Out of town // Tips for Camping with Toddlers

One of the amazing things about living in Los Angeles is all the stunning camping spots so close to the city. A couple years before Lewie, we started camping consistently, gathering good gear and scouting some favorite spots. We even went camping when I was pregnant (not fun), but have shied away from camping after having Lewie. For the first six months were so sleep-deprived camping wasn’t even on our minds. And then at six months he started crawling atnd putting everything in his mouth. But after he turned one, I went camping with family in Washington for a couple days and then recently Bryce and I finally took Lewie camping to Joshua Tree. Both trips had challenges, but were absolutely worth the extra work. I actually wish we had taken Lewie camping sooner. But if you are on the fence, here’s some simple tips that might help.

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Start Slow. If you’re nervous about camping with a little one, pick someplace close and just do one night. We only stayed one night in Joshua Tree and it was perfect. Twenty-four hours feels a lot longer when you have nothing to do but relax and explore.

Get a Bigger Tent. The first time I went camping with Lewie, I borrowed someone’s huge tent, like I could stand up in it AND fit a pack-in-play in it. In Joshua Tree we had a smaller tent. No standing. No pack-n-play. In this case, bigger was hands-down better. Without the pack-n-play he spent hours not sleeping, but doing acrobats on the air mattress. Since sleep is one of the hardest things about camping, making sleep the most comfortable and likely is imperative. So bring that pack-in-play or toddler cot, plus any comforting sleep items they need at home.

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Be Flexible. Let them stay up late. Or eat graham crackers for dinner. And play in the dirt. One of my main desires as a parent is for Lewie to grow up with a love of the outdoors. So I try to make outdoor activities special and fun. When it’s safe to say yes, I just want to say yes.

But Also, Safety First. Obviously safety is the most important. Bring a safety kit with you, plus extra water, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. I would also recommend finding a camping spot away from any roads if you have a runner of a toddler like I do. Also explain to your children what things are dangerous. Lewie can barely talk, but by the end of the trip he would point at cactus and say “a-ow”.

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Skip the Toys.  Little tots don’t really need toys when they’re outside. We brought a bucket and shovel for Lewie to play with and that was enough. What he loved more than playing with toys was going on walks and exploring. For tots, even a walk around the campground is a grand adventure.

Camp More Often. Our car is still covered in dust and dirt from Joshua Tree, which is fine because we’re already planning another camping trip. The only way to be more comfortable at camping with kids is to go often. And if you can’t go away to camp, camp in your backyard or living room.

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Did you grow up camping? What were some of your favorite memories?

P.S. We camped at Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree. It’s a great spot to camp with kids! Huge, but easy rocks to climb and lots of hidden private camping spots.

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