I knew better than to try to take my kids on an actual camping trip as infants, but now toddlers, we decided to give it a go. We took our two- and three-year-old boys on a weekend long camping trip on a beautiful lake in South Central Alaska. They had a blast roasting marshmallows, climbing "mountains," skipping rocks, and helping dad with the fire, but we also learned a few things about camping with toddlers to keep in mind for next time that may prove helpful for your first time.
Toddlers have pretty short attention spans and overnight camping trips are not exactly short. You'll have quite a bit of time to kill. Plan out some activities to do together and bring the necessary goods, but also bring idle time entertainers for in between activities. Things like small outdoor play kits, bubbles, coloring books, etc. can make camping a lot less whiny. You may end up rather sorry if you assume they'll be so awe struck by the outdoors they'll just play the whole time without toys.
We actually ended up cutting our trip a day short, because our 3-year-old touched something he was apparently allergic to and his hands began to swell. We had a first aid kit, but not Benadryl. Try to think of all the possible "what-ifs" and come prepared to handle them. We were an hour from home with no stores, so we had no choice but to come home because we forgot something as simple as allergy meds.
Practice at home
As many parents know a toddler's first any-thing can be challenging. Do some trial runs with sleeping bags, tents, even campfires at home in the yard before you take the big leap to a real trip. Our toddlers, for example, kept wiggling out of their sleeping bags and didn't understand they needed to sleep with the bag over their faces. In Alaska, where on this particular trip it was about 20 degrees overnight that meant lots of cold waking and very little sleep for mom. We wished we'd have gotten them used to bag sleeping before going.
Bring your camera
Finally, don't forget to bring your camera charged or with extra batteries for all those first camping trip Kodak moments for the memory book. As a side note, don't let your toddler take photos to be entertained during said camping trip-it can result in an amusingly stressful game of hide and seek in the woods.
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