First Camping with a Toddler

Camping is a great way to spend quality time with your family and get back to nature. But camping can also be frustrating, especially when you’re trying to plan for kids who have never gone camping before. When your little one starts hitting the terrible twos, and threes take them to nature. Mentally, it can be hard to imagine a tantrum in a crowded campground but what you all experience is priceless.

Recently we had a chance to go on camping adventure with our 31 m.o daughter. We knew what to expect and it went quite well.

It seems that every outdoors enthusiast who has kids, has one goal: to get their kids to love the outdoors as much as they do. This is probably true not just for outdoors people but also sports fans, various athletes or anyone with a serious hobby.

So it is not a surprise that I really hope my kids will love being outdoors, at least as much as I do. I have been waiting to take my daughter camping ever since she was born (maybe even before).

Raising a toddler is a full on roller coaster, day-to-day and even hour-to-hour. They are happy, then mad and everything in between. After some time, we all learn some tricks to tame the tantrums and we move on with our day. Imagine taking this show on the road and confined to a tent can be a mental stretch, but it’s worth it and I’ve learned that camping with a toddler is worth the few “moments” in between.

First of all, WHY drive hours into the mountains, with a little one to hang around some trees and sleep on the ground? I can’t answer that for everybody, but for myself and for my family, it’s a big part of our childhood and we wanted to keep the tradition alive. There is an amazing feeling raising kids and seeing things through their eyes for the first time. Camping is loaded with new experiences for them.

While it’s easy to think of ways to teach our kids to do laundry or solve math problems, finding a way to instill important character traits isn’t as simple. The way we model traits we want our children to exhibit has a powerful influence on them, and some traits (kindness, gratitude, and generosity) they learn first and foremost from parents.

But there are other traits best learned through experiences outside the home and beyond the watchful (sometimes too watchful) eyes of parents. Camp experiences offer exactly the kind of experience away from home where children grow important character traits like independence, self-confidence, and grit.

Camping with a toddler is controversial: some claim that it is the hardest phase to try it, since they are no longer young enough to just “be taken” and not old enough to be pro-active about the trip.

Should you take your toddler camping?
To put it simply? Yes.

There were so many great things in our trip that I can only hope that every outdoors loving parent will enjoy it at least once with their child. It might require a bit more preparation than a standard trip, either with kids or in a family capacity. Take your child out when she is young and before being too complicated by mindsets about what is expected of her. Plan a simple, local trip with your child.

From the moment we were all set up at the campsite, I knew I’d made the right choice—in both the location and itinerary of the trip, and the choice to go with others. We kept things simple over the course of the short trip, and it flew by.

Our little one is now much more keen to walk a bit by herself and explore her surroundings.

Our little one loves looking around and is entertained by the surroundings for some of the time. However, sometimes she does get a bit bored and starts complaining, sometimes it’s a sign for us that she needs a bit of a break and wants to walk around and explore a bit by herself. If it is possible, that’s what we tend to do, but sometimes, the location or other reasons mean that it’s not practical or safe to do so.

She loved it! She ran all over the woods, with a bright smile.
I watched her played with the tent, running in and out, giggling as she ran from tree to tree, and my favorite moment is when she said “api” pointing at the campfire.

Our little one enjoyed the tent but falling asleep was a bit of an issue for her as we had expected. The brightness of the tent and the excitement of being in this new place kept her awake to the point of over-tiredness which later turned into a bout of hyperactivity. Fortunately, she did eventually settle down and having the best and comfiest spot in the whole tent she seemed to have slept quite well! We had a warm night and kept checking on her to make sure that she was not too cold or too hot.

Going out into the nature with her is definitely a never-ending learning process and a considerable challenge. But it’s a good challenge that is very rewarding to all of us. It’s also quite relaxing and restful — as spending time in nature often is even when there’s a physical challenge involved.

Walking in the woods and just looking at things with a kid is fun and they are learning so much. Every rock, tree, bush and animal is a new conversation and something to keep the kids busy, learning and exploring. It also teaches kids skills like coping with adversity, making new friends, cold temps at night, and finding their own entertainment. These things can be hard to come by in our day-to-day busy suburban lives, but when you are camping, it’s just part of the deal.

This journey was, by all accounts, an uneventful first camping trip. But it was glorious in its simplicity.

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