Tips for Camping with Toddlers and Preschoolers

When I announced we’d be taking our two young preschool-age daughters camping this summer, there were plenty of dropped jaws.

“Really, in a tent?” many friends, family members and strangers would ask as though my husband and myself had plead temporary insanity.

With Molly now four and Zoe, 2, we figured there’s no better time than the present to enjoy some quality family time in the great outdoors amidst the mosquitoes, bears, ticks and whatever wildlife abounds in Manning Park, British Columbia.

Keep in mind, this was our first camping trip post children. Our last tenting trip-todate was a boozy-filled weekend with friends, loud music and very little sleep.

This time around, the only thing that was the same was the latter. But thankfully there were no shadows of our former camper-selves partying nearby.


Aside from some minor tummy trouble, several bug bites, unexpected rain showers and an all-consuming fear a bear would enter our tent for a late-night  snack, I’d say our first went off without a hitch.  If you’re planning to brave a family camping trip with wee ones, here are a few tips to make it a smooth, happy alfresco adventure.

Tips for Camping with Toddlers and Preschoolers

1. Pack a potty

If you’re in the midst of potty training a trip to the outhouse is probably going to be a tough sell to a toddler. Heck, even I don’t want to sit on that smelly throne with pesky flies crashing into your bottom as you do your business. Even if your child is past potty training, a potty will come in handy late at night when you don’t feel like busting out the flashlight and walking over to the nearest toilet.

2. Keep them occupied

There will be plenty of moments where you’ll want to keep you kiddies busy and – if you’re out of reception areas  – there won’t be a television, iPad or cell phone to keep them from getting up to no good. I’ve found that puzzles, colouring books, board games –even Play dough can be a saving grace for times like setting up a tent, cooking, or when you just want to relax with a glass of vino fireside.

3. Have a practice run

Let’s face it, kids can be unpredictable –especially when they are younger.  Not every child is cut out for camping, but you can always try it out in your backyard first to see if they’re ready.  That way, if they put up a big fuss, you can head into the house for a good night’s sleep.

4. Keep them safe

If you’re kids are anything like mine, they’re will be plenty of scrapes, bumps and bruises to tend to as they play amongst the uneven campground terrain. Always have a First Aid kit within arm’s reach – even on outings to the lake or hiking trails. And if you haven’t yet invested in a life jacket for your child, there’s no better time than the present. Even if they don’t go into the water, it’s a great peace of mind to have when they frolic on the shoreline. Remember what I said about kids earlier –unpredictable!

5. Easy-peasy meals

Even if you enjoy the art of cooking, now is not the time to channel your inner Martha Stewart. With minimal cooking utensils, counter space, no running hot water and zero appliances, simplicity is the best way to go.  Plan out your meals/snacks ahead of time so that you can marinade, chop and prep ingredients in the comfort of your kitchen instead of at your tiny camp stove with pesky insects and wildlife hovering.

And there you have it, your Valley mom’s top tips to a fun-filled, stress-free family camping trip.

Have I missed one you’d like to share? Enter it in the comments below.

Kristyl Clark
Kristyl Clark is the publisher of She’s a Valley Mom. After the maternity leave of her second daughter ended two years ago, Kristyl decided to leave her full-time job to stay at home with her two little women. When she isn’t up to her eyeballs in mountains of pink laundry, fishing keys out of the toilet bowl or drowning her sorrows in a glass of wine, she keeps herself busy by working as a freelance writer for various magazines, newspapers and online publications.
Found in Kids, Summer