Rocking at Camping with Toddlers

It’s been a while… times have been busy, what with year 11s sitting their exams, mock exam season and generally life taking over. But I’m still here and still going strong.

This weekend has been the first time taking the boy on a camping trip. We’d been planning this for weeks; indeed, the trip should have happened a few weeks prior to this weekend, but things got in the way of it happening during half-term as planned.

Having gone through the whole first-time-camping experience with the girl before, we knew a few of the things that might happen and did take everything in its stride, albeit with a few muttered swear words here or there.

So here is what we did – and what we learned:

1.Be over-prepared

We really should have packed the night before. While we did leave at 9am as planned, the hours beforehand were spent frantically running around and everyone getting stressed over not finding this or that. We used to be quite good at this and pack the car the night before, so all that needed to happen was getting up and ready on the day. It may have helped us avoid the queues that were inevitable on a nice weekend like this.


2.Bring lots of food and toys for the journey

This one, we did well. The trip was long – almost 4 hours in total – and we packed a variety of small, entertaining toys – cars, books, the toy phone: anything to keep the boy happy and the journey bearable for all of us.

Food was an essential ingredient in making the initial tent set-up less stressful for my husband as, by the time we arrived, everyone was starving and concentrating on eating was more interesting for the boy than running around the guy ropes.


3.Have secure ground rules and stick to them every time

Of course, camping with a toddler for the first time is never plain sailing. There are just so many things to discover and take into consideration, especially when it comes to keeping the tent in one piece, but having a few ground rules and sticking to them every time helps toddlers understand their new boundaries within this situation over time.

It’s like any new situation, really. Things are never entirely the same. At home the boy can walk into and out of his room as he pleases (with the exception that he doesn’t climb the steep staircase on his own); in the tent the risk that he rips the walls of the inner every time he trips are far higher, so other than bedtime the room is not his to play in. We also had to reinforce some basic road safety, which we and our fantastic childminder do daily anyway, but which became much more important in a situation where you could run from seemingly endless open fields onto a road where cars passed relatively frequently.


4.Keep some semblance of familiar routines

They will help provide the structure you will need to master early mornings and late evenings especially. It was important for us to stick to roughly the same bedtime routine, with small tweaks here and there to accommodate the new situation. Our normal bedtime is bath, bottle, teeth, book, dummy, cuddle, bed. Only we didn’t have a bath as there were only showers, so the husband took the boy to the showers after dinner and put him into a dressing gown, while I carried on the rest of our routine as normal, only in a much smaller space.

It did take the boy a while to get to sleep, but after half an hour of shouting “I don’t want to go to bed”, astonishingly, he was fast asleep.


5.Keep reassuring them

Everything is different, especially at night. The boy’s room is almost silent in the evenings, whereas in the tent we heard the flapping of wings, the wind blowing in the nearby trees, occasionally cars passing by. It is completely natural for children to wake up during the night and they will usually settle back to sleep straight away, but being sleep-drunk may make a toddler frightened. The boy freaked a few times during the night, so after a quick cuddle I decided to leave the tent wall between his room and ours open the second time he woke. That was all that was needed and he slept well for the rest of the night and came into our bed for cuddles in the morning.


While not perfect or as seamlessly relaxed as it used to be, our first time camping with the boy was a success. Given his age (not even 2 yet – I keep forgetting!), he coped with it all really well and enjoyed all the new impressions he got from the campsite. As a family, we have learned a few things from our mistakes this time around, which will make the next time easier to deal with. And as everything, learning new rules takes time and reinforcement.

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