Camping can sometimes be a challenge in itself without adding young children into the mix!!
My husband and I recently returned from camping with our nearly 3 year-old son and two other families. The ages of the 5 children ranged from 2.5 – 11 years of age. We have all previously camped together and always have a great time however, this was the first time we had been camping with our son Cooper. Needless to say, I was a little nervous on how everything would go, not only in the sleep department but managing a highway and river either side of our campsite!
It went incredibly well, 6 adults to keep an eye on 5 children was a great balance, no tantrums, fights or meltdowns from the children! (adults included ha-ha) There is something about watching children play with a ball, dirt, rocks and nature that is so refreshing these days – I absolutely recommend taking the leap and go camping with your family, make it an extended family or friends trip!
If you have a baby or toddler like ours that loves his bed, loves sleeps and has a consistent schedule, its natural to feel a little apprehensive about how sleeping will be in such a different environment!! If you have a toddler that has never been camping, talk through what you are going to do, make it exciting and something to look forward to! We put up the tent that we purchased a few days before our trip, not only did we have to show Cooper the tent, we were taking our 1.5 year old dog that had also never been camping and we wanted him to walk around and get comfortable in it!! We also gave Cooper his sleeping bag a week before so he could get familiar with it.
Naps can be challenging while camping, no matter what age you are dealing with! I definitely recommend assisting naps while camping, it is better to allow your child some sleep rather than none at all. Assisting naps meaning however they will fall asleep – Walking them in the stroller, Front pack carrier, going for a drive or laying down with your little one (perfect excuse for a nap for Mom or Dad too!!) We needed to take a trip to the store that was a 40 mile round trip so decided to take this drive over nap time – Cooper very very rarely sleeps in the car even from a young age however, air conditioning and all that serotonin from the sunshine helped boost melatonin levels and he was out like a light – Success and a rested toddler! You could also look into a Snoozeshade to help with blocking out the light for your younger baby, there are many different options for strollers, pack’n’play and car seats – Please remember to sleep your child on a flat safe sleep surface for overnight sleep, I do not recommend sleeping your baby in the car seat or stroller for overnight sleep.
I have a few top tips that I recommend to any family taking young children camping, regardless of if your child is on a schedule or not, these will help!
Tent – Think about how you will all sleep, ensure you have enough space for the whole family to comfortably sleep and move around. We purchased a Coleman Blackout Bedroom 6 Person Tent. This was perfect for our family and had enough space for the dog. It would definitely be a tight squeeze if you are trying to fit in 6 people and would not recommend that! The blackout bedroom was definitely much darker than the average tent, not as dark as I had hoped however it helped keep the tent slightly warmer at night and cooler during the day. If you have siblings sharing a room or the entire family sharing, space out bedtimes and turn up the white noise, I would recommend putting your bed in between siblings to allow some space from each other.
Bedding – We purchased The Shrunks Sleepover Travel Bed twin size for Cooper, it has a signature tuck feature which allowed his sheet and blankets to be tucked in and did not budge! It also has an extra outer layer with security rails which helps prevent young ones falling out! Perfect for toddlers and it was so comfortable!! I would definitely recommend keeping your baby or toddler in a pack’n’play if they are still using a crib at home! Take warm bedding, generally those cool nights creep up on us at 4-5 am in the morning!! I took a blanket and sheet for underneath Cooper and his sleeping bag and comforter to cover him alongside his onsie fleece PJ’s. He was toasty warm! Take your little ones loveys, favorite blanket and try to keep your normal bedtime wind down ritual. Don’t forget yourself and the animals too, I took a bottom sheet and two comforters for us. (I personally don’t like sleeping bags as I feel like I fight with it all night long and my husband likes to have his feet free!)
White Noise – White noise….did I mention white noise? This was a LIFESAVER! Cooper does not have white noise at home however, I downloaded an app and made sure my phone was charging on the way to the campsite, put it into airplane mode and it lasted two full nights! Our tent was very close to the general hub of where we all sat to eat and relax so I turned on the white noise when Cooper went into the tent to wind down and kept it on throughout the night, it helped my husband and I sleep also! The baby shusher is also a great tool to help lull younger babies to sleep alongside white noise, remember the shusher turns off after 30 minutes so don’t rely on it for overnight sleep.
Potty – We took Coopers portable potty with us even though he uses the big toilet at home, Cooper likes privacy when going to the bathroom and I personally felt more comfortable having him sit on the potty where he could relax and do his business without my ultimate fear of him sitting on the vault toilet/long drop and him falling in! This may seem silly but why take on that stress when you can avoid that feeling!
Relax and enjoy your trip – Regardless of what schedule or routine you are on at home, it will be slightly different to manage and I recommend doing what works best for your family to achieve sleep, relax and do not stress about sleep or what will happen when you return home – If your baby or toddler goes through a sleep regression, the ability to sleep is not completely lost, I promise! I recommend getting back into your normal schedule as soon as you are home, if you need to reinstall some sleep training techniques when you are home, this will help your little one get back on track! If your baby or toddler has slept with you while you are camping, avoid letting this happen when you get back home, get your little one back into the crib or bed as soon as you return. Allow tired children and sick children to catch up on sleep while you are camping, even if your child no longer takes a nap, they may need one or some quiet time to rest for 45-60 minutes.
We timed our trip home to be back in time to put Cooper down for a nap in his bed (I had a nap too and it was glorious) this helped set him up for a good night sleep and that he did, 12 hours through the night and woke up the next morning asking when we would go camping again!! A successful trip all round, just wish everything would wash itself now, 4 loads of laundry later, that’s a downside to comforters and sheets but we sure were comfortable ha-ha!
Have a great vacation with your family and friends this summer, relax and enjoy the sunshine (don’t forget the sunscreen, for yourself too!!)