Can you really camp with children?
It occurred to me tonight that we missed our annual spring camping with 3,000 people in North Carolina for Merlefest- a bluegrass festival. Shhh please….. thankfully, I think my husband forgot!
Last time we went, I was 6 months pregnant and we had our toddler Birch. Being pregnant, I was at the portapotties all night. With no toilet paper to speak of, I got a terrible rash that put me in the emergency room along with a pierced ear drum (that was not from the portapotties). Oh, and it rained most of the time…and our son kept leaving our campground to visit other people’s more interesting stakeouts with toys and burgers, and we had to keep hauling him back, crying. And the last straw, my husband was out playing music on most nights, so I was left in the tent trying to shush my toddler to sleep. Glorious.
However, I KNOW that some people have had fun camping with their kids. Now that we have a 3.5 year old and a 1.5 year old, I am game to try it again. I think. Perhaps you are too? Or have done it and have some advice to pass on?
Since summer is fast approaching, I read some advice from parents who have camped (and done okay) and they have some good suggestions. A good portion of these are from the Berkeley Parents Network- my favorite parenting advice site.
Here are some of the suggestions that I culled:
- But when we camp with young ones, the first thing we do is set boundaries. Even for toddlers. Walk the area with them that they are allowed to roam without supervision. This is usually the campsite itself. If you start this as toddlers, the older kids pretty well figure out where they can go, but always tell them anyway
- Another thing we found useful at 11 months, when our son was still crawling, was to have a reasonable size tarp for him to play on. That way, he didn’t get quite as filthy and was a little less likely to eat all the bark and bugs he could see.
- It’s somewhat hard to keep them safe at this age. I would recommend bringing a portacrib or similar so that you can confine your baby at times when you’re cooking or whatever. I remember our first car-camping trip with a one-year old and we ended up using the car itself as a playpen for brief periods.
- We went on lots of walks with her in the backpack which kept her out of trouble some of the time and we spent a bit more time in the tent than I normally would while camping, but, again, it was a very rewarding experience for all of us.
- I would not recommend bringing your port-a-crib. If your child stays under blankets all night, you may buy a cheap kid’s sleeping bag (Target sells them). If your child does not keep his blankets, like my daughter, bundle him up like it is winter if you are camping where it is cold at night. They love sleeping between parents. It was actually while camping that our oldest sarted sleeping through the night!
- We took our 2 1/2 year old and 10 month olds camping a year or so ago and brought the portable crib. However, we only used it when we needed 2 hands each and could not watch the baby closely. As for sleeping arragements, we had sleeping bags for them, but were also open to having one of them each in the sleeping bags with us. Our oldest daughter slept just fine in her own with her pillow from home, cuddled up against my husband on the air mattress. The baby slept best in the sleeping bag with me on a foam pad on the floor of the tent. That way, I didn’t worry about her getting too cold, and she fell asleep right away with me beside her. Worked out great and we all had a ball!
- With the port-a-crib you can put your child down for a nap and need not worry about any wanderlust that always happens while you’re between your campsite and the bathroom. It’s best to keep the kid off the ground; they’ll sleep better, it’s warmer, more comfortable, and you know just where they are if you are 10 feet away and hear them squirming.
- Worship baby wipes. You will develop an entirely new appreciation of them after you’ve camped with a toddler.
- Don’t worry about bringing any toys except maybe a familiar book for the bedtime ritual — otherwise, nature has a lot of its own toys (sticks, rocks, etc.). It has helped to have a sand bucket and shovel handy for him to scoop dirt to his heart’s content in the campsite.
- If you’re camping in summer, also be prepared for your baby or toddler to want to stay up later than normal. They won’t have the normal cues for nighttime such as a dark room with closed curtains, and sunset can be quite late.