Camping with Small Children (Girls) Any Advice?

Updated on May 14, 2012
S.D. asks from Mesa, AZ
15 answers

For my daughter's 5th birthday we're going on our first real family camping trip. I also have a younger daughter who will be 18 months when we go. Any advice or tips? My husband and I along with my youngest will be sleeping in a tent so I'm a little worried about our sleeping arrangement. The rest of the family (aunt, uncle, grandma and grandpa) along with my 5 year old will be sleeping in my sister's motorhome/trailer. We will not have access to extra water etc. What we bring with us is what we'll have. We’re only going for 3 nights/4 days so it shouldn’t be too bad. I’m not one of those prissy campers. I grew up camping almost every weekend in the summer when we lived in NV. I was just wondering that with all the “modern” gear etc. that they make, is there something that is a must have to take with us and how did you handle the sleeping issue with really young children? Thanks in advance!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I slept across the doorway so mine could not get out on her own. Other than that just take normal precautions.

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answers from Atlanta on

We've always camped a lot -since our oldest was about 9 months old. Wet wipes, plenty of sheet changes for the air beds (our oldest is now 6 and almost never has accidents anymore, but he ALWAYS wets the bed when we camp. I've actually started taking the older kids "overnights" things for him when we camp) and a tent that you can stand up in and maneuver in are key. We've had several tents, but the best by far has been a good 'ol Coleman 8 person tent. It's super easy to set up and has room for two queen air mattresses or a queen air mattress, a twin air mattress and a pack and play!

When our children were little (until age 2) we always brought the pack and play because it offered security and was an easier sleeping situation for the little ones.

Have fun!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from La Crosse on

The main thing that helps our kids sleep is a battery operated fan ( with extra batteries). The white noise from the fan helped them sleep so much better than the pure silence and getting spooked by all the little harmless noises outside.

we also have a small bell on the zipper of the tent. That way if they would get near the door we always heard.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Rent, borrow or whatever a backpack hiker for you 18 month old. I rented a Kelty when we went to grand canyon and it was a lifesaver. I could walk around, have my hands free for my 4 yo, the 1 yo was safe and sound on my back and he could see everything. No little legs getting tired too quick, no bolting off to a canyon, etc.
Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

When we camp, we now have the older one in a single air mattress right next to us, and the younger one still in a pack n'play... I use the pack 'n' play in the tent until they are just plain too big for it because of them rolling around, and I just want them contained at that age. To fall asleep, we just wear them out and let them fall asleep on our laps in front of the campfire. I don't worry about schedules or time when we are camping. Isn't that the point of camping :) To get off schedules and routine. For the older one, last summer when she was 4 she would just tell me when she was tired and ready to go cozy up in the tent. We'd actually read books by flashlight like as if we were at home.

Don't underestimate the amount of water you need! Yikes. thats a lot of water to pack in if it's not going to be accessible for 4 days. I've never camped where you couldn't also get water if you need it.

Also, bring diversions. My kids can only do so much "nature" before you need to break out a coloring book, some craft project, or princess figurines to play with.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Lots and lots of water
plenty of clean and sterilized pacifiers
plenty of dry snacks -- crackers, raisins, dry cereal...that your children can eat on demand.

tarp for shade
sunblock - extra
pillow cases and blankets washed in familiar detergent

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Madison on

I don't know how big a tent you have, but if you have room for a playpen, I think that would make it as comfortable (and normal) as possible for your toddler sleeping in a tent.

I would also recommend bringing a bike for your older daughter to ride around, plus a wagon for your toddler - you can fit much more in a wagon than your stroller.

The only other recommendation I have is to make up a menu for the trip and assign everyone different items to bring and/or make ahead of time. This makes things go much smoother for our annual camping trip.

Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

We took our daughter camping the first time when she was 5 months old, then several more times the summer before she turned 1! Now, we usually try to go when we can snag a bed in grandma/pa's camper! Or, we stay somewhere that has cabins. (I'm getting too "old" for tent camping!)

Bring lots of snacks and drinks (water)! When dd was little, we did take the playpen the first few times, just so she'd have a safe, dry place to play and nap. After that, it just got cumbersome. She would sleep on the air mattress between us. Be sure to bring extra blankets (in case you need more padding, it gets too cold, or you just want a clean spot to sit on)! Extra batteries for the flashlights. Sturdy shoes (no flip-flops after dark)! Lots and lots of baby wipes! A source of coffee (be sure your sister has a coffee maker or percolator in that camper)! Matches and lighters for the campfire, grill, lantern, etc. I'm sure there are more, but these are the big ones for me!

Anyways, I'm sure it will be a fun trip! I'm hoping we'll have our first camping trip of 2012 next weekend! Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

For the little one, use a pack n play. My DD used to sleep in one for campouts. Consider bringing a battery operated baby monitor so you can hear the baby in the tent while you are at the fire pit. Bring plastic bags for any messy clothes and bring gallon ziploc bags for dirty diapers (sealed = less odor).

I like the bell idea. We may have to use that now that DD is 3.5. Prior we just zipped the tent too high for her to reach.

You might also consider a play area fence with a tarp under it - it can be folded in the event of rain and if it does rain, a dry tarp can be instant play area. You should also bring a few pop ups for shade and rain. My DD also likes her own kid-sized chair. Sippy cups fit in cup holders and prevent spills. And are easy to rinse if they don't have a straw.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Erie on

Figure out a way to "lock" the tent doors at night. Our daughter used to try to get out early in the morning, once she succeeded. Thank goodness we were in a safe campground and not out in the woods, she was only just over a year old!
Use the time to relax and go with the flow, there's nothing worse that a strictly planned camping trip with small kids, they will inevitably make you change your plans. And make sure someone watches the kids for you for a bit so you can get away with hubby ;)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

Will a playpen fit in your tent? If so, do that. If not, either have the 18 mo sleep with you (on an air mattress) or just on some blankets on the tent floor next to you. Just fold up a comforter blanket and make her a little palette on the floor with her stuffed animals and what not. Still take the playpen though for outside naps and playtime! Take lots of baby wipes - good for cleaning off hands and faces and feet too! I like to take some for myself in a baggie or plastic container and pour some face astrigent (sp?) on them to use to wash my face while camping. It absorbs into them really well and gives your face a good fresh feeling in the morning. Take lots of gallons of water! I used to take a plastic tote or two as "toy boxes" and a blanket for the ground to sit on. I also would always have a dustpan/small broom with me to brush out the tent if needed and maybe some kind of air freshner spray or Febreeze! It's amazing how stinky it can get after just one day!! Lots of plastic gro bags for trash and diapers. Lots of towels. maybe a box to throw shoes in OUTSIDE of tent. Have Fun! Message me if you have anymore specific questions - we've been camping with the kids since my oldest was 3mo old!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

i took my son at two last year. he loved it and had an absolute blast we slept in the tent and he fell asleep each night from "fresh air exhaustion" with a smile on his face. only thing is we had a camp site with a water pump in it... just bring plenty of water and you should be just fine. keep the tent zipped up all day and spray it with bug stuff so sketo's dont get in and tare you up at night... good luck and have fun....


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We used a porta crib for our little guy, he actualy started crawling while we camped from NC to CA.
citronella wristbands, Walmart has them.
Outside toys, bubbles, chalk, jump ropes, bikes, or ride on toys,
baby wipes, lots of them,
tweezers, for splinters
new pail and shovels, sand toys
marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate and roasting sticks
sleeping pad for you and hubby, or blow up bed
battery operated cd player for soothing music for baby

We just throw the kids in the car and pack what we can and go. As long as you have enough diapers and food you can make your own fun.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

I would get one of those foldable gates (it opens to a hexagon). This way you can put a blanket down and the toddler will have a safe place to play. You can also zip two sleeping bags together and make a full size one, then have your little one sleep with you. I am a light sleeper so if my daughter moves or makes noise I wake up right away.

We haven't gone primitive camping yet, but we do bring a waterless toilet. I found it at Wal-Mart and it has bags that attach, seal up and then throw away. I got it for late night potty needs for my 5 year old daughter. So far we have only gone camping a few times at KOA's and we use the cabins (no bathroom or kitchens).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

No advice, but lots of kudos! What a wonderful experience your are providing for you children. I would love to take my two little ones camping, but dont even know where to start...

Great job!

1 mom found this helpful
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