There’s so much to pack for a camping holiday. My family always goes camping at least once every quarter to let the kids experience nature. If it’s challenging enough to plan a camping trip, just imagine if you’re bringing four kids with you. It’s a handful and can be disastrous if you’re not prepared. And aside from the tents and sleeping bags, you should also bring these camping essentials with toddlers:
1. Food, lots of it
One of the things you shouldn’t forget is ‘toddler food’. Aside from the meals you’ll cook on the campsite, you should also bring some of your child’s favourite snacks. This will become a source of comfort, especially if it’s your child’s first time camping.
Also, toddlers are massive calorie burners. Running around will make your little one hungry, so you should be prepared with ready-to-eat snacks. You’ll be surprised by how much a toddler gets hungry in a day once you’re camping.
For mealtimes, I suggest you keep it simple. Hotdogs, bacon, peanut butter and jelly, S’mores, and marshmallows are good choices. Familiar food is common comfort food for toddlers. These are also easy to prepare and not prone to spoilage.
Take note that it’s not a good idea to try a new recipe while camping. You’ll never know how your child’s tummy will react.
2. Bug spray
The outdoors are fun, but it’s also filled with threats like mosquitoes, bugs, and insects ready to bite your toddler’s skin. Make sure that you have a bug spray or lotion for your toddler. You wouldn’t want your child to hate camping because it got dozens of insect bites throughout the trip.
Take note that some bug sprays for adults aren’t ideal for toddlers. It might be too strong and can potentially irritate a child’s skin.
For my four kids, we use Aunt Fannie’s Mosquito Spray. It’s DEET-free and made from natural essential oils. Each application also lasts for up to four hours, which is already long. Also, this is safe to use for ages six months and up as long as you follow the instructions on the label.
Overall, Aunt Fannie spray is gentle on the skin. My kids never had severe reactions to it, and it doesn’t smell like chemicals.
3. Sleeping aids
Another important item you should carry is sleeping aids. For starters, this would be your toddler’s favourite toy, the one that he or she sleeps with. This will help the child calm down and sleep tight since campsites can be pretty overwhelming.
With one of my kids, we have to carry his favourite blankie. He wouldn’t sleep without it, so we ensure that it’s packed on every camping holiday.
Expect that your toddler won’t sleep soundly the first time they get in the tent. Since it’s not their own bed, toddlers will be uncomfortable. You’d want to make it as comfy and familiar as possible so you, too, can sleep soundly.
I suggest that you perform a ‘trial run’ at home. Set up a tent in the backyard for a mock camping experience. This will prepare your child mentally and emotionally on not sleeping on their beds for a few days.
4. Change of clothes
Oh, believe me, toddlers just can’t stay clean during a camping holiday. One time they’re all nicely dressed, then one moment they’ll be splashing on a puddle or rolling on the ground.
For these scenarios, you need a lot of clothing changes. Ensure that you bring as many toddler clothes as you can, especially if the water is scarce.
Aside from that, make sure that your toddler’s clothes are suitable for the weather. Make sure that you bring a raincoat, jacket, hats, and other necessary pieces. At night, your child will need a dry pair of pyjamas, socks, and layers of blankets if it’s cold.
Our rule of thumb is this: we will dress our kids the way we dress ourselves, but with three to four extra sets.
I also want to add that camping isn’t the best occasion to let your child flaunt its expensive jumpers or shoes. Being close to nature also means getting easily dirty. Stick with simple, comfy, and easy to clean pieces.
5. Life jacket
Although it’s quite sad and morbid, many kids have drowned on campsites. This is a very important reminder for parents to take extra caution when camping nearby bodies of water. Whether it’s a stream, lake, or pond, you shouldn’t take chances. Kids love water, but not all of them are good swimmers.
Always bring a toddler life jacket whenever you’re camping. And if fishing is one of the activities on schedule, make sure that your toddler is wearing it. This way, the child won’t drown in case he or she wanders to the water when you’re not looking.
Take note that life jackets aren’t just for toddlers. Young kids will also benefit from the safety it brings.
You can get your toddler used to wear life jackets at home. This will save you and your family from preventable tragedies.
6. Baby wipes
Baby wipes come in handy, not just for toddlers, but also to the entire family. When camping, water isn’t as available as to when you’re at home. With that, baby wipes become an excellent alternative to get rid of minor dirt.
Wet wipes are helpful when your toddler is eating. It will prevent the mess from spreading to its clothes. It’s an on-the-go cleaner, but make that it’s gentle to the skin. Also, avoid baby wipes with alcohol because it can dry the skin, especially when used just like you’d probably do in the campsite.
On a side note, please dispose of used baby wipes responsibly. Make sure that your toddler returns the used wipes to you instead of throwing it on the ground or bodies of water.
7. Outdoor toys
Camping won’t be fun without outdoor games! For your toddler, Frisbees, balls, and kites are some of the safest options. Jump ropes will do, but always supervise your toddler when using as it can take a tragic turn if you’re not careful.
Also, make sure that the toys are waterproof and easy to clean. You should clean it after each use as it can harbour nasty dirt and bacteria. See to it that you sanitize the toys because your toddler will surely try to put some in its mouth.
I don’t recommend bringing toys that will encourage soil digging unless you’re going to the beach. Sandbox toys may not be an ideal option for little campers.
8. Diaper bags
One of the most important camping essentials for toddlers is diapers. However, you shouldn’t forget about diaper bags as well. Garbage disposal isn’t easy while camping. And even with garbage bins nearby, you should ensure that stray animals won’t scavenge on your child’s used nappies.
For our camping trips, we always carry the Arm & Hammer Diaper Bag Dispenser. This has lavender-scented bags contained in a holder that you can easily hang anywhere. It’s also compact so that it won’t consume a lot of space in your bag.
This dispenser has 24 bags that will trap the stink of used diapers. It’s also infused with baking soda to neutralize bacteria and odour.
9. First aid kit
A first aid kit is a must, especially when camping with a toddler. These little kids are prone to wounds and injuries, so this kit will always come in handy. Sometimes, no matter how you try to watch over them, a skinned knee could happen.
For our first aid kit, we have the essentials like disinfecting alcohol, bandages, hot and cold packs, cotton balls, and whatnots. For our kids, we get cartoon plasters. They are cheap and can be bought in different cartoon themes like Paw Patrol, Disney, and more. While wounds are painful, these cute plasters will somehow ease the fear of your toddler.
10. Portable high chair
Lastly, make sure that you carry a portable high chair. This will let you eat while your toddler enjoys its meals as they used to at home. No running around or chasing just to get them to sit by the table.
For our youngest, we have the Chicco Pocket Snack Booster Chair. It’s height-adjustable and compact, so it suits travel very well. We also use it at home when not camping or taking the kids out.
This also attaches well to a chair or table so your toddler can eat well. It also folds flat, which allows me to stash it on a small corner in the car’s boot. Overall, this is usable for toddlers, ages 6 to 36 months.
Safety tips when camping with a toddler
Camping with toddlers can still be fun with proper planning. To ensure that your little one will be safe at all times, you should keep these tips in mind:
- Eyes on the child. Never let your child roam on its own. An adult should supervise the toddler to prevent accidents.
- Stay away from the water. Little campers are attracted to water, especially if they are often taken to lakes and beaches. If you are to go near a body of wear, you should put a life vest on your toddler.
- Shoes on. Never let your toddler walk around barefoot. God knows what sharp objects or infections lie around. You should get your toddler used to wearing shoes outdoors.
- Keep camp tools secured. Toddlers can easily mistake camp tools like hammer, knives, and tent stakes as toys. The result can be disastrous. If you’re camping with a child, you should lock these tools in a safe place.
- Don’t forget about identification. As much as you’ll take all the precautions, you should still consider the possibility of your child getting lost. This is why we always put a written note on our child’s pockets when we’re out camping. The note includes our names, phone number, and location on the campsite. You can also make an ID laced around your toddler’s neck.
- Watch their mouth. Toddlers love putting things in their mouth. Unfortunately, the outdoors is filled with potential items that could be dangerous for your toddler. Always be in the lookout and never let your toddler stray too far without an adult.
- Talk to your child. It’s not easy to set rules with toddlers, but talking to them will do a lot. Explain to your child the dos and don’ts on the camp and what the consequences will be if they don’t follow.
It’s a whole different experience to camp with toddlers. Sure, it’s challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. Just make sure that you bring these camping essential with toddlers to make the holiday easier and more enjoyable. Also, pair this with vigilance and a watching eye so your little one won’t get in trouble.
Have you ever camped with toddlers before? How did it go? Share your dad experience below!