… Is camp­ing with a tod­dler a ge­nius idea? Or a ghastly one?

Out & About with Kids - - CONTENTS -

If you think the words ‘tod­dler’ and ‘camp­ing’ don’t go to­gether, think again. Our new colum­nist, SUE WHITE, says the pos­i­tives out­num­ber the pit­falls, af­ter her in­au­gu­ral (and suc­cess­ful!) camp­ing ad­ven­ture with tod­dler, Ol­lie.


ince my son was born, I’ve been firmly on the “We can do this!” side of the fence when it comes to travel. We’ve do done long-haul flights and short-haul flights; r road trips and train jour­neys; homey house s sits and five-star ho­tels. But I con­fess, ev­ery time I’ve con­sid­ered a camp­ing trip with my tod­dler, a lit­tle voice kept say­ing in my head: ““Is this re­ally a good idea?” Ad­mit­tedly, camp­ing in­volves a raft of log lo­gis­tics. There’s stuff to sleep on, stuff to sit on a and stuff to eat off. You need meth­ods to keep food cool while the hu­mans stay warm: no wond won­der my mind bog­gled ev­ery time I thought aboutbo it. But I kept com­ing back to the idea be­cause there’s so much that’s great about camp­ing: it’s nat­u­ral, it’s en­ter­tain­ing, it’s so­cial and, frankly, it’s cheap. What’s not to love? So: I buck up. We em­brace it, it rains, and we have an ab­so­lute ball. I - by no means - nail it first go, but I DO learn what to do next time. And yes, there’ll be a next time: sooner rather than later: I’ve de­cided that camp­ing with a tod­dler is su­perb fun, once you get the ba­sics right.

Sue’s 7 tips for a suc­cess­ful camp­ing trip with a tod­dler Tip 1: Take other kids (the more the mer­rier!)

Mid way through day one of our first camp­ing trip, I quickly re­alise the se­cret sauce for camp­ing with a tod­dler: kids en­ter­tain other kids. Take a bunch with you and the pres­sure on the adults to be ‘cruise di­rec­tor for one’ is vastly di­min­ished. If you’re camp­ing in a hol­i­day park ver­sus a more rus­tic na­tional park camp­ground, the vol­umes of chil­dren mul­ti­ply and, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, the trip gets even eas­ier.

Tip 2: Don’t for­get the kids’ par­ents!

Not only is camp­ing with other fam­i­lies more pleas­ant for the adults (there’s plenty of down­time, even with an in­quis­i­tive tod­dler around), but for new campers, friends hedge against the very real like­li­hood that, as a new camper, odds are you will for­get stuff. I for­get the fold­ing chairs (de­spite hav­ing two in my shed) and, of course, it rains, so sit­ting on damp ground is far from ap­peal­ing. Hap­pily, my ex­pe­ri­enced camp­ing bud­dies have spares. I for­get tongs, and oil – both essentials for a good bbq (I’m so fo­cused on plates and cups I bring an over­sup­ply of each in­stead). Again, friends to the res­cue.

Suss­ing out their setup over the week­end, I re­mem­ber the trick from my own child­hood: big plas­tic tubs with lids, pur­pose-packed with camp­ing uten­sils, salt, pep­per, the works. I make a note to cre­ate one be­fore my next trip – not only will it save pack­ing time but it will mean less chance of for­get­ting the tomato sauce, salt, sil­ver foil or chop­ping board (yes, I forgot all of the above!).

Tip 3. A travel cot in­side a tent isn’t a silly idea.

While I’ve heard of one friend sleep­ing their tod­dler in a one-per­son tent just next to his, I wanted my son at arm’s reach. But what to sleep him in? At home, he’s still in a cot, so I take my Phil and Ted’s cot and set that up in­side our tent. It’s a good choice for the job, as it has a zip up top to guard against mos­qui­tos, as well as a prized side zip (this gets opened in the mid­dle of the night so my son can snug­gle up if need be, but avoids him rolling around the tent when it’s adult-free).

Tip 4. You need a big­ger tent than you think.

In the­ory, I’m all for be­ing a min­i­mal­ist, but I’m sur­prised a just how small my three-per­son tent be­comes once the travel cot goes in. If we end up do­ing this more of­ten I’ll be up­grad­ing to a two-room tent: one for sleep­ing and one for in­door play on rainy days.

Tip 5: Start short and go lo­cal.

Don’t think your first camp­ing trip has to be a cross­coun­try mis­sion. While car camp­ing is fab­u­lous with kids, it’s good to pare things back even fur­ther by start­ing lo­cal, and spend­ing just a few nights away at a max­i­mum. Even one night can be a good trial (pick some­where within an hour of home). This means you’re close enough to home to bail, if some­thing goes awry, plus, the lo­gis­tics of keep­ing food cool re­duce sig­nif­i­cantly when you’re only away for a cou­ple of meals.

Tip 6: Age counts. Roll with the punches

The dif­fer­ence be­tween a 15 to 18 month old and the over-three-year-old crowd be­comes starkly ob­vi­ous when you’re in a camp­ground. My 18 month old thinks tent pegs are fun to pull up (note: ham­mer them in all the way!); de­cides other peo­ple’s tents are for shak­ing (not the best way to make friends); and has no con­cept of look­ing out for guy ropes (a campers trip hazard). But he loves pot­ter­ing in the bush, the freedom to ex­plore, and fol­low­ing the older kids ev­ery­where (you win some and lose some).

Tip 7: Rain is the en­emy (but don’t let it de­ter you)

Of course, on our first trip, it pours. I arm my tod­dler with a rain­coat and gum­boots and let him go for it in the pud­dles. He can’t be­lieve his luck and has a ball. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, rain is more de­press­ing for the adults than the kids; kids don’t re­ally care.

BONUS TIP: Camp­ing tires out tod­dlers fast

Some great news? All this out­door play will tire out your tod­dler pronto. My son falls asleep in my arms on night one, and from then on it’s early to bed each night. True, there’s a down­side: this also means it’s early to rise – but re­ally, when camp­ing, ev­ery­one wakes with the sun.

Writer of our new Tod­dler Travel col­umn, Sue White, is a jour­nal­ist, travel writer, founder of ba­bieswho­ and mum to an en­er­getic, well- trav­elled, tod­dler. She’s also mod­er­a­tor of a Face­book com­mu­nity where travel-keen par­ents talk tips and tricks for fam­ily travel: face­ Kid­sWhoTravel (all wel­come).

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