For many, the thought of camping with a toddler will send shivers down their spine. For others, camping is the epitome of childhood and it’s never too soon to start. The camp fires, den building and the sheer excitement of sleeping in a tent. Ah, to be young.
This month, I took Indie on her first EVER camping trip at the grand old age of 2.3 years old. I was a little anxious about throwing her routine out of the window, but we were camping with family and so there were plenty of extra pairs of hands to help out when needed.
Looking for places to visit, I decided to book three nights at Cotswold Farm Park. Not only is the campsite set in the middle of the beautiful Cotswolds, a short drive from Broadway, Bourton-on-the-Water and Moreton-in-Marsh, but it’s also an absolute haven for little people. On site, you’ll find a farm full of rare breed animals for feeding and petting, an outdoor park, giant bouncy pillow, mini motorised tractors and a wildlife walk, all designed for little people. We never ran out of things to do.
Is camping with a toddler difficult? It can be, but it’s totally doable and can also be a huge amount of outdoor, unprecedented fun. Camping creates new experiences for your toddler, supports their development and helps them to connect them with nature. Here, I share my top tips for camping with toddlers and anything you may need to invest in, beforehand.
Invest in a blackout tent
Let’s start with the basics. If you’re looking to purchase a new tent, then consider a blackout tent with multiple compartments or bedrooms. I’m a light sleeper and when I discovered blackout tents, it literally changed my entire camping experience. I no longer woke at 5am each morning because of the sun rising. In fact, both Indie and I slept in ‘til past seven. Yes, they’re a little more pricey but that extra hour in bed, for both you and your toddler, is totally worth it, believe me. I’d also recommend each child having their own bedroom, so that sleep is mostly uninterrupted.
Take the travel cot
Next, your little one is going to need somewhere to sleep. The toddler air beds I’ve seen look incredible, but are totally impractical for many little escape artists. Taking the travel cot is a guaranteed way to keep them safe at night, plus it’s much more familiar territory for them if they’re still using a cot, like Indie is. You can plonk it in their own compartment in the tent and spare yourself blowing up an extra air bed.
Prepare for all weathers
Let’s face it – weather can be blummin’ unpredictable. Prepare for all weathers by chucking a hat and sun cream in your suitcase, even if you’re not sure they’re needed.
Take a couple of extra blankets, plenty of layers and a dedicated outdoor sleeping bag for your toddler. The sleeping bag season rating system, which can be found on most sleeping bags nowadays, shows which sleeping bags are suitable for which temperatures.
- 1 Season – Ideal for warmer summer nights where temperatures are above 5°C
- 2 Season – Designed for cooler nights in the summer or spring with a temperature range of 0 to 5°C
- 3 Season – Designed for colder nights without frost (0 to -5°C). Many people choose a 3 season sleeping bag as an all-rounder for year round use.
Don’t forget the wellies, coats and sun cream. Indie spent the entire trip in her wellies, as the grass was wet each morning, even on the dry days.
Mimic their usual routine (as much as possible)
Okay, so recreating their exact routine is going to be impossible, of course. But, is there anything you can do to make bedtime feel a little more familiar? Perhaps read a bedtime story, bring their favourite cuddly toy or sing their chosen nursery rhyme. It sounds simple, but routine is so important to young children and signals that it’s time to slow down and get ready for sleep. The chances are, their usual 7pm bedtime will get pushed back an hour or two, but hey, you’re on holiday.
Pack the essentials (and the not-so essentials)
Noone likes overpacking, only to return from your break with half of your holiday wardrobe unworn. But, when it comes to travelling with a toddler, you have to be prepared. A few essentials to have on your list include: nappies, wipes, a towel, pyjamas, a potty, a swimming costume, clothes, a stroller, a carrier, a drinking cup, bowls and spoons. It can also help to bring a couple of easy-prep meals, plenty of snacks and antihistamine cream in the event of bug bites or other allergic reactions. Just for fun, why not also pack a head torch, some glow sticks, a fishing net, a spade and a jar for collecting and studying insects?
Have a practice run
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed at the idea of going camping with your toddler, then why not have a practice run? This could be a night spent camping in the garden or at a campsite up the road for the site. This way, your child can get used to it and you can see what went well and if there’s anything you’d change next time. If worse comes to worse, you haven’t got far to travel to a nice warm bed.
Just go with it
My number one piece of advice? Just go with the flow. You’re going to soak up the outdoors, have loads of fun and create tonnes of memories no matter what. You’re going to be completely out of routine and that’s okay. Remember that you’re on holiday and not to panic if things don’t always go to plan. If your little one can see you relaxed and having fun, then they will too.