (I find that the Ergo is actually more comfortable than those hiking backpacks)

- Like his highchair, we clip a pacifier to the backpack so we can't lose it (When Landon was little we tied his special blanket to the backpack)

- 9 times out of 10 this is when Parker takes a nap. 

- After Parker wakes up (or before) we eat lunch and then hike back


- The great outdoors wears kids out. There is so much stimulation and excitement. If P is cranky I'll often put him down for a 2nd nap at this time. Typically he goes in his Pack n' Play. 

- If he won't go down than it's back to the blanket. If he's cranky and won't go down I wear him while I prep dinner.

- Once RJ starts the fire we pull the Pack N Play outside and stick P in it along with some toys. Sometimes he hates this but if I throw snacks in their he'll usually settle down. This way he's out of the fire but still getting to participate. 


- Feed your kid a ton! The more they will eat the better (and warmer) they will sleep.

(The part that gets everyone nervous)

- Stick as close to your routine as you can.

- If you really must wash your child (my kids are bathed in the late morning when we are camping because it's warmer) then fill a tub with warm water and do it fast. Otherwise a warm washcloth goes a long way. 

- Warm PJ's! If it's going to be really cold and night RJ and I often use our down jackets as sleeping bags for the baby. We tie the arms together and stuff him through the bottom of the back (so his legs go out the neck hole)

- Parker sleeps in his Pack N Play when camping. He's used to it and is comfortable in there. But I do have friends that co-sleep in their sleeping bag, so it's possible if you would rather.

- I recommend putting the baby down before quiet hours. Typically there will be crying because he's in a new environment and completely over stimulated. Do whatever it is you would do at home (we do cry-it-out for 5 minutes. Then we go in). 

- Ignore the people camping next door to you. Even if they're giving you looks. They will get over it. 

- If they crying gets really bad offer the neighbors a beer. A beer goes a long way.

- Eventually your very tired Little will fall asleep - and probably sleep like the dead.

2 AM

- If, your Little wakes screaming at 2am try all the usual at home methods. Try to stay calm and not worry about the other campers. No one is sleeping that well anyway! 

- If he really won't settle down you have three options:
a) Walk laps around the campground with the babe. That way the crying is dispersed.
b) Put the babe in the car and drive slow laps 
c) Go home

- Parker has cried bloody murder at night many times while camping. The key is to remain calm and just handle it as you would at home. We have always been able to get him back down before having to head home. And while we have given out many bottles of beer, most people are super encouraging and excited to see us camping with our Little. Even when we are camped right next door. 


Jessica G. said...

You made me feel better with the first thing you said. We have only ever tent camped with the kids and I have always thought that maybe it would be easier if we did a cabin or rv. Guess not, so I'll stick with the tent!

Anonymous said...

Just went tent camping with my 1 year old. I was so worried & I worried for no reason at all! He had an absolute blast. Actually, It was the most fun I have EVER seen him have. Looking forward to it again soon!

Glenna said...

I'm a grandma camping with my 1 and 3 year old grandkids next week. Thanks for the encouragement! I've been getting nervous. We've done a lot of camping but never with kids this young. Appreciate your advice.

Carolyn said...

Thanks for this! Camping with 2 u der 2 this weekend!

LindseyRae said...

Camp with your kids! Yes! I have a personal horror story of a 3 year old unzipping the tent and being found an hour later at the beach. So think about the personality of your little and consider sleeping in front of the tent door if you're a heavy sleeper!

Anonymous said...

First time we took our little camping, she was only 10 months old. People thought we were bonkers for spending 10 days in the woods. It was awesome and so much fun!!! :)

Anonymous said...

The first time we took our son camping he was 6 weeks old. That was 39 years ago. He still loves the outdoors.

Anonymous said...

my heart is so happy reading this! DH and I have been avid outdoors people for as long as we have known each other. I am very excited to take our LO one camping in a few weeks!

Aidenbaby said...

Thanks for the advice. We going camping with our three kids (8, 6 and 5 months) and nephew (5) in a month. They are all super excited. we are planning to co-sleep with the baby and have our kids co-sleep as well with separate fleece bags inside the overall sleeping bag (it's cold here in the mountains of Colorado even in June). One thing we do is use baby wipes to "bathe". It saves on how much water we need to haul and heat.

Jessica said...

I just had to post as this left me laughing to the point of tears! Wish we'd read it BEFORE this weekend! All went well, even bed time, with our one year old--we put him to sleep in the tent and he went down no problem (usually he sleeps in a PnPlay but it wouldn't fit in the tent....). BUT woke screaming at....maybe midnight? Cried for 2 hours, no calming would work. At one point he became absolutely crazy giggling happy for a freaky 30 minutes until he crashed again. Then slept until 5am, and then on my boob until 7. Needless to say: FAIL!! We are getting a bigger tent that will fit the pnplay and looking for a campsite away from the crowds :) But you know, it was still totally worth it.

Anonymous said...

So how would one make a bed for a 15mo old? We don't have a lot of money, or space, so it's not like we can bring an entire mattress with us.
We've made a blanket nest before

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