It turns out that to embrace camping with toddlers, just embrace where you’re already at with a few tweaks for the outdoors.
My husband and I used to do exhilarating things like bike up the Sunshine Coast and camp in remote car-free spots. But once we started a family, the concept of packing light went out the window and camping seemed completely out of reach.
I simply couldn’t wrap my head around carting all the gear into the woods. Camping with toddlers just didn’t sound fun to me at all.
Thankfully we still had some adventurous parent-friends who schooled us on how to make it work. We were inspired enough to give it a go! I’m so glad we did because it was truly fantastic family bonding time. So much different than camping out in the backyard.
As I learned, it all comes down to planning. Making sure you have the right gear; a tent, mattresses, sleeping bags, the right clothes, (comfy, warm, lightweight), simple meal plans, and an adventurous spirit. These things can go a long way to making your trip a fun and adventurous success!
So, here are 5 ways to embrace camping with toddlers.
1) Embrace the family tent.
This is #1 on the list because in my opinion it’s paramount to a successful family camping experience! Ours is so big, we affectionately call it the “Tent Majal”. You can even stand up in it when you’re getting dressed! Most family tents have an overhanging flap at the front that creates a mini “mud-room”, crucial for maintaining any sort of order with dirty sandals to contend with. Some models have zip-down dividing walls that create two “rooms” and makes putting the baby down a breeze. Our tent was big enough to fit an entire pack ’n play on one side and a blow-up queen mattress on the other. (Can you say “glamping”!?!) You can find these family tents at outdoor stores like MEC and Canadian Tire has some good contenders too.
2) Embrace your car.
Yes, car camping. It’s all about car camping! I wasn’t really a fan until I realized just how civilized it can be, given the fact that you can bring along your pack ’n play, your week-long supply of diapers, your carrier, your stroller, AND park right next to the washroom with the heated showers, AND still technically be camping. It’s awesome. Plus, there are SO many beautiful car campgrounds to explore! Check out this link to the BC site for inspiration.
3) Embrace simple meals.
My first try at planning the menu did not going well. I’m not a fancy cook, but I usually try for variety every night. Then, my husband suggested we pack frozen food and eat the same thing a few nights in a row. *Gasp* I thought. But then I realized, “wait a sec, that means I don’t have to cook!?! Yeehaw!” When you limit your menu to what you can make on a tiny butane stove, it reduces your “kitchen” time to about 10 minutes per meal. Talk about a vacation! 🙂
4) Embrace the romance.
There were quiet moments by the campfire. Sleeping children in the tent. We sat out by the campfire, alone. We star-gazed. We had no to-do lists, we didn’t check our phones. Even for us forest-dwellers, somehow it never feels quite this peaceful at home…
5) Embrace the activities.
Camping basics like setting up the tent, cooking on the camp stove, collecting kindling for fires, filling the water bag, and carving sticks for marshmallows, will fascinate your little one(s) and make for lots of new interesting conversation. If you don’t own a cheap ukelele, pick one up before you go. They are $20 at Long & McQuade and the perfect size to pack. Trust me, by the end of the trip, you will know a few chords and have figured out at least Kumbaya, if not 25 Bottles of Beer and a few others.
If you’re going somewhere with a lake, rent a canoe for an hour and take your little one for a paddle. Seeing the wonder in their eyes as they float around in a boat for the first time will make the whole trip worth the effort. If there’s no lake, take advantage of any other unique activities the site might have to offer. Short nature walks, bridges, creeks, bird watching, building things with sticks from your campsite, or even just walking around the campground and glimpsing other people’s camp set-ups can be a fun and inspiring way to explore and enjoy the fresh air.
All in all, there are plenty of reasons to get out of the house this summer and embrace the great outdoors. Have you had a successful camping trip with your little ones? What are your favourite tips for making camping fun? Share in the comments below!