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Camping with Toddlers---it is possible, here's how

Posted by Corey Hunt on June 28, 2021

Camping expert, outdoorswoman and mother of two, Corey Hunt, shares her wisdom on how to plan a successful and fun camping trip with toddlers while avoiding common pitfalls. Think it can't be done? Read on to learn how to give it your best shot.

We used to get the most quizzical looks from our friends when we told them we were taking our 18 month old camping. 

To us, it just made sense. A boy of 18 months is happy playing in the dirt with rocks and sticks, so why not take him to the woods? 

Camping in general has a myriad of things that could go wrong, add a toddler to your trip and that number goes up by a multiple of ten. However, with some careful planning and preparation prior to the trip, it could be more relaxing than people think.    

toddlers thrive on routine, Take Advantage of that!


Many adults think camping could upset this routine, especially when it comes to bedtime. My first suggestion is practice camping at home. If your toddler will be sleeping in a sleeping bag on the camping trip, let them nap in the sleeping bag. 

Parents who are planning for their kids to sleep in a portable crib (pack n play), set up the tent at home to make sure there is room for everyone. Just because everything will fit in the tent, doesn’t mean it will be comfortable. 

We often get questions concerning how we keep up with our kids when it gets dark

My kids never wandered too far, but it does help to have one parent assigned to keeping an eye on the young ones while the other cooks or sets up camp. 

We gave our kids headlamps which were visible in the dark, but some friends have used glow sticks to see their toddlers at night.  

I also recommend a tent with only one door that points towards where the adults will be lounging so toddlers can’t sneak off. 

how we keep our kids entertained at the campsite 

Give them a job

My son liked trucks from a young age, so we took his dump truck with us. My daughter liked bubbles, so we brought a large tube filled with bubble solution camping. Tip: I have heard that if bubbles are spilled on a tent it will no longer be waterproof, so we packed the bubbles in a separate container and never had an issue with them. 

We have also taken bug nets, shovels and buckets and sand toys with us for campsite entertainment. 

Another great way to keep kids of any age entertained is to give them a job. Toddlers are low to the ground and usually like picking up sticks. One of my kids’ first jobs at camp was to collect sticks for kindling for the fire. We also normally need drinking water during the day, so my kids like filling up their water bottles at the nearby fountain. It’s never too early for kids to earn their keep around the campsite and feel a sense of responsibility. 

My last recommendation is to have a backup plan


My husband and I talked over what we would do if our 18 month old wouldn’t sleep, got sick in the middle of the night or just made us miserable. Most times we camped within an hour of our house, just in case we had to pack up and drive home in the middle of the night. 

Although, when my daughter was two and we were feeling brave, we camped four hours from home and woke up at 2 am to a sick toddler with a stomach bug. Sadly, we were not prepared to take a cold shower with a sick kid in the middle of the night, but we endured and made it work. Sometimes, learning from your mistakes is the best lesson.

Camping with toddlers takes some careful planning and preparation, but can be enjoyable for the whole family. It is never too early for a child to start learning about the environment and feeling a sense of responsibility. 

Camping can teach many lessons to toddlers and adults alike, and can make for some memories that no one will soon forget.

Corey Hunt

Corey Hunt is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer and photographer from the upstate of South Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two children. Her work has appeared in publications such as Dun Magazine, South Carolina Wildlife and other online publications. More on Corey’s writing can be found on the blog she writes with her husband,

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