If you’re the “outdoorsy” type of person, you’re always planning your next outdoor adventure. And when you bring a baby on-board, your mind starts whirling with all the amazing places you want your Little One to experience. For most outdoorsman, camping is a MUST! But so many parents get nervous at the thought of taking a baby or a young toddler camping. Today, I’m going to share my 5 tips and tricks on how you can take your baby or young toddler camping, and all have a great time!
1. Wear Your Baby on Your Hiking Adventures
This first tip is a pretty obvious one, I think, but some folks might miss this simple trick. Just like you tackle the marketing, banking, and other errands with baby strapped to your chest, you can also take your tiny one with you on that amazing hike to the waterfall! No need for those huge, fancy carriers with frames and other amenities. Your regular carrier will do just fine! The added bonus to strapping your kiddo to you while you hike is that you get an extra little work out! (Yay for burning those calories!!!) Another added benefit to wearing your baby on the hike is that he’s much more likely to go down for his regularly scheduled nap since being close to mom or dad is comforting and soothing to your baby! This is also great for attachment and bonding with Baby too!
2. Create a Safe Play Space for Baby
We all know that once your baby becomes mobile, they want to GO! Being held all the time quickly becomes an annoyance to them, and they won’t stop wiggling and squirming to get off your lap and scooting across the floor! Very quickly you will discover that having a safe space for your child to roam around freely is a MUST! There is no difference when it comes to camping. In fact, it’s even more important to have a space that your child can crawl around without you worrying about snakes, spiders, tiny pebbles they might choke on, or them grabbing dried coyote poop that looks like rocks! (Yuck!) How do you solve this problem? Introducing the Pack-N-Play! You probably already have one too, making this tip a definite one you’ll have to try. For my kids, I used the Pack-N-Play as a clean space where my baby could play next to me while I cooked meals, played games with my preschooler, or ate s’mores by the campfire. For added cleanliness, I purchased a special netting that stretches over the Pack-N-Play. The holes on the net are much smaller, keeping out tiny bugs, and ensures that things like spiders, twigs, leaves, etc. don’t get into the Pack-N-Play.
As your child gets older, (or if you just have a child who’s large and “off the growth chart”), the Pack-N-Play might become a little small rather quickly. This was my challenge with my son, who was wearing size 24-month clothing when he was only 10-months-old. I graduated from his Pack-N-Play to an outdoor playard made by Summer Infant. It collapses like a camping chair, so it has easy and quick set up, and it came with a canopy that keeps my baby in the shade. Even my preschooler loves jumping in there to play! The only problem I had with this product is the lack of padding on the bottom. Today, Summer Infant also makes a mattress pad that you can purchase separately to provide some cushion for your baby, but it’s a little pricey. What I did instead was buy foam floor mats. They’re much cheaper, a little easier to pack, and I could reuse them at home to cushion my hardwood floors for the baby. Regardless of whether you chose to purchase a fancy playard or stick to your Pack-N-Play, having that safe play space for your baby will help ease your nerves and make it easier for you while camping in the great outdoors!
3. Ease Dinnertime Fuss by Bringing Baby His Own Camping Chair
Have you ever gone to a friend’s house for dinner with your baby and realized when you got there that they didn’t have a highchair? You end up having to tag team with someone to try and get your baby fed, and this doesn’t always end up being the most graceful way to accomplish dinnertime. I know for me, I end up with food all over myself, on the floor, and in other interesting places (like my son’s ear or up his nose). Camping with a baby is going to match up with this same dinner date experience. You typically have one picnic table that is dirty, buggy, and maybe even splintery. (Not an ideal situation for feeding a squirmy baby.) To make breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime easier, bring your own camping highchair! You can do this several ways depending on your budget. Summer Infant creates a collapsible highchair that you can purchase for just this sort of thing if your budget allows it, but you can also create your own! When I registered for a highchair, I picked a highchair that is more like a booster seat. It has a tray, straps, etc., but you attach it to an existing chair at your dinner table. My husband and I opted for this highchair over traditional stand-alone highchairs because we didn’t have room in our home for all the baby stuff. When we started taking our baby camping, we realized we could take that same highchair and strap it to a camping chair. It was perfect! Not only did we use the chair for meals, but we would move the chair to the campfire at night, allowing our baby to sit independently at the campfire if he wanted!
***BONUS TIP: If you want to tackle that dirty table, bring a table cloth from home! It creates a clean space for you to feed your family, and you can always wash it when you get back to reuse again.
4. Bring Your Baby’s Bathtub
After a fun day getting dirty, you need to figure out how to get your baby clean for the night. If you’ve checked out those campground showers, you’ll notice the floor is not really a place where you want to put the baby down. You might also experience that the water is ice cold or burning hot! How do you get it done? Bring your baby’s bathtub of course! If you bring the tub, you can place it on the floor of the shower, fill it up, and bathe your baby in peace. If the water’s too hot, you can allow it to cool first. If the water is too cold, you can have your hubby boil a pot of water on your campfire stove, and then add this water to the freezing pool you have to bathe the baby. If you have a young toddler, you can still use this trick! For my preschooler, I use my camping bins that I bring with me on the trip. I empty the contents into the car and use the bin to bathe my daughter when the campground showers are not kid-friendly. I’ve also used this trick with travel trailers. Travel trailers may have showers onboard, but if you’re dry-camping, you’ll need to conserve water. Using the bathtub/bin will help to conserve water while still giving you the opportunity to thoroughly scrub those cute toes clean!
5. Bring the Potty Chair for Late Night Bathroom Runs!
If you’ve been avoiding camping because you’re in the midst of potty training, this tip is for you! All you need to do is bring your portable training potty, a roll of toilet paper, and a plastic bag with you. If your child wakes up in the middle of the night to pee, he/she can easily go inside the tent with that portable potty. You can wipe them up with the toilet paper and dispose of the paper in your plastic bag. The potty can be dumped outside in the bushes if it’s pee, or disposed in the campground bathroom in the morning for poop. This trick also works great when you’re spending time around camp, and your toddler decides they have to go and can’t make the walk to the campground bathroom. For extra cleanliness, you can bring a package of Clorox Wipes that you can use to wipe up the potty, ensuring that it’s clean for the next use!
I hope these tips were helpful to you when planning your next family adventure! Be sure to subscribe to my website for more parenting hacks and tips, or check out my new book, “Trials of the Working Parent,” where I cover everything from tricks on how to balance home life, to discipline, and so much more!