Let Them Grow: Make Camping with Toddlers Easier with these Tips

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Camping with Toddlers

We, meaning my partner, our almost three year old, and our eight month old, are on a camping adventure. This year to make our vacation easier and more enjoyable with the baby, we ditched the tents for cabins at our Berkshire getaway. Savoy State Forest and Mohawk Trail State Forest are spots places with cabins in the Hilltown. So, when I say “get away,” I mean it!

There is nothing but the lake the trees and the cabins. This are no playgrounds, camp stores, popsicle stands, or hordes of other children. It is just the four of us, surrounded by the crisp morning air, the ripples on the water, squirrels, and a camp fire.

This is what I love about camping. Checking out from the day to day and enjoying my kids and my partner, one on one. While there are no distractions, full-day or multi-day outings can be stressful adventures with toddlers if you are not prepared, relaxed, and ready for the adventure! I love these types of outings and find a sense of pride when I actually have a moment to sit back and watch the kids play engaged and happy without constantly tending to them. What’s my secret? Here are my secret tips for camping with toddler:

  • Set the limits: From the moment you arrive, map out the area in which your child is allowed to explore. Set the boundaries with a visual marker. Be sure to give your child space with ample nature-based play opportunities, and explain the dangers of fire! I find it useful to bring a small play tent just for the kids and set it up in “their” camping spot. We have gone so far as to make a fake fire ring and let the kids use their imagination to light it up and roast the perfect marshmallow.
  • Pack less: Less is more. We have kids, so we are innately apt to take everything under the roof with us to the camping spot. I refrain from taking the things we don’t absolutely need. My travel toys are: chalk, bubbles, a book, and a flashlight. I also try to have the kids clothes organized in sets. Shirt, underwear, shorts, and socks equals one set. Digging for the missing sock in the dark is never fun. The sets can be in individual baggies, or tied together with string. I had a cousin once tell me that there is no bad weather just bad gear. I believe that more than ever now. Be sure to pack rain gear so that your toddler isn’t stuck sitting around inside instead of taking a walk in the rain. I love the Tuffo Muddy Buddy Rain Suit for the kids.
  • Organize more: We make all your meals simple and prepackage what we can. We prepare stews that are made in advance and frozen. We go so far to vacuum seal our meals so all we have to do is warm it up. We also wrap bake potatoes, cauliflower, and grilled cheese in tin foil so we just have to toss them on the fire. Cooking and collecting wood were great activities when we didn’t have kids. Now our time is better spent with each other and less time preparing and cleaning. Give each child one cup, one plate, and one spork. Keeping it simple.

Play with what you got! My go to camping activities are:

  • Papermaking: Use toilet papers and water! Make a sludge of the two, allowing your child smoosh it all together. Flatten the wet paper into a shape and use found flowers, leaves, bark, small seeds, and sticks to decorate. This is a great sensory experience. It is also a fun activity that can take your toddler on a excursion through the woods to find the special things to set inside the paper. Set it in the sun to dry.
  • Chalk Objects: I love bringing chalk wherever we go. Chalk is easily washable and is beautiful on rough objects like wood, trees, rocks, and pine cones. You can help younger children get engaged by coloring objects and hiding them to find. Older children can find objects to color and decorate them and hide them for others to find.
  • Fairy houses and miniature tepees are a magical way to make a fairy camp. Using three sticks and a piece of birch bark, the houses really come to life. You can help your child start the camp for their imaginary friends with a crib made from an acorn, a table made from a rock, and a moss carpet. Let the fairies have a fire too!

Encouraging nature-based play is an amazing way to trigger our children’s inner love of what is naturally around us. It gives children the opportunity to engage with the world around them without batteries and computer screens. Let your child get dirty an wet and wondered through the woods that surround them!

[Photo credit: (c) Candice Chouinard]


Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programming for children. She revels in hands-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a daycare in Northampton, MA.





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